Over the course of the past two weeks, I have joyously abandoned my bras and it has been liberating. My breasts are able to feel the breeze, embracing the air as they are released from their lace, floral and cheetah print prisons.
Letting go of bras has been a challenge for me. Over the years I have built a diverse collection of lingerie: vintage slips, garter belts and every kind of brassiere. Though I adore everything about lingerie, I began to realize that I have been religiously wearing bras every day in reaction to the cultural obsession of controlling women’s bodies.
I am blinded by advertisements for push-up bras, breast lifts and enhancements to keep my boobies perfect and perky. Victoria’s Secret makes millions of dollars encouraging women to alter the shape of their breasts in order to appeal to the ideal American woman who has flawlessly shaped breasts. However, the obsession with women’s breasts is extremely damaging. It encourages us to feel self-conscious in our naked skin, afraid to embrace the beauty of our individual, unique bodies.
When I was in middle school I watched girls begin to grow full breasts, and I impatiently waited for mine to rise. I recall feeling insecure about them, concerned they were too small. It was not until college that I developed breasts, and I rejoiced them, dressing them in lacy push-up bras. However, the issue with bras is that they pressure us to try to achieve physical perfection while shaming women’s bodies.
The reality is, a woman who does not wear a bra is viewed as inappropriate, sloppy, provocative and not well-dressed. Women are expected to hide their breasts, and if a chilly breeze causes our nipples to poke through our shirts, controversy arises. It seems to me that wearing a bra is akin to succumbing to the culturally prescribed bondage surrounding women’s bodies. The effort to shame a woman’s body is everywhere in our culture.
Feminists tired of the shame attached to women’s breasts have unleashed the Free the Nipple movement, a celebration of the nipple, finally unveiled and powerful, in the effort to support female equality. Pop culture figures are challenging cultural norms by joining the movement. Women are growing tired of their bodies being perceived as obscene or grotesque. They no longer want to have to hide behind their bras and feel self-conscious about their nipples.
These issues, and the shame that surrounds them, have contributed to modern rape culture. Women are often held accountable for presenting themselves sexually in society. If a woman does not wear a bra she might be “asking for it.” But the root of the issue is that the body does not have to be a sexual entity.
The Free the Nipple movement gives voice to the many layers of female oppression in this country. They are fighting against body shaming and against society’s need to control women’s bodies. Women can potentially face arrest in America for being nude in public and can even face fines for breast feeding in public. Free the Nipple seeks to empower women by protesting against the perceived obscenity surrounding women’s bodies.
This idea that a woman’s body is obscene is prevalent in American censorship. However, the notion of censorship is paradoxical. In America we are more keen to watch a violent dismemberment than a couple making love or a naked human body. Violence has absorbed itself into our culture so completely that we now don’t see it as obscene. I cannot fathom why violence is a much more normal representation of daily life than nudity.
We watch ourselves get dressed every morning. We shower naked. The idea that the body—the thing we carry around with us everywhere and do literally everything with—must be censored is troublesome. Censorship’s goal is to protect viewers from dangerous messages, but in reality it does the opposite. American media exists in a dangerous paradox. While censoring women’s bodies, we are ultimately making their bodies obscene.
I do not wear a bra because I do not believe exposed nipples are obscene. I do not wear a bra because I do not subscribe to the culturally imposed obsession with perky breasts. I do not wear a bra because I am not ashamed of my breasts and I do not believe anyone should be ashamed of them. I do not wear a bra because I prefer my breasts remain liberated. Finally, I do not wear a bra because my body belongs to me and I refuse to succumb to anyone’s oppressive demands about how I present myself.
I am not telling women that they are wrong for wearing bras, I am simply encouraging women to never let anyone make them ashamed of their bodies.