When we think of oppression against women, we usually think about countries around the world where women have no voice in the government, cannot dress as they please, don’t have a right to an education or other things that we consider basic rights. However, there are some pretty ridiculous laws on the books against women in the United States. Although many of these laws are archaic or no longer get enforced, it is still good to remember how far we’ve come…and maybe to get a good laugh as well! From regulations about high heels and hairstyles to rules about marriage proposals and parachutes, here are a few laws that American women might want to know about before they travel.
15 No Right to Do Your Hair
A couple of states have oppressive hair care laws. In Oklahoma, a woman must hold a license in order to do her own hair, and in Michigan, a woman cannot get her hair cut without her husband’s permission, according to the law. In Nebraska, a mother cannot perm her daughter’s hair without holding a state license. If school teachers in Arkansas choose to bob their hair, they may also miss out on pay raises. If that doesn’t make your hair stand on end, I don’t know what will.
14 No Right to Call
A woman is not allowed to call a man while she is on a date in Dyersburg, TN. This is coming from the same state where a woman cannot drive by herself. In the city of Memphis, a man is required to walk or run in front of a vehicle being driven by a woman and wave a red flag to warn oncoming traffic and pedestrians, a law that is also in the books in Waynesboro, Virginia. It may not be so bad in Tennessee though. In San Antonio, Texas, it is illegal to flirt, making it even harder to get a date in the first place.
13 Plunging necklines
It may seem like plunging necklines make the modesty police start issuing warnings, but in Cleveland, there is an ordinance that actually defines a “female breast with less than a full, opaque covering of any portion thereof below the top of the nipple” as nudity. Additionally, a woman cannot serve a patron while any part of her breasts at or below the areola is exposed.
12 No Right to Teeth
In another ridiculous stateside law, a woman in Vermont must have her husband’s permission to wear false teeth. However, it was also once illegal to tie a giraffe to a pole. It really makes you wonder what these lawmakers were concerned with. Either way, these are some pretty hard laws to sink your teeth into.
11 No Premarital Nookie
Even though a Supreme Court ruling declared the end of all “morals legislation,” it is still technically illegal to have sex before you are married in North Carolina, South Carolina, Mississippi, Idaho, Georgia, Virginia and Massachusetts. Other states seem more concerned about how sexy a woman might appear. In Morrisville, Pennsylvania, a woman cannot wear cosmetics without a permit, and in St. Croix, Wisconsin, a woman is not permitted to wear red in public. It might just be too red hot for the men around her!
10 No Adult Toys
Four states have laws banning the sale of “obscene devices” that could be used to stimulate human genitalia. What makes these laws sexist is that it bans devices primarily used by women while medications like Viagra continue to be perfectly legal for men to use.
9 No High Heels
We all know that certain things are only a hazard to your health in the state of California, and high heels appear to be one of them. In Carmel, CA, you cannot walk through the streets with heels over two inches high or with less than a square inch of heel surface without holding a permit. Apparently, this is a liability issue. The permits are free and relieve Carmel from any liability of damage if one should fall while wearing such dangerous shoes.
8 No Patent Leather Shoes
California is not the only place that the shoes you wear can be restricted. In Cleveland, Ohio, there is a patent leather shoe ban for women. Apparently the reasoning behind this is that the shiny surface might accidentally reflect what is underneath a woman’s skirt and provide easy viewing for her male counterparts. It makes you wonder what inspired this law.
7 No Birth Control Advertisement
According to Massachusetts’ General Laws, no one can print or distribute information about anything that might prevent pregnancy. The fine is up to $1,000 or up to three years of prison. Fortunately, the Eisenstadt v. Baird case in 1972 got rid of all regulations prohibiting the advertisement of birth control to any group.
6 No Changing Your Mind
In North Carolina, consent for sex cannot be withdrawn during the act, meaning if the woman initially says “yes” and then says “no” during the act, only her first answer stands in the court of law. While some of the other laws on this list are archaic, this one was used in 2010 in a case involving a teenage girl, who lost her case against Oswaldo Sombo because she initially gave consent before asking him to stop.
5 No Proposal Without Marriage
In order that women wouldn’t sleep with just anyone who gave them a ring, lawmakers in Mississippi and South Carolina thought it necessary to make a law that makes it unlawful not to make the person you propose to your lawful wedded spouse. If you break off an engagement, you could be imprisoned for one to five years. What is most ridiculous is that there must be multiple witnesses for a conviction to take place, meaning that the word of the woman alone is not enough. It pays to have witnesses.
4 No Pretending to Be Married
If you are planning to stay in a hotel in North Carolina with your significant other, make sure you have defined your relationship ahead of time. In this southern state, it is actually a misdemeanor to pretend that you are married if you haven’t yet tied the knot. It is also illegal in the state for a man and a woman to occupy a hotel room for “any immoral purpose,” so make sure you know what kind of business you will be doing before you check in.
3 No Wearing Pants or Frightening Hats
In Tucson, Arizona, women are not allowed to wear pants. If you are going to cover your head, be sure that it does not frighten anyone. Saco, Missouri has laws that ban the wearing of women’s hats that might “frighten timid persons, children or animals.” In Charlotte, North Carolina, it is quantity over quality. A woman’s body must be covered by at least 16 yards of cloth. And if you are going to wear your kimono, don’t travel on horseback in Raton, New Mexico.
2 No Parachuting on Sundays
If you are a single lady, make sure you keep your parachute under wraps on Sundays. You may find yourself behind bars if you attempt to parachute on a Sunday in Florida. The law also forbids singing in a bathing suit in the city of Sarasota, so be sure to keep your tunes to yourself on the beach.
1 No Hairy Legs or Armpits
Women cannot participate in No-Shave November in Carrizozo, New Mexico. In this city, it is forbidden for women to appear unshaven in public. What body parts fall under the clean-shaven rule is uncertain. However, in another city, Albuquerque, women are allowed to be topless in public as long as their nipples are covered.