Greek-American Effie Krokos: Challenging America’s Prejudice against Topless Women

File- Rachel Jessee speaks into a megaphone while riding atop a car during the GoTopless Day Parade, Sunday, Aug. 23, 2015, in New York. (AP Photo/Kevin Hagen)

LOVELAND, CO –  Greek-American Effie Krokos was featured in a recent BBC article titled, “Does the U.S. have a problem with topless women?” which recounted her story of being charged with indecent exposure after a topless game of Frisbee in her fiance’s front yard in Loveland, CO, 46 miles north of Denver.

Krokos, 20, whose fiance had also played topless, told the BBC that she “thought it was fine because there had been a ruling by the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals which covers Colorado. I’d read an article about it saying that it was OK for women to go topless. It was a warm September day and the weather was roasting. I took my shirt off without thinking too much about it.”

A short time later, a police officer arrived to inform her that neighbors had complained and she would face charges. Krokos told the BBC, “I kept asking the police officer what I was being charged with, but I was just told I was disgusting the neighbors and that there were children around, and what made it OK for me to think I could be topless?

“I was taken aback because for everyone to be here today who was breastfed, you would have had a topless woman feed you. What is so disgusting about that?”

Fully dressed at the time the officer arrived, Krokos noted that her fiance was still topless, but there were no complaints about his state of undress, the BBC reported.

Krokos was eventually awarded $50,000 in a civil settlement over the charge and summons she received going shirtless in public, the BBC reported, adding that “she had to get lawyers involved to have the charges dismissed and the case sealed so it would not come up in background checks” and had the charge of indecent exposure been upheld, “it would have derailed her dream of teaching.”

“It’s not like I was standing in the middle of the road, screaming ‘look at me.’ I was discreetly playing Frisbee in my yard when I had my top off. There was a risk at one point that I would have been marked down as a sexual predator as indecent exposure is a sexual offense,” she told the BBC.

The court ruling earlier in the year to which Krokos referred was in a case brought by Free the Nipple activists Brit Hoagland and Samantha Six who “sued the city of Fort Collins, Colorado, for females to have the right to be topless in the same way men could be,” the BBC reported, adding that Free the Nipple is “a global movement that campaigns for gender equality in nudity.”

“In Fort Collins, females aged 10 and older were not allowed to ‘knowingly appear in any public place’ with their breasts exposed” and “this also included private places where there was any chance of somebody at ground level seeing them from a public spot,” the BBC reported, adding that breast-feeding was one of the exemptions to the law, “but Hoagland says the city council’s stance ‘criminalized and sexualized minors over 10 years old’ and she wanted to take a stand.”

In February, the city’s ban was ruled unconstitutional by the Federal Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals and Judge Gregory Phillips wrote, “We’re left, as the district court was, to suspect 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,” the BBC reported.

The Federal Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals has jurisdiction over Oklahoma, Kansas, New Mexico, Colorado, Wyoming, and Utah, and its ruling may continue to affect state and local governments in the region for some time. Fort Collins had spent $322,000 on fighting the case but decided in September to quit and rewrote its laws in accordance with the court’s ruling, the BBC reported.

According to The Coloradoan, the issue is still controversial as some would like to continue fighting the court’s decision, stating that “the original ban on public nudity had reflected the values of the community,” the BBC reported.

“While Fort Collins chose to amend the wording of its laws, other cities and states have not necessarily done so,” the BBC reported, adding that “in Krokos’s case, Loveland’s local laws do not allow exposure in public places but the city agreed to the payout following advice from its insurers after the law firm representing Hoagland and Six got involved.”

Professor Amy Werbel, author of Lust on Trial, about the history of American obscenity, told the BBC that “evangelical Christian opposition to the display of the body goes back to the arrival of the Puritans in New England.”

She continued, ”They brought with them a very particular reading of the Old Testament story of Adam and Eve. And when Adam and Eve come into the world of knowledge, the first thing they realize about themselves is their nakedness, and they fashion aprons to cover themselves. It’s a pivotal moment in which you recognize the shame of nudity. And that has lingered,” the BBC reported, adding that in this way of thinking “it’s the female body ‘which holds the responsibility for the fall of humankind.’”

Krokos told the BBC that “in some states with legal nudity, people ‘won’t bother you’ but in states out west and in America’s so-called Bible Belt, ‘it’s like it’s a crime against God if someone see you topless.’”

“This isn’t about feminism; this is about equality. I do think Americans are afraid of nudity, especially when it comes to women’s bodies because many have that argument in their head that every little bit of a woman’s body is for sex. But that’s not the case,” Krokos said, the BBC reported.

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