Sunday, September 20, 2009

Good Nipple, Bad Nipple

Just when you thought that the public was growing more tolerant of women's topfreedom, along comes this story from Washington state where the Grab 'N' Go Espresso bikini hut is under increasing scrutiny from a nearby business, and the Snohomish County sheriff's department. The Everett City Council is expected to propose changes to the "lewd conduct ordinance" to include coffee shops, which basically means more criminalization of women's bodies.
The proposed changes are part of a routine review of city codes that would bring the city's long-standing lewd conduct ordinance up to date, city spokeswoman Kate Reardon said. The changes would not prevent baristas from wearing bikinis, she said. In fact, under the proposed update it would still be legal for a woman to wear pasties or even a sheer undergarment in public as long as her nipples and areolas are covered. Just the possibility of toughening rules for bikini stands filled the seats at Wednesday's Everett's City Council meeting. In the last six months, the city has received about 50 calls from people furious about bikini huts, Reardon said.
What on earth would cause people to be "furious" about women wearing bikinis?

In the city of Lynnwood, one coffee shop located near an elementary school backed down when the police "negotiated" with them to have the baristas wear more clothing during hours when children were likely to be present. On what law was this "negotiation" predicated?

The biased story on this situation does not interview one person supportive of the coffee shops, even though the businesses appear to be thriving. Rhonda and Louis Bremond, owners of a nearby business which sells high school class rings and letterman's jackets, are interviewed extensively. Their "expertise" on the situation stems from an obsession with the Grab 'N' Go, which has involved constant monitoring, photographing, and emailing complaints to the sheriff like this one:
This morning over at the bikini hut, there was a red pick up truck that stayed around for around 1.5 hours. He would pull up and then when another car came, he would pull around to the other side. He left for about 10 minutes, then came back again and stayed doing the same thing … It was just really weird … Something was going on …
The class ring business must be very slow if these people have hours of spare time on their hands to watch girls in bikinis sell coffee. And so what if something is "going on"? Just maybe the reason police are doing nothing about the shop is because nothing illegal is taking place, or maybe the guy in the red pick up truck was a cop himself.
The Bremonds said this is about business, not morality. "There is more going on than bikinis in these huts that needs to be addressed publicly," said Louis Bremond, Rhonda's husband and business partner.
The Bremonds have contradicted themselves. Of course this is about "morality". This trend of enacting stricter regulations on dress and behavior based merely upon suspicions or anecdotal evidence is both dangerous and unconstitutional.
Municipalities face a number of challenges when it comes to regulating businesses such as bikini huts, said Rick Robertson, an assistant chief deputy prosecuting attorney for Snohomish County. Cities and counties may regulate and define "adult entertainment" differently, Robertson said. A bikini barista stand may or may not fall under a particular definition. To complicate matters, some may contend that the business has an expressive component that is protected under the First Amendment. Cities and counties also face potential lawsuits. "Many municipalities have endured legal challenges over regulations that govern the adult entertainment industry," he said. "Even when they have prevailed, many have found it to be quite costly."
Then leave these bikini huts alone. Enacting new or tougher ordinances which further criminalize the female body is not the answer.

And if you think that this does not affect naturism, think again. Any law which prohibits a women from exposing her nipples in public affects any efforts to secure lands for nude recreation. Washington state does have a state law which exempts breastfeeding women from being fined or arrested for indecent exposure, but this "good nipple/bad nipple" schizophrenic lawmaking is indicative of a very conflicted society. In effect, a woman can expose a nipple to feed a child, but not to serve coffee to a customer. And don't forget that a man has the right to expose nipples just about anywhere for any reason.

Chances are local lawmakers in Washington state will not be able to do much to extinguish the bikini hut phenomenon, aside from passing some band-aid ordinances which make the exposure of female nipples illegal inside public business establishments. It's easy to see the problem with the constitutionality of such ridiculous laws - what about hospitals, spas, nudist resorts and other venues where nudity or partial nudity is part of everyday routine?

Women should have the right to topfree equality without the government deciding where, when or how a nipple should or should not be exposed. Eventually someone will test the constitutionality of all these nagging nonsensical nipple laws.

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thomas said...

There was a feature on Food Network about these places. These girls are not strippers or adult entertainers. These are neighborhood who sell coffee and decided to wear bikinis to improve their tips.
This is a product of small town people, small town cops and small town minds with nothing better to do than let their imaginations run wild. If you've ever been in Everett Wa, there is nothing else to do.
The problem is they are out of place. If they were selling coffee on a beach, nothing would be said, even if it was in front of a school

M.C.Glover said...

when are children likely to be frequenting a coffee shop?

Elton said...

There is a bikini barber shop here in Salt Lake. They tried to expand into Utah Valley, but the county government wouldn't let them do it.