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Now that I have your attention, I wish to direct it to a split decision handed down today by the 10th Circuit. On equal-protection grounds, the court struck down an ordinance in place in Fort Collins, CO forbidding women from baring their breasts in public except for the purpose of breastfeeding. Ed Whelan at National Review is on the case, and he reports the following:
In his majority opinion (joined by Judge Mary Beck Briscoe), Judge Gregory A. Phillips cites with approval the district court’s objection that the ordinance “perpetuates a stereotype engrained in our society that female breasts are primarily objects of sexual desire whereas male breasts are not.” In a classic false dichotomy, Phillips concludes that the city’s “professed interest in protecting children derives not from any morphological differences between men’s and women’s breasts but from negative stereotypes depicting women’s breasts, but not men’s breasts, as sex objects.” Ditto for “notions of morality” that might underlie the law.
The minority opinion, which Whelan quotes at length, is, as he points out, quite sensible. The difference between the two opinions, I would add, comes down to the majority’s acceptance of this absurd dogma: there is no natural difference between women and men worth noticing. Nearly everything that we used to attribute to sexual difference is explicable in terms of gender — which, when the term is appropriated from grammar and applied to human beings (as it first was ca. 1960), means that it is arbitrary . . . a social construct . . . and nothing more. Therefore, the law cannot take cognizance of the differences between women and men.
What is missing from the majority’s opinion is a recognition that the artificial mores and manners that we construct with an eye to the sexual differences supplied by nature are constructed on the foundation of those natural differences. These mores and manners differ somewhat from one society to another, but there is no civilization that fails to articulate mores and manners of this sort, and that is telling. Moreover, the majority willfully ignores the fact that, within this astonishing diversity of mores and manners, there is considerable uniformity and that this uniformity is a product of rumination concerning the import of natural sexual differences on the part of a vast number of human beings who are on other matters at odds.
The sad truth is that the dogma that provided the foundation for the 10th circuit’s decision is shared by nearly everyone who teaches at the colleges and universities in this country and that the credentialed elite produced by these institutions is by and large on board with this nonsense. What makes it particularly astonishing is that this dogma has gradually become established in an era in which students of biology have gone the other direction — suggesting that nature, rather than nurture, is the primary influence on the way we customarily think and the way we live. On the one side, there is ideology. On the other, there is science. We as a country are choosing the former.
I have no doubt that the Supreme Court will overturn this decision, which is at odds with the positions taken by other circuits. But we should not kid ourselves about what lies ahead.Published in