An Essay on the Tyranny of the Bra
It was probably around the time I had babies that I gave up bras for good. Over 15 years ago. My mom told me that by the time I turned 40, my breasts would look like “golf balls in a tube sock.”
As if I cared. I was one of those mamas who walked around with a teat hanging out so the baby could latch on from her sling at any time. Pretty relaxed.
Well, I didn’t ever give up bras completely for good for good, as I well know they have their many uses. It’s nice to wear lingerie sometimes for bedtime play, a great push-up bra to a hot dinner date, or a jogging bra when exercising strenuously.
Anyway, numerous years ago I did give up the daily bra, the I-haven’t-even-put-on-a-bra-yet daily bra; the bra you get measured for; the bra that houses, shapes, coddles, lines, protects, uplifts, upholds, contains, restrains, webs, defines, squeezes & duplicates each of your globules of fleshy fatty chesty mammalian teats into perfect softly rounded cones of wonder for most hours of your waking life and for some women, your sleeping hours too.
That bra, I gave up. The one you need to wear for society to condone the existence of your breasts.
Not wearing a bra is utter rebellion.
It began to irk me deeply that somehow my nipples, skin, mammary glands and fat needed to be constantly managed by a complex arrangement of elastic and fabric.
When not wearing a bra, I noticed that people looked askance at me, as if there was something wrong with the shape of my breasts. Or rather, there was something wrong with me for not forcing them into the correct shape.
I wanted to shout, “WHAT’S WRONG WITH MY BREASTS?”
I began to hear myself shouting that, inside my head.
But I already knew the answer. What’s wrong with my breasts is everyone else owns them. People think they *actually* have a say as to whether, and how, I wear garments underneath the garments I wear on my body.
When men see my bra-less chest, they assume it’s now their right to stare, salivate at, and fantasize about my swinging naked boobies and all the wonderful acts they are capable of.
When women see my breasts hanging loose under my shirt, they assume I’m a slut or a slob or a slobby slut or a slutty slob, and they also assume they get to decide what I am based on my bralessness, and they also think they get to decide that being a slut, slob, slutty slob or slobby slut is worse than looking at someone’s loose breasts and assuming negative things.
Getting rid of the bra.
What made me get rid of my daily bra habit?
I’m not so large-chested that I got backaches, sideaches, stomach aches, nipple ache, or any other kind of ache from not wearing a bra.
But I am sensitive enough to feel strapped in, strictured and carefully shaped by the bra – shaped the way some random mass of people (society? the media? men? women?) has decided that breasts should be shaped.
I hate having my rib-cage, lungs, heart and diaphragm constricted for many hours daily. And don’t give me that crap about how “you have to get properly fitted.” Whether or not you get fitted by a professional department store lady with bifocals hanging around her neck, if you wear a bra, you’re constraining your chest muscles and the inner organs of your upper torso, a lot of the time. Don’t ask me what that’ll do to a woman’s heart, power and throat chakras – it ain’t pretty.
And it’s not necessary. For upwards of 12-15 thousand years, female humans generally did perfectly well without bras! There it is, folks. We’ve been swindled.
Furthermore, I deeply object to the notion that my nipples are offensive . . . Everyone staring like I’ve vomited up yesterday’s venison stew on my chest, just because they can see that, yes, I have oval-shaped buttons on my drooping sacks of chest fat.
Sometimes they’re pointy and sometimes they’re not. Sometimes one is pointy and sometimes one is not. Sometimes they get sucked on and most of the time they do not. GET OVER IT.
What’s the big deal?
All over the street, we see men walking around with their nipples pushing against the fabric of their shirts. The swell and rise of the male breast is perfectly acceptable, no matter whether it’s hard, flabby, flat or hanging. Why?
Female breasts are viewed as sexual objects, that’s why.
And for some reason, women are still continuously deterred from expressing themselves openly, unless it’s as decreed by the media – in a shiny photoshopped collage of unrealistic body traits splashed all over a fashion shop window.
It’s just not alright for a woman to exist as she is, on the street, in public. She has to be permissible – whereas, somewhere along the lines, men have gained the power to be whatever they are, wherever they are, even if they’re total doofuses.
It’s strange that a body part so ubiquitous is still viewed with shock and awe, even if it does have potentially sexual properties. Butts also have sexual properties, but we don’t stuff them into strappy slings before going out in public.
The shaming of the breast.
Most nursing mothers will tell you about experiences where they’ve been told to go somewhere else to feed their baby. I was at a pool once, nursing my child in my bathing suit, and the lifeguard told me it was “unsanitary”.
As if the pure milk exiting from my breast straight into my child’s throat was dirtier than their gritty pool deck lined with the moist bacteria-rich-and-fungus-laden footprints of thousands of strangers. I could’ve squirted some of my breastmilk onto the tiles as disinfectant, for Pete’s sake.
I think it’s truly revealing of the vast scope of sexism when a woman is criticized both for baring her breast in public to nurse her child, and for allowing her breasts to hang loose under her shirt. Who is in control here? Do we own our bodies yet? And when will that ever happen?
And why do women adopt these same constrictive attitudes toward their sisters? Why are female body parts regarded as subject to outside regulation? Why are our daughters learning still that they have to endure it when boys insult them, ridicule them, slander them, and analyze their bodies? (Source: I have a teenage daughter in a mainstream highschool, and the problem is REAL.)
Unfortunately, I encounter a plethora of women who implicitly or explicitly support these misogynistic rules. I’ve been stared at and censored by more of my “sisters” than I care to count, just for failing to holster up my mammary glands. What’s that all about? I mean, who really cares?
Here are my suggestions for solving this cultural problem:
If you hear yourself saying, “Wait, I have to put on a bra!” before going out into the world, ask yourself why. Repeat for sleeping in a bra.
If you hear yourself criticizing another woman’s body or clothing, ask yourself why.
If you notice the arbitrary limits set upon females and female body parts, ask yourself why.
If you won’t even consider going without a bra, ask yourself why.
If you hate the shape of your breasts, ask yourself why.
The bra may be able to hold up our boobs, but when pressed, it doesn’t hold up to these difficult questions.
Oh, and by the way – my breasts still don’t look like “golf balls in a tube sock”. They look like 42-year-old breasts that nursed babies for over four years straight, and they’re freakin’ wonderful.