Anyone of any gender expression may now go topless on the beaches of Nantucket, Massachusetts. (We'd wait for summer if we were you—New England winters are no joke.)
As Frommer's reported earlier this year, residents of the island—previously known for its whaling history, cedar-shingled houses, and sky-high vacation costs—voted at their annual town meeting in May to approve a bylaw to the town code stating, “In order to promote equality for all persons, any person shall be allowed to be topless on any public or private beach within the Town of Nantucket.”
The amendment was proposed by Dorothy Stover (pictured below), a sex educator and seventh-generation Nantucketer, who sees the matter as a gender equality issue, arguing that although women's breasts have been sexualized by our male-dominated culture, they are no more obscene than men's chests—which, as a matter of fact, were required to be covered in public until the fairly recent decades of the 1930s and '40s.
Given that the republic survived the freeing of the male nipple, Stover reasoned, why can't we extend "top freedom" to everybody else?
(Dorothy Stover of the Nantucket Love School | Photo courtesy of Dorothy Stover)
After Stover successfully persuaded a majority of her fellow townsfolk to adopt the bylaw, there was one more hurdle to pass before Nantucket Sound could go the way of the Côte d'Azur: The measure needed to be approved by the office of the Massachusetts attorney general.
On December 6, that official finally made it official.
Having completed an extended review of the measure, attorney general Maura Healey, who will soon be sworn as the state's next governor, wrote in a letter to Nantucket's town clerk, "We approve the Town’s vote authorizing any person to go topless on any public or private beach in Nantucket because we discern no conflict between the vote and the Constitution or laws of the Commonwealth."
The letter goes to some pains to point out that the decision is "based solely on [the bylaw's] consistency with state law, not on any policy views [Healey] may have on the subject matter or wisdom of the bylaw."
It's simply that Nantucket "has the authority to choose what activities it will allow on town beaches" unless those activities conflict with Massachusetts law. And toplessness evidently does not.
Nantucket's government website now acknowledges that bare-chested sunbathing is an option for all beachgoers, though residents and visitors alike are reminded they should "abide by stipulations in the amendment"—a key one is that while tops may come off, bottoms are still required—and everyone should try to be "patient and respectful as the island adapts to this first-of-its-kind bylaw in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts."
Stover, for her part, told the Boston Globe she was "excited and relieved" by the news of the attorney general's approval.
The bylaw "marks female bodies catching up to male bodies in the eyes of the law," she added, "which hopefully in turn [will] support changing societal views and [stop] oppression of the female body."
It seems only fitting to commemorate Stover's achievement with a limerick.
There once was a gal on Nantucket
Who thought, There’s a law but I’ll buck it.
And now on the beaches
(Wherever sand reaches)
If you’ve a top on, you can shuck it.