Pubic Hair, Free Speech, and the Borough of West Chester
If you’ve read my book, you know about the borough of West Chester’s officials. (If you haven’t read my book- dude, get on that!)
I talk about a group of white, middle aged men, “cranky fuddy duddies sitting behind a long mahogany lectern” at public meetings for permits, and codes, collecting “ayes” and “nayes” about whether a business owner putting up a new emergency exit door should have brass hardware or stainless steel to better fit the historical character of the town. I can NOT adequately describe the depths of ridiculousness without showing you. I don’t think Ryan Tyler, my friend, and one of my employees fully could grasp it when I would tell them about these official meetings until they got to see if for themselves last night and confirmed it was single-handedly the most ridiculous thing they’ve ever witnessed. Luckily for you, we filmed the whole thing for the next episode of my show which airs July 1, so you too will get to have your eyeballs pop out of your face.
I went before the board, whose job it is to sign off on updates and projects in West Chester, approving them or not based on their fitting in or not with the historical architecture. Then it goes to Borough Council, which is the legal entity, that approves the project or not. I needed approval to hang a new business sign. It SHOULD have been no problem, because everything that relates to their job of determining historical value is exactly the same as it was when they approved it the first time- the sign will be the same colors, same shape, and with the same wrought iron hanging scroll bracket that they require to keep the town looking quaint. The only difference is the content of the sign, which I petitioned to change in keeping with the business logo I’ve been using for the past three years.
The sign now. Everything will remain the same, but instead of the plain font “Feminique Boutique”, the sign will feature my business logo, below.
I presented before the board. The first person said there was no problem with the sign (happened to be the only person on the board and in the audience not a white middle aged man except for me and my posse). The second person said, “I think it’s inappropriate”. And right then I knew the sign wouldn’t be approved, so I decided that even though I wouldn’t get what I came for, I could still expose their absurdity and make an interesting show out of it. Between how thoroughly RIDICULOUS they all are and how smart-mouthed I was, it was absolute theatre!
Here is my favorite exchange from the hearing (meeting, not sure what you would call it):
Middle Aged White Man #4: I don’t think it’s appropriate. Even if you look at your own write- up (the one they forced me to write in order to get the permit to open) you say ‘our signage and advertising will be discreet and will not depict human genitals, pubic region, anus, buttocks, breasts,” you know… so it just seems this doesn’t fit that description.
Me: I’m just not sure I see an… anus or breast anywhere on the sign.
Middle Aged White Man #4: I see pubic hair.
Me: You see pubic hair? I don’t know what kind of pubic hair you’re looking at. I’ve never seen pubic hair that looks like that. Maybe you all should take one of my classes because that’s not what pubic hair looks like.
(amused laughter from the audience, awkward laughter from the board)
Middle Aged White Man #1: If you saw that in 1890, a sign like that, would anybody think it’s appropriate?
Ryan Tyler: (yelling from audience): 2012!
The last line about 1890 ticks me off. I wouldn’t have been allowed to own a business in 1890. I wouldn’t have been allowed to vote in 1890, so check your privilege Middle Aged White Man #1!
In the end, after 20 minutes of entertaining debate and me schooling them on pubic hair, they denied approval for my sign. The fact that the sign was approved for that which this board is designed to regulate (structure, materials, colors, etc), but denied on content, sure smells like a First Amendment shit show brewing to me. I reminded them of the First Amendment, I called them out for denying my right to say “get your heart on” on a sign while sitting in front of an American flag. I also reminded them of my tenacity and that their denial would serve nothing but to get me more free publicity, and them continued ridicule from the community. I should have brought them signed copies of my book to demonstrate that fact. Maybe I’ll do that for the Borough Council meeting, which is June 27. If you’re in the area, please come support me in council chambers at 401 E Gay Street in West Chester, PA!
If you have any…words… for the members of Borough Council before the meeting, here is how to write to them:
Carolyn Comitta firstname.lastname@example.org
Holly Brown email@example.com
Cassandra Jones firstname.lastname@example.org
Charles Christy email@example.com
Jordan Norley firstname.lastname@example.org
Thomas Paxon email@example.com
Stephen Shinn firstname.lastname@example.org
John Manion email@example.com
Contact sexologist Jill McDevitt: