3/29/10

The Bra Rant 2.0

Back in the day, when this blog was shiny and new, I wrote about how everyone is wearing the wrong bra. I prefaced that post with a "girls only!" caveat, but now I think everyone should read it, whether the breasts in your life belong to you or someone you know. In the past few years, more and more people seem to be jumping on the "80% of women wear an improperly fitting bra" bandwagon, so I've found myself a new cause to adopt. This one goes "everyone is wearing a bra, and that's just wrong."

I don't wear bras. I have donned one perhaps twice in the past six months, for fashion reasons relating to particular outfits, but in general I would not be caught dead in one. Now, I'm not a bra-burning feminist or anything; my old bras are languishing in a dresser drawer, filed with my other purely-optional fashion accessories. There are many reasons to abandon bras altogether, but for me it is a matter of comfort. I have chronic headaches, and nothing guarantees a migraine like the pressure a bra puts on your back, neck and shoulders (yes, even the properly fitting ones). I go bra-free because it makes me happy.

In case you were concerned, I am in no way endangering my health by abandoning the brassiere, any more than modern women's organs are in danger of going unsupported by our lack of corset. According to brafree.org, one of the only anti-bra websites maintained by a bonafide medical doctor, there is no medical benefit to wearing a bra, and if you stop to think about it, has anyone ever really claimed there is? I always assumed bra-wearing was a necessity because that is the implicit message girls receive, but I don't recall anybody ever telling me why. We do it because it's socially acceptable, which brings me to my next point.


Declining to wear a bra does not make me rebellious, inappropriate, unsightly, or any other epithet fashion columns and even news sites fling at celebrities who ditch their bras for a day. In fact, it might surprise you how many people just plain don't notice, up to and including my family and closest friends. The most common reaction I get is "wow, you're lucky you can do that, but I really need a bra." Here's the thing: I'm certainly not an "A," in the common parlance (though you will remember that cup sizes aren't absolute), but I do just fine, and I don't think anybody really needs a bra on a regular basis, barring considerations like wanting a certain shape under a particular shirt, or strenuous exercise. As previously stated, it does nothing for you on a medical level, and may even do you a little damage. The breasts are held up by ligaments known as Cooper's ligaments, and here's the thing about ligaments: if you don't use them, they'll probably atrophy. Think of a limb that's been in a cast for six weeks (granted, that involves musculature too, which the breast lacks, but ligaments and tendons are at play too). So if you wear a bra that basically immobilizes you for most of the day, the ligaments don't have to do their job, and when you take the bra off, you're going to sag a lot more than you would otherwise. On the other hand, very few people's natural shape looks anything like what a bra does to you, so by cultural standards everybody sags. People get all up in arms about what cultural constructs of beauty do to women's body image; can we please add this to the list?

Potentially more worrying but less agreed upon, bras may be linked to breast cancer. The American Cancer Society says this is a myth, but what they really mean is that it hasn't been properly researched; a lack of evidence for something does not constitute proof that it is false. I am inclined to think that the proposed mechanisms whereby bras would put you at higher risk for cancer make enough sense that someone should really look into them more thoroughly. In the meantime, I will continue to hate bras on their own merits.

To conclude, further reading that I didn't manage to integrate into the post proper:

I don't harbor any illusions that you will read this post and suddenly give up your bras as well, but I'd encourage you, the next time you're putting one on, to think for just a minute about why you're doing it. Because it makes you look pretty? Well and good, we all make sacrifices for fashion, and if it's a conscious choice then that's fine. Because it is honestly more comfortable than not wearing one? If you've actually given the bra-free lifestyle a fair try (at least a week, to give yourself time to adjust to something new and different) to be able to make that comparison, then I will buy it, though I have a hard time imagining such a world. Because you feel like you have to? I would urge you to reconsider who exactly is in charge of your body and how you present it. If you know why you wear a bra and choose to keep doing so, then I respect that. But if you've never given it a second thought, take a moment to become aware, because it really is a choice.