Dismantle the Patriarchy One Bra at a Time


Bras are unnecessary.  I can already hear some of you (because I’ve spoken to countless “yous” about this before) saying, “Maybe for you they are. My boobs are far too big to let them just flop around. It hurts.” I know. I know it does. It hurt me too, at first. I used to wear a bra to bed. Even during the time it took me to shower, my boobs would start to hurt. I didn’t think about the fact that evolution probably would not look kindly on a body part that constantly hurt everyone who had it unless they wore it in a sling, nor did I think about the fact that, if every boob hurt all the time, women would have invented bras before they invented the wheel. We all know that women in many different cultures wear no breast coverings, but we don’t wonder how they deal with the constant, nagging boob pain. I did not question the necessity of the bra because my patriarchal upbringing made sure I didn’t. But then my step-mom told me that when she was young, she had to get her bras custom made because they did not sell a size large enough for her in stores. And then one day, she decided that her money would be better spent on literally anything else and she never bought another bra. I had never questioned my step-mom’s bra-related practices before, but once I knew, everything changed.

Not really. I kept wearing bras, baffled by how she could move through the world with the ache that comes with unslinging one’s breasts. Until I met my friend Emily. She was very adamant that bras were useless because she didn’t own any. She never had. She said that her boobs were too small for a bra to have any use, but they were the same as mine.  So I tried not wearing one. It took several weeks to get past the pain. I would sometimes wear the thing for an hour or so at a time, just for the relief. But the pain is either psychological or the result of atrophied muscles beneath the fat, depending on who you ask. Over time, you build immunity to whichever one troubles you. I no longer have boob pain.  Bras are banished from my life as the misogynistic relics they are.

Why misogynistic? The reason I chose to leave bras behind was the realization that I only put myself through all of that discomfort because bras made my boobs look different. They made them appear perfectly round, nipple-less, and slightly larger. But boobs are none of those things. And why should I walk around pretending that they are?  Because that’s how patriarchal depictions of boobs always are, excepting the lack of nipples. Nipples are incredibly sexualized, as long as they are on a female-presenting person. For that reason, I am expected to keep them covered. But again, why?  Why is it my problem that a bunch of old, white, cishet men think that my nipples are sexual? I find a pair of strong male hands sexual. Can I force men to wear gloves all the time? No. Because this is a (say it with me) patriarchy. My nipples are my own business and I choose to let them show because I refuse to view my own body as simply a sexual object to be viewed by straight male subjects. I used to be ashamed of the real shape of my boobs. I felt naked and exposed walking around without a bra to “fix” the teardrop shape into a sphere.  Now I rarely even remember that there are women all around me dealing with the discomfort of an article of clothing that they throw away from themselves the moment they are in the comfort of their own homes, away from strange eyes.

Anyway all this is to say that bras are unnecessary. I know I took a hard line here, but I own one lacy black bra that I wear on occasion to feel sexy. And if you like bras, wear them all you want. The last thing I’m trying to do is tell women how to express their femininity. My problem is with the patriarchy doing that. So I encourage all my readers to question whether their choices are rooted in personal choice or in outdated societal expectations, and then do whatever they want to with their findings.