Bras: to wear or not to wear?
Written by- Medha Sharma and Suhasi Dewan
Breaking the Myths around Bras
There are ample amounts of myths about going braless that dictate our lives since time immemorial. The sociological constructs are so rigid and programmed in our society that it gives little to no space for a conflicting idea to enter our system.
Let us try breaking it down, little by little. The good old idea that is passed on to us by our mothers and grandmothers that not wearing a bra leads to sagging is not medically proven. The sagging of breasts is rather genetic and none of the stabbing, under wired monsters help us prevent it. In-fact, going braless is more beneficial. In a study conducted on 330 volunteers between the age of 18 to 35 over a course of 15 years, it was seen that women who went braless witnessed a lift in nipples, which disapproves the notion that breasts would sag without a bra.
Wearing a bra entraps more and more heat, dead skin cells and sweat in the area, which not only raises hygiene concerns but also medical issues such as rashes, fungal infection and breakouts. Going braless helps relax the blood flow and normalize blood circulation. Women who do not wear bras experience fewer stretch marks than those who do. So don’t worry about a little bounce!
The sexual nature of the female nipple
Breasts have been hyper sexualized in all cultures and social media is definitely one to blame. The female body is considered intrinsically erotic and is been overwhelmingly sexualized over the years, bras have also been associated to this objectification.
Since the very beginning, bras have been mandated for young girls. The female nipple has so much stigma and taboo around it that we forget to realize how innocent it actually is. Breasts are not sexual organs; they are innocent, cute flesh balls that may sometimes need support, most times, not.
Why is it problematic to sexualize nipples?
Male nipples are not considered problematic, however if a woman’s nipples are visible through her t-shirt, it would call for censorship. These are the double standards that unfortunately still exist in society.
Believe it or not, earlier, male nipples were also sexualized. In the 1930’s, four men were arrested for being topless on a beach in Coney Island. The only reason why men today can unabashedly post topless gym pictures on Instagram is because such regressive arrests were criticized. Today, bare male chests can be seen in fashion magazines and are considered inspirational, if anything. This change in societal norms for men has been observed in a matter of just six years.
When you sexualize female nipples, you’re also sexualizing breastfeeding, or even visible bra straps that young girls in school are targeted against.
What is the history of bras?
One can draw a clear correlation between the status of women in society and evolution of fashion and imposition on women. Before the invention of bras, women used to wrap fabric around their breasts. Then there was an invention of corsets, however, they were extremely uncomfortable. Corsets were created in such a way that it would make the stomach region tighter and create an illusion of a thinner waist.
Herminie Cadolle was the first person ever to invent bras. She made it into a two-piece garment, and the lower garment was a corset to cover the stomach. The upper garment was to support women’s breasts which included shoulder straps that majority corsets did not. It was designed in a way that the breasts would appear bigger and enhance the cleavage.
Bras inevitably were designed to sexualize women, and not just support or cover the nipples. Corsets were not designed for comfort, they were to restrict movement. There were very few women who loved wearing bras for support; it was an uncomfortable garment which was necessary due to societal norms.
Feminism and bra-shaming
Wearing a bra or going completely braless is not just a matter of choice. It’s that feeling of autonomy and independence of getting to choose your own clothing.
Unfortunately, feminist movements such as ‘Free the nipple’ or ‘Burn the Bra’ are shunned and silenced because they are deemed irrelevant. This creates a gap in the need for intersectional feminism.
Every time a pro choice movement is cancelled, a more conditioned feminism is birthed. All the struggles of women fall under the umbrella term of feminism. Not being able to have the freedom of not wearing a bras one of those struggles.
The struggles of women are simply not hierarchical, and they all deserve time and discourse.
What is the conclusion?
When we openly talk about going braless, we give women a platform to decide for themselves. We open them up to the possibility that they can exist without a piece of clothing attached to their body for the rest of their life. Pointing out double standards in society is extremely essential, especially when we have conversations about garments or sex. To judge someone for consciously choosing nudity or modesty is vile. It’s a choice; and one can choose to wear a bra or none at all despite their body type, gender and orientation.