By Marcus McDaniel of the Forum
Indecent exposure can be defined as “the exposure of one’s body, especially one’s genitals, in a public place in a way considered offensive to established standards of decency.” In some societies, indecent exposure could be a woman showing her face in public or revealing too much skin but here in America the law can sometimes be much harder to define, especially when it comes to saggin’. Individuals that sag may not be exposing any part of their genitalia, but in regards to “established standards of decency” in the United States, citizens don’t normally show off their underwear and butts like a proud peacock strutting its feathers. Yes, some may be bothered by the trend, but in a country built on freedom of speech and expression, can we punish those who decide to partake in this particular fashion statement? Certain municipalities in St. Louis and Illinois tend to think so.
Pine Lawn, Missouri, just a few miles away from Florissant Valley, outlawed sagging pants that show underwear or skin in 2007. The following year, Bel-Ridge followed suit. Just as recently as last year, Collinsville, Illinois implemented the same law. First time offenders can be fined up to $100 and community service while repeat offenders could face a $300 fine and more community service. While some people would feel this law was necessary, some elected officials don’t feel the same. Councilwoman Nancy Moss, of the Collinsville City Council, was one of two council members who voted against the law. According to an article from the St. Louis Post Dispatch, Moss was quoted saying, “It’s a fad. It’s distasteful. I’d go as far as to say it’s dumb, but it’s not something we need to trouble our law enforcement with.” She even goes on to ask, “Does anybody really want the government telling them what to wear?”
That question could be more important than any other pertaining to the issue of saggin’. Do we persecute other fashion statements? Will this lead to legislation against heavily tattooed individuals or piercings? By passing any sort of laws limiting what we wear, we are headed down a slippery slope that may limit how we express ourselves. While I am not an advocate of saggin’, I understand that this is something that we, society, should regulate rather than the government or law enforcement. Saggin’ is less of an issue for legislators and civil rights and more of an issue for decency and respect toward one another.
In 2008 in an interview with MTV VJ Sway, future President Barack Obama was asked about sagging pants laws and seemed to sum up my philosophy perfectly with this quote:
“Here’s my attitude: I think passing a law about people wearing sagging pants is a waste of time. We should be focused on creating jobs, improving our schools, getting health care, dealing with the war in Iraq. Any public official who is worrying about sagging pants probably needs to spend some time focusing on real problems out there. Having said that, brothers should pull up their pants. You’re walking by your mother, your grandmother, and your underwear is showing...What’s wrong with that? Come on. You don’t have to pass a law, but that doesn’t mean folks can’t have some sense and some respect for other people. And, you know, some people might not want to see your underwear – I’m one of them.”