December 2, 2016

Why Wearing a Bra is Bad for us.

free the nipple

As a late-blooming teenager, somewhere in my stream of consciousness had entered the irrefutable conclusion that if I were to wear a bra 24/7—allowing pauses from being strapped in only to happen during bathing—-that I would somehow convince my breasts to grow.

And recently I heard a similar story from a friend who told me that she had done the same thing but for the opposite effect. She had hoped to stunt the growth of a large bust foretold by the moaning and groaning of her back pain-encumbered older sisters and mother.

Today neither of us are bra wearers, as despite a certain something having happened during puberty, it was not enough to inspire hundreds of dollars spent at Victoria’s Secret.

But between puberty and today I have owned some half-dozen or so bras, the defining feature of these elaborate booby traps being the three to four inch thick padding I thought to be necessary in order to give me the appearance of a larger bust.

Why did I want to look like I had C boobs when what I really have are A’s?

The Short Answer: low self esteem and a lifetime of being subjected to advertising telling me that’s how I was supposed to look; that my natural state of being was not good enough and must be fixed, covered-up, or altered.

I, like many women, made my purchasing and outfit choices soundly tempered by the male gaze.

Because wouldn’t you know it, according to science, “Medically, physiologically, anatomically—breasts gain no benefit from being denied gravity. On the contrary, they get saggier with a bra.”

Why do people love breasts, but only when they’re padded and squashed into a very specific form?

Why do we hyper-sexualize the appearance of nipples which doubles-down on the problem and fuels unreasonable, nay, ridiculous, expectations and norms for the female body?

I have a body. You have a body. We all have bodies.

My having a body is not inherently immodest or wrong.

And even if one was to go braless and that be noticeable underneath the covering of your clothing, does that make you immodest?

The reason our breasts were put onto our bodies in the first place—feeding our offspring and keeping the human race alive and thriving—is a beautiful, crucial function. Men have nipples that serve zero purpose other than being a sensitive pleasure zone, and yet we as a society haven’t decided to sexualize or demonize their existence.

Of course, I wear bras sometimes. I wear a sports bra to the gym and I wear light-weight lace or mesh bras when I choose a gauzy dress or shirt. I wear bras to job interviews when I don’t know anything about the character of the interviewer. If I had sensitive nipples or was plagued by back pain from being top-heavy, I might also wear bras more regularly. The question here comes down to why I make the choice when I do.

You can’t control what anyone else thinks about your body, but you can control what you think about it.

Why would we choose to wear a bra in the first place, if our reason is not to relieve ourself from physical pain? Why should I feel awkward or ashamed at having a small chest? Why should I feel awkward or ashamed going braless?

Why should I feel as though I’ve wronged someone by allowing one of the defining elements of my gender to just be there, not covered, squashed and lifted into a new form?

Because there is sexism, sexualised nipples are a thing. Or rather, #FreeTheNipple is a thing, people verbally harassing breastfeeding women is a thing, women getting breast implants to feel more attractive to men is a thing.

Don’t we have to accept the nipple first in order to be able to free it?


Author: Chloe Cotter

Images: With the permission of thekittenlife.com

Editor: Erin Lawson

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Angel Brisson Apr 25, 2017 11:30am

I love the fact that my breasts have successfully fed 10 children. This makes me feel like a powerful earth mama! And then, I put on a shirt without a bra (rarely wear one), and I feel a sense of shame that I look like prepubesant, I look less feminine.

