Female Empowerment

Bare Necessities

I recently read an article about breast health (via Occupy Menstruation) and what influence wearing a bra has on a woman*’s breast tissue/muscles/all of that lovely physical substrate that makes up this body part.


As a scientist, I am curious to read more scientific papers on the topic. Beyond this inquisitiveness, though, my feminist urge for equality and awareness joins the picture. Let’s face it — most of the time, a woman*’s breasts are seen as objects. To be lusted after.. desired..riddiculed..sneered at.. judged… [this list can be expanded with a plethora of experience you may have made]. So I was curious what my experience would be like if I, as a young woman with fairly large breasts, would go without wearing a bra.

{I grew up with some — very few! — hardcore feminist women around me, who never confined their breasts to a bra. Thinking back now, I remember judging them as being quite strange, when I was a little girl… it’s sad, really.}

I was interested both to discover my own experiences – how would my body feel, walking..running..riding a bicycle… As well as the reactions (if there would be any) from others. Very quickly, this self-experiment turned into almost a sociological study:

Before I delve into the details, let me just say that I, of course, had a heightened sense of awareness during this “experiment”. It would be silly to assume that this didn’t influence my perception of other people’s reactions, or that my perception was anything but subjective. Of course it was! Keeping this in mind…

I have never gotten more looks at my chest, as I did on that day.

The eyes of people, regardless of whether I read them as men* or women* kept on wandering to my chest, as if I had a nasty ketchup stain on my shirt that I was unaware of but that was provoking them to look. Not a single person said a word to me about this. But by the end of the day, I was intensely uncomfortable. And angry.

Interestingly enough, I had forgotten that I had a job interview that day. By the time I realized this, it was too late to go home and change. So I went to my job interview, acutely aware of my bra-less state. The woman who interviewed me was such a pleasant person that I completely forgot my discomfort for the duration of our conversation. This was the first time, all day, that I didn’t feel reduced to this one area of my body and actually felt like I was being treated as an sentient being.

This experience has made me wonder… why is it, that it seems outrageous for women to not wear a bra (at least in western societies)? What does it say about us, that we want a part of our body to conform to a certain shape (and location!) that often times is quite far removed from reality?

Don’t get me wrong — I love beautiful underwear! But I would also love to wear it because I feel like it and not because I feel like I don’t have a choice. Plus: my chest was not made for bras! To this day, I have not found one model that works for my anatomy. And I’m not the only one … Some studies say that up to 88% of women may have differently sized breasts – a fact that next to no bra-maker has ever bothered to pay any attention to. So we’re supposed to spend tons of money to subsequently keep pushing and squeezing us awkwardly into the place and shape designers see fit for our breasts?? On so many levels, that just seems plain wrong.

This is why I have reached a decision: I will go bra-less at least once a week; more, if I feel like it or feel courageous enough to do so. And yes, I do need courage for that. I hope that someday I won’t anymore and I realize that for some people it might come easily. For me, this is a learning process. But it is one that I am excited for. And the next time I catch someone staring at my “untamed” breasts, I hope to have the courage to confront them about it!


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