Bra Burning: The Beginning

(Originally written for Pride News Magazine July 2014)
The catalyst to my womanhood
Prior to birthing my daughter I was a smallish and perky 36B, I celebrated fully, ditching my bra on numerous occasions and allowing my breasts to just be breasts. Fast forward to my post baby, still nursing body I am now a 36C (not as perky mind you), and still celebrating. At times however, my efforts to go braless are met with: “Are you wearing a bra? Oh my gawd! Put on a bra.”

I admit, there have been times in the past when I’ve seen braless women with breasts that can double as a scarf in winter, and I’ve thought, “Oh my gawd, put on a bra.” Thankfully, with growth came a shift in perspective, and I realized this mentality of physical bondage as freedom is deeper, and goes beyond the existence of my breasts.
It’s easy to mistake such contraptions of female torture as a male invention, but both men and women have had a hand in fetishizing our breasts, which is agreeably a Eurocentric way of thinking. The function of the brassiere to cover, restrain, reveal, or modify our breasts have been around as early as the women of Ancient Greece.
Many patents, changes, styles, and monikers later we are left with a need to keep our breasts close, and the awareness of our sexuality closer. When I asked a friend why she wore a bra, she simply stated, “I’ve never not worn one,” and we both laughed. It wasn’t about patriarchy, repression of the female body, or anti-feminism, it was about support. She simply made a point on which both men and women can agree—a bra makes the outfit come together.
Yet, I have to ask myself and the women reading this: “Who told you that your body as it is, is not enough?” We can all agree that the female body is a beautiful masterpiece regardless of your physical preference. But if beauty is in the eye of the beholder, why have we trained our eye to behold beauty as being girded, bound, and coned?
Am I less attractive, less put together, and less smoothed out if I choose to forego the bra? And if so, by whose standards? Granted my friend is a DD, and would no doubt be uncomfortable with her breasts being free on a regular basis, and I’m uncomfortable just thinking of the back pain she would have. Her “never” rang loud and clear though, and I wonder if the intention behind the “never” would have been different if our breasts were left alone to just be breasts.
Florence Williams, author of, “Breasts: A Natural and Unnatural History,” provides the point that breasts are naturally selected organs, with their primary function being lactation and the nourishing of offspring. Somehow (I’m guessing through Western indoctrination) fat, nipple, alveoli (glands) and milk ducts have become sexual in nature, and in need of supervision.
I snicker as I wonder how long men have been secretly suckling from our milky fountains. As Kemsha, a well-endowed woman shared with me, “Having breasts in this society is perceived as sexual based on the fact that the media has made breasts somewhat sexualized, whether it’s music videos, celebs etc. You are praised if you have breasts.”
Is unwanted praise the reason my mother admonishes me to wear a bra whenever my breasts are visibly in their natural position?  Am I to be one of those women that post, declare, and buy t-shirts that demand men look into our eyes when speaking to us, yet spend my hard earned 9-5, creatively draining desk job money to buy into the different styles, that push and hoist our breasts closer to our eyes? “My perspective as a male who loves titties, braless is very arousing and provocative. A big turn on.” Dear Mom, I’m damned if I do, and damned if I don’t.
Many of the women I spoke to however, say that size is the primary reason behind wearing bras. When you’re a DD, G, or a HH/FF, there is not much frills for you to buy into. “I wear a bra strictly for function. For me to find a bra to make me feel sexy is hard just because finding my bra size is difficult. So putting in the energy to find a sexy bra is not in me to do.” To that truth Vanessa added, “Function is important, but I have noticed that ‘fashion’ bras made for small breasts are reasonably priced while quality ‘pretty/sexy’ bras are very expensive, thus most of my bras are not ‘pretty’.”
One woman, Paige expressed love for her breasts: “My breasts make me feel sexy and confident. I love my breasts (most of the time)….Bras make me feel super sexy. Especially a nice matching bra & panty set. [It] makes me feel like I can conquer the world. It’s great. I like the way a nice bra makes me feel, I don’t care if no one sees it.” I too can appreciate the superwoman powers that come with a new bra and panty set.
Though I haven’t worn a pretty bra since before my daughter was born, as they are tangled in a ‘too small now thanks to sex’ heap, I’ve realized that although it’s hard for me to feel sexy in a maternity bra, my choice to go braless is not based on my perceived sex appeal, it’s based on me being comfortably comfortable in my own skin.
This is not a burn your bras call to action, although I have some pretty frilly things right here to stoke your fire if you so choose, rather this is a standard of beauty call to action. Who and what defines your beauty? My standard of beauty has evolved and now includes the tiger stripes that decorate my sides, the spider veins behind my knees and a growing acceptance that though my breasts may never be deliciously perky ever again (I’ll continue to lift my 5lb weights in hope), they are deliciously mine.
Although there has been some medical conclusion that bras actually aid in the sagging of breasts, while going braless builds the muscles to maintain the perk, I, along with many of my sisters still mentally possess the need to cover, restrain, reveal or modify the appearance of our breasts. Size, unwanted sexual attention, and social implications have fizzled our bra burning fire.
I’ll throw a pretty frilly thing in once in a while; I’ll also go braless more often. If you happen to see me on the street looking naturally positioned, just smile, and compliment my eyes. They’re brown—just to give you a head start. full-width


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