A group of women rode topless through downtown Oklahoma City on Saturday to celebrate what they thought was their newfound right to go topless in public.
Organizer Brandi Hargrove led the bare-chested feminist activists through the Oklahoma capital on scooters and bicycles. She told News 9 Oklahoma that the women had been empowered by changes to the law, as well as to social norms.
“It’s a little unusual, but times are changing. Things are changing. Laws are changing,” she said. “That’s how I’m able to come downtown and, within the law ride, the scooters topless. Because the laws are changed.”
Hargrove’s demonstration appeared small. But it followed a similar event a week earlier in nearby Tulsa, Oklahoma. On Oct. 1, as many as 50 women and men roller-skated topless around a public park, according to the Tulsa World.
“I’m hoping it’ll be an annual event,” said Jaq Landers, one of the organizers of that event. “We’ll see how the law goes. Hopefully it will stay this way.”
The activists were inspired by a federal appeals court’s February injunction against an ordinance that barred female toplessness in Fort Collins, Colorado. According to the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals — which has jurisdiction over Colorado, Oklahoma Kansas, Wyoming, Utah and New Mexico — the prohibition was sexist and likely unconstitutional.
Oklahoma authorities have made clear that women are still legally required to cover up in their state. Attorney General Mike Hunter declared on Oct. 1 that Oklahoma’s public decency and public nudity laws remain in full effect, along with city and county rules limiting nudity. He noted that the appeals court’s ruling only applies in Fort Collins and that other federal appeals courts have ruled against the plaintiff, a feminist group called Free the Nipple.
“The majority of courts around the country that have examined this issue have upheld traditional public decency and public nudity laws,” Hunter said in a statement. “These courts have recognized that states and political subdivisions have a legitimate interest in prohibiting public nudity as traditionally defined.”
Days earlier, on Sept. 30, Republican State Rep. Jim Olsen delivered a harsher version of the same message on Facebook. He dismissed the federal appeals court ruling as the work of “some silly woman” and “some empty headed judge. Oklahoma authorities, he warned, could still arrest women for going topless in public and he would make sure it stayed that way.
While police were on hand at both the Oklahoma City and Tulsa topless demonstrations, no arrests were made. But, according to News 9, a number of passersby let the Oklahoma City activists know they disapproved of their display. In the local TV news segment, one man confronted the topless women and filmed them with his phone.
Meanwhile, an unnamed woman told the station: “I don’t get it. You know, I’m bringing my kids down here, and it’s like Las Vegas.”