For several years now, one woman near Daytona Beach, Florida, has stood up and demonstrated what it means to be a real American. She has taken on an unpopular cause (in many circles), pointed out official misconduct concerning that cause, made public statements in support of her cause, been hauled off to jail, and fought her case in court, winning four times out of four.
With the courts clearly on her side, she now stands in open defiance of those who would put her down. What's this all about, you ask? In general terms, women's rights, but more specifically, the right for an adult female to take her shirt off without being arrested and charged with a crime. Let me explain further.
Liz Book has lived near or in DBFla for several years, and is very familiar with the rowdy, crowd-drawing, internationally known events the city is famous for. A few years back she noticed a pattern of behavior of the local police during some of these festivities, where, if a woman bared her breasts, however briefly, she was hauled off to jail with the charge of exposure of sexual organs. In Florida, that offense can make it intensely difficult for you ever again to secure employment.
Excuse me, but a breast is not a sex organ. Those are found below the waist.
However, her point is only partially about the obvious gender discrimination over exposed skin. What really got her hackles up concerning this was Daytona's city government, which found a convenient way to make scads of money. At Bikefest, at Daytona 500 parties, during Spring Break season, and others, for a long time the police would arrest dozens of rowdy women at a time if they so much as flashed their breasts. (Men, of course, ran around shirtless with impunity.) Faced with the threat of being on the sex offender list or paying a hefty $250 fine, most women chose the fine and went on their way. Each payment increased city coffers a keen quarter grand. One bust (pun intended) of a rowdy bar might bring in 40 or 50 at a time. Multiply this by many bars over many nights, and you've tapped a serious income source. What Liz figured out was that the city was at fault, ordering the police to arrest as many women as possible.
She called the city's bluff, fighting the charge rather than paying the fine, and won. The city appealed; she won that round, too. The city appealed again and again lost. And, running out of reasons to appeal, they appealed yet again, and again Liz came out on top. She has yet to clear her name, but twice a year now, she stands up for her cause, now named The International Topfree Stand. This Sunday, March 8, she will do it again. (Catch up on her blog here).
In many places in North America, it is legal for a woman to remove her top in public: New York State, the Canadian provinces of Ontario and British Columbia, Columbus OH, many others too numerous to list, and the list is growing. Liz Book is leading the charge in Florida, just as Gwen Jacob did in Toronto and the Genesee 7 did in Rochester. Go Liz!
You do not have to agree with her or her cause, if that cause bothers you in some way, but you do have to agree with me on this: She is doing precisely what it means to be an American. She is taking a public stand against injustice and discrimination. We go to war to protect this right. Every major social advance in this country, from freedom of the press (John Peter Zenger, 1735) to the right for labor to organize, to eliminating anti-miscegenation laws (Loving vs. Virginia, 1967), has come about just this way, and every one of them faced major opposition among the general populace.
Liz Book is a visionary, a patriot, a worthy opponent, determined, and a hero. Go Liz!