I’ve been thinking about bras. I never minded bras–I tried to find pretty ones, and I got fitted regularly. It was just what I did.
A few days ago, I stumbled across this article by Kara Maria Ananda, women’s health visionary. My perception, in summary: Bras, for the most part, provide no health benefit. In fact, except during extreme exercise, they don’t even really provide a function. They restrict natural movement, which potentially causes harm far beyond a simple decrease in circulation; we think we need them because our breasts are sore without support–well, they are sore because we’ve had them restricted for so long. Why? Because somewhere along the way we decided that this was the fashion statement of the century. Half of the shirts in my closet look funny without a bra, because without it, my breasts are several inches below where the shirt thinks they should be (how silly is that?). Kara’s ideas and collected research on bras and what they potentially do to women’s breasts evoked a spectrum of emotions.
Initially, I thought, oh yeah, I totally agree. How interesting.
Then I got angry.
I’m not prone to extreme ends of the emotion spectrum, particularly anger. Which means that I quickly realized that my anger was a warning that I was feeling internal conflict.
Remember this? (Apparently the original post has gone missing, so I’ll link to this post instead) This post from awhile back discusses the menstrual cup, its benefits, and how it made me change the way I thought about periods. It made me feel empowered–a feeling that is not encouraged in regards to aspects of femininity like menstruation. I am not necessarily a feminist, but a humanist–I believe women and men are amazing beings, both capable of extreme and selfless compassion, feats of intellect, strength, and humanity. We are both equally valuable members of our species. So, while women are sometimes subject to sexist remarks and lower rates of pay (and much worse, in certain other parts of the world, of course), I’ve always felt that being aware is half the battle, and as long as we continue to move forward, that’s all I can ask.
And then I got to thinking about little girls…and what we say to little girls. We want our children, specifically the females, to be “modest.” I understand why, I think–aside from some deeply seated Puritanial principles at play in the subconscious of our nation, we are concerned about our children’s safety, and rightly so. We don’t want our children–but again, especially the females–to act or dress in a way that might attract negative attention. Combine that with fashion obsession (which, after all, is where bras and breast binding originate), and you wind up with an entire species (or at least an entire first world group) that slings that which is meant to swing!
Now, as others have said before me: to imply that women dressing modestly will prevent negative attention is to put the burden on the women, rather than the men (or other women) who might offer that negative attention.
We have this idea that it’s inappropriate to be in public with the girls a swingin’. We think it will scar the children, or something. Guess what? Nudity–appropriate, non-sexual nudity–is healthy. What’s unhealthy is raising children to believe that the human body is something to strap down and cover at all costs.
What’s even more sad? When you are in public, covered in material thick enough to meet standard expectations, but bra-less–and other women give you a weird look. We’re all women, we all have breasts–shouldn’t we be supporting each other, instead of flashing each other looks?
The statistics made me sad. I realize this wasn’t a perfect study, but if the results are 50% accurate, or even 10% accurate, it’s worth considering. I don’t want my nieces, my sweet, perfect little nieces, to wear something–to consider something non-optional–that might actually be hurting them.
I gave up underwires quite a while ago, solely for comfort. After reading this article, I have purchased two more of what I call tank bras–thinner material and thinner straps than a sports bra, but similar fit. Maybe some people call it a yoga bra? Anyway, they are super comfy, my back doesn’t hurt, and my boobs are covered (no nipples–good for the ole modesty), but they can move much more naturally.
I know some women, for whatever reason, choose to wear a bra and would never change. That’s cool. It’s your body. As with the menstrual cup choice, I just want that choice to be an informed one–not a requirement for living in America.
If you take away nothing else, take this:
*Massage the girls daily.
*Don’t wear a bra unless you absolutely must.
*Make all choices using the information at hand, rather than assuming a cultural norm is actually valuable (especially when it comes to your health, and the health of our children–mental and physical)