Chloe Cotter Dec 5, 2016 7:21pm

Hi Linda, thanks for sharing and engaging with this topic. I'm very curious... I find that the whole point of going braless is to be unencumbered! But do you have back pain without bras? I write in the article, "Of course, I wear bras sometimes. I wear a sports bra to the gym and I wear light-weight lace or mesh bras when I choose a gauzy dress or shirt. I wear bras to job interviews when I don’t know anything about the character of the interviewer. If I had sensitive nipples or was plagued by back pain from being top-heavy, I might also wear bras more regularly. The question here comes down to why I make the choice when I do." I couldn't glean from your comment whether or not you experience back pain, or if you just feel as though having your breasts possibly be lower-hanging than what's "normal" is something you have to change with an expensive bra. No, I do not have a 32H bust, quite the opposite (as noted in the 5th paragraph of the article), and I felt very uncomfortable when I first started going braless because a) people could often see my nipples through my shirt, and b) there's a large group of men AND women in the world who feel that it's OK to say to my face that I am flat-chested and how unattractive that is to them. It's often uncomfortable to break norms and to re-assert/re-claim what it means to be beautiful. But as I learned, I do not want, nor do I need men, let alone women, in my life who tell me that not wearing a bra is ugly or unattractive. Because there is a fast growing group of people who tell me the opposite. I choose to stick with them :)

Linda Hopkins Dec 5, 2016 7:02am

I'd love to be able to go bra less. However as a size 10 dress size (uk 10 for you ladies over the pond) with a 32H bust I don't really have a choice for comfort and actually being able to move around unencumbered! So I find the title of this article actually somewhat irritating bordering on upsetting. That I am somehow making "bad" choices just because my body is a certain way. And the even more upsetting thing for me is I have to pay around £85 for a bra that actually fits me and supports me, as I'm such an unusual combination of small back / large front. I'm a huge fan of elephant writing but I'm not keen on this one I'm afraid. I'm guessing you don't have a 32H bust Chloe? It's frustrating to not be able to go bra free. Have you ever thought of us ladies who have little choice here? And I'm not ready yet to have my body physically mutilated to solve the problem!

Chloe Cotter Dec 5, 2016 12:48am

Jennifer Hannah I feel you girl! And I feel very conflicted about the disproportionate female representation in all fields. I'm so surprised that out of my entire piece that this sentence has sparked the most response, and had I anticipated it, I would have left it out entirely because the argument pervades whether or not bras and sagginess have any correlation. Funny how these things happen sometimes :) But your comments really do bring to light what perhaps is one of the many responsibilities of women with a platform to shed light on other females and I will make efforts in future articles!

Jennifer Hannah Dec 4, 2016 11:03pm

Chloe, of course you are a sister! To me, it's simply interesting to note that women are left with quoting men's research. Not at all in a blaming way, but just curious considering that sociologists, feminists, political scientists and writers (most notably, Betty Friedan and Gloria Steinem) have accomplished far more than a scientific study, creating entire movements, and I just wondered why there was no mention. I do very much appreciate your raising this topic and creating conversation. The most interesting discussions are the ones with various questions and challenges so I honestly am quite interested in how women are approaching this topic of bra wearing. You took the "bra" and put it into BRAve, so to speak. My personal intention is just to offer credit where credit is due. The ideas of rejecting bras are not new and the context you are placing this argument in might feel more powerful and if it were to cite our foresisters. Brilliant minds like yours often have a common thread, and arguments that draw from historical citations, in addition to current research can offer a stronger discourse. I'm honestly trying to help a sister out here.

Chloe Cotter Dec 4, 2016 10:29pm

Hi Debra, thanks for sharing! I don't think anyone would refute the conclusion that as we age, our breasts get saggier. I think the same is true for testes, and skin all over our bodies. I totally agree that to wear a bra or not is nobody's business! I just know that as the world exists today, a high percentage of women wear bras in order to make themselves look more visually pleasing/attractive to what men, advertising, the media has expressed to be the "standard," and "beautiful." I write articles like these to shed light on this very pressing, very real issue, in the hopes of inspiring women and men alike to reconsider their choices and the energy they're putting out into the world. Bra wearer or not, what can you do today to take back your body?

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Chloe Cotter

Chloe Cotter is a writer from Vancouver currently kittening around Montréal and preparing her first novel for publishing. She’s a perpetual wanderer, wine and cheese fanatic, foster cat mama, French enthusiast and consciousness-seeker. For Chloe, curiosity and an eagerness to become more deeply connected to the world around her motivates her learning and writing. Her prose centres on the human experience and seeks to further unpack the answerless question of “Why?”

You can read more of Chloe’s work on facebook and her website. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram