I never thought as a young woman in 2014’s England I would ever hear “you really should be wearing a bra” snivelled at me by some perverted man. However a few weeks ago, at a predominantly English festival in Spain, that happened. I’ve been catcalled, grabbed without consent and had men comment on my appearance -without my asking them to- plenty of times but this seemed different, it seemed even more violating than the uncalled for butt squeezes and creepy greetings one gets when walking at night walking alone.
It happened while I was fetching some water from the bar inside the festival during a Paolo Nutini set. A group of men, having bought some pints, stumbled into me causing one of the pints to spill over me. After they apologised, Mr. Sexist proceeded to say “Poor woman, you spill your beer over her and she isn’t even wearing a bra.” It was when I asked how whether I wear a bra or not was any of his concern that spurred his ridiculous comment. So for those of you who are too small-minded to understand how a woman can choose to not wear a bra, here is an explanation.
It was about two years ago I decided to stop wearing bras for one simple reason: Why the fuck should I? Society makes us believe that from the tender age of twelve we must clothe our – barely there – tits in an uncomfortable, and a lot of the time unflattering, contraption that really isn’t very necessary. I was beyond sick of being stabbed by under-wires and suffocated by back straps. No longer did I want to have my baby feeders pushed to my ear lobes for the attraction of men and the concealment of the mere suggestion of nipples to the public. Of course, over the course of two years I’ve had a lot of questions about my choice from my friends: Why don’t you wear a bra? Doesn’t it hurt? Aren’t you embarrassed? What happens when you run? Won’t it make your tits sag? And then there’s the belief that they and I are different in some way with a self-doubting: ‘I would never have the courage to do that’…
I’ve never understood how after over a century of women protesting against the things that have put us in an unequal position to men, we still find our way back to the abnormal boning that forces our bodies into shapes that don’t naturally exist. In the 1920s, women abandoned their corsets; in the 1930s and 40s they put them on again; in the 1950s, feminists burned corsets; in the 60s and 70s they burnt bras and in 2014 we’re still wearing them.
Feminist writer and documenter Jennifer Lee wrote in her article on TIME about the Women’s Liberation Movement in America during the 60s and 70s:
Bras were just one of the items protestors were encouraged to bring that day (The Miss American Pageant Protest in 1968)that signified how the male-dominated culture was keeping women locked into rigid ideas of beauty, but they weren’t burned. Starting a fire on the boardwalk was illegal, so protestors opted to Playboy magazines and other items in a Freedom Trash Can. Still, the bra-burning image remained—a symbol that was easy to belittle as women focusing on something trivial. Misinformation and myths sometimes serve as placeholders in our memory when facts are not remembered.
Despite my incessant rambling, I am not making a stance on telling any woman or man what to put onto their body. I am pro-choice. I hope you, my reader, can be pro-choice too.