I remember the day that I decided that wearing a bra was something I wanted to do. My childhood best friend lent me a sports bra, and I remember that feeling of being a woman and no longer a child. I was laying down on the couch at my Aunt’s with my head on my mother’s lap as she rubbed my back. I had the immediate sense of shame as I saw a knowing smirk spread across my mother’s face as she felt the bra beneath my shirt. I know she meant no harm, but I hated it. I wanted to be a woman and feel grown up and I felt ashamed and embarrassed. I didn’t start wearing a bra daily until almost a year later.
Puberty sucks, and it is as if there is no winning. If you happen to develop earlier you’re made fun of by jealous girls who wish they were you, and if you’re slow to develop you’re made fun of for trying to catch up. If I could never go through middle school again, it wouldn’t be good enough because it’s memories still haunt me like the painfully awkward creations they are. Let’s be completely honest with ourselves, developing breasts was one of the forerunners for terrible moments in adolescence.
But this piece isn’t about breasts, I want to talk about nipples. They’re different shapes, colors, and sensitivities, but they’re just nipples. They have become this overly-sexualized part of the body, and it needs to stop. You’ve seen the videos of the film for the wonderful campaign of Free the Nipple. The efforts were successful, because even Madison, Wisconsin it is now legal for women to walk around topless. How important this truly is can be overlooked by many. I mean if you look at it, it’s just a handful of cities where you can now have your breasts openly oggled by others instead of through the protection of a top.
Stop thinking like this. We have the opportunity as a generation to eliminate the sexualization of nipples. Why did women burn their bras for years only to have their legacy ignored? There was never a thought in my mind that the brassiere was something I had to accept and adopt into my life. To not wear a bra was only for those who were hippies and fought against the Man. I feel like an incompetent idiot for thinking like this. My poor breasts have been in a prison since puberty! I wish there had been more positive light shed on women who choose to accept non-commercial beauty standards. This includes things such as not shaving, not wearing bras, not using deodorant, and not using make up.
I dislike that I even have to point out things like this, but we are a society built on beauty standards and norms. There is nothing wrong with embracing them, but there is also nothing wrong with choosing to not embrace them. The most disturbing part about bras in particular, is that as a society we have become programmed to accept it as something we do. There isn’t a fight against it. Companies have made them lacy and push-up, and work to increase their desirability as a product. Our boobs have been punked. If the prisons are pretty enough women will keep the shame attached to their chests hidden.
I don’t have the bravery quite yet to go topless, so I have settled to do the next best thing. I have been going without a bra for most of the year. It feels right, it feels liberating, and according to science, it’s good for them too. First couple of times I did it I was nervous as hell, I wore big baggy sweaters and dreaded that a cool enough breeze would make me look as if I was smuggling ice cream cones. It was an interesting transition, I no longer had the cleavage I was so used to, I didn’t have the false shaped breasts created by Victoria’s Secret, and I couldn’t have been happier. I feel sexy and happy and like I want to follow the steps of the women before us and engulf my boob prisons in flames.
I hope that one day we are able to be topless at the beach without feeling sexualized for having breasts. To accept the nipple is to accept that we are humans, not genders. It is a small step to fight back against a society filled with standards and norms and be ourselves, one nipple at a time. If you live in a city where it is legal to go topless I urge you to find others who create events to go topless in solidarity. I know that I am keeping my eyes peeled for Madison to have one.
So today I have a challenge for you ladies out there. Go a week without a bra. Not a day. A week. Start out with something loose so it isn’t as obvious and by the end of the week maybe explore something a bit tighter. If you feel nervous about nipping in the A/C, bring a sweater or a flannel to wear on top. It doesn’t matter if you’re a small chested girl or a large chested girl, don’t be ashamed of having breasts. To free the nipple is to embrace that nipples are just another part of the body. We need to be the generation to allow young girls to know that choices about their bodies are their own. Letting women have the option of wearing a bra is moving in the same direction as letting women, just as men, have the option to go topless in public.
After the week is over, tell me in the comments how it made you feel. Are you sticking with it? Will you go back to bras, and why? Hell, maybe you’re going to switch from push-up bras to bralettes, and that counts too. It’s the feeling of a bra without reforming the natural shape of your breasts to something the media desires.
Free the nipple is a war that is being won in small battles. Be the soldier for change, and give your boobs the break they deserve.