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