I haven’t shopped for bras in a long time, and a generic department store welcomed me with rows upon rows of them, hanging in all imaginable colors and designs. I went through an endless selection of ‘push ups’ and padded bras, all designed to make my chest bigger and stick out farther. The colors were bright and attractive to me, but why would I want layers of foam enhancing my natural curve, or ‘shelves’ pushing my breasts up? It looked completely uncomfortable, and felt rather odd to the touch. The selection was endless.
Eventually I found a little aisle that had a small un-padded selection. Checking for sizes my eye was drawn the tag, which shouted out in bold letters: Reduces size by 1.5”! I was dumbfounded. I realized I just couldn’t be alright the way I am! If I didn’t want to enlarge my breasts or push them up, I must want to reduce them…
Enhance or reduce, that is the question!
It seems that women can’t win. The main message these rows of merchandise were flashing at me, and all women, is that we need to hide what our bodies truly look like, and reshape it, so as to fool the eye of the beholder (men). A similar message was pushed on girls at the ‘training bra’ section. Aiming to get girls in the habit of disguising their natural body shape, the tags enticed them to make their bust look bigger (while everywhere else girls are looking the ads push slimness as the only desired shape). The one exception was that there were no Reduces size by 1.5”! models on offer here. All girls’ bras were heavily padded, insisting that they look like women before their time.
This is pure training in the art of deception!
Girls are offered only products that will enhance the size and shape of their young bodies. Women, on the other hand, are offered products that will either artificially enlarge their breasts, or put them in a straight jacket to make them appear smaller.
Like any other mask, such Breast Masks make sure that those looking at a girl or a woman’s body will receive the wrong impression. It also ensures disappointment on the observer’s part: when one is to look upon a woman’s bare breasts, the reality would be different than the marketed package. Either smaller or larger, there is going to be a clearly visible difference, which may well lead to a pronounced (or subtle) reaction. The message received by the beheld woman will be clear again: her body, her breasts, her natural form, are not good enough… And this, perhaps more than anything else, is what corporations want to imprint on women’s consciousness, starting at a very young age indeed.
Feeling not good enough will keep women in pain, which in turn will perpetuate their insatiable hunger for the next product to get them closer to the “ideal”; the next mask that will better hide their nature, or enhance it, to more effectively deceive their beholders.
I, for one, am not going to get my daughter anywhere near a department store for a “training bra.” What would it train her for??? Low self-esteem, dissatisfaction with her appearance, and the art of manipulation, designed to deceive herself and others regarding her body.
Instead, I tell her every day how beautiful she is!
© 2011 DeAnna L’am, All Rights Reserved
I enjoyed your article. One grammatical correction – in this case, bear should be spelled bare.
oops… Thanks for catching it! All mended now :-)
‘Isle’ should also be ‘aisle’-doesn’t take away from the message at all, which is a fantastic one.
O.K. you outed me: English is not my firs language LOL :-)
Point taken, mistake corrected. I learn something new every day. Thank you!
Great article echoing some of my feelings as I watch my nearly 12 yr old enter this phase. I am a nearly A but search for padding just for the extra “n”coverage. Mornings are a battle when she comes down sometimes and I need to say “no, you need to wear your bra or your cami with that shirt”. She usually opts to change shirts! During my school library volunteer stints, it saddens me to see her peers wearing the padded bras offered by Justice and others. These are 5thgraders!!! Don’t get me started on bathing suits!
Bravo! Well said DeAnna! We will join you on the beach enjoying the ocean, or the woods looking at the trees or just out smelling roses while avoiding those apartment stores. The idea of a ‘training bra’ has always confused me. Why would anyone want to wear these things if they do not have to? I have always been envious of girls and other women who could be free of the things. I agree with you, you are perfect just the way you are, and so is your daughter. Thank you for the wise words this afternoon. Blessed Be, Maika
So true Deanna …. It would be wonderful if we all loved our bodies the way they are right now. It really makes me sad to see young girls thinking badly of their friends when they love themselves, calling them stuck-up or concieted (spelling). It truly is the ‘norm’ to not like yourself and it breaks my heart to see it on a daily basis in young girls, maidens, mothers, and grandmas. I love your message and hope to work with you soon. Many blessings
Thanks for your comment, Rachelle!
The best we can do with the maidens in our midst is to model self-acceptance… We can’t be judging our own bodies and expect them to be any different… It’s a journey most of us need to take, as women in a culture that bombards us with unrealistic models and judgmental messages.
Glad to know you’d like to work together. I’d be delighted!
Thank you so much DeAnna for taking us with you into the bra section and showing how rediculous it is how bra’s are being promoted as objects to oppress our own bodies. We should burn them altogether, said the bra-less woman. But burning them comes with toxic problems because of the materials they are made of. That’s one thing you didn’t tell us about, the nylons, the metals, the acrylics and every other foamy concoction that bra’s are made of. And these synthetic materials are to worn on our most sensitives skins, our breasts! And under our breasts where our sweat can absorb these toxins. Have you seen any pesticide free cotton bra’s there?
But the overall message of your journey into this store is very clear. What has feminism done? What has women’s liberation done? Nothing it seems. Women have to dislike their bodies and look the way the fashion world and men want us to look. Women are so deeply influenced and brainwashed by magazines, commercial ads, and the way women are portrayed in the media is just shocking. Our bodies get used even more sexually explicit then in the 1950-60-70s it seems.
I cannot wear a bra since I’ve thrown mine at a judge in a court room who told a raped woman she had provoked it because she didn’t wear a bra! That was 36 years ago, and I refuse to wear bath suits as well, they all feel like corsets to me, restricting my freedom of movement.
Keep raising these issues DeAnna because the way women have to look and also oppress each other is just so shocking and unhealthy. Please liberate any young girl from a strapped in life!
I love this article. It is so amazing how many unspoken negative messages aimed at women are out there and go largely un-noticed by many of us. They just kind of slip in under the radar. Personally, I’ve never been aware of the things you have pointed out about bras. They are so true and so – right there for all to see. Amazing isn’t it?
Many years ago I read the book “Cunt” by Inga Muscio. Ohh my gosh I love that book. She sure made me laugh while I learned some things. Anyway, this is kinda one of those things, where so many of us just kinda go with the flow of what Mother Culture teaches us and don’t question it because it’s just “what we women do”.
I only wear bras sometimes myself. I like to be free and natural. One of the things I noticed about my own experience with going free is that, on occasion, and I don’t yet know what the trigger is, I get overcome with a sense of shame around it. I have crazy thoughts like: “What if people think I’m easy because I’m not wearing a bra? What if they think I’m “asking” for it – sex?” Believe me, I know how crazy that is and it always starts quite a long internal dialog with different parts of myself bickering. Ahh … big fun. Just goes to show how deeply entwined the messages become in our thinking.
According to “The History of the Bra”,
Gareth Marples, with his tongue-in-cheek manner, get’s us chuckling as he exposes the relationship between men, bras, and the pattern of attitudes towards the female bosom over time. He tells us,
“Around 2500 B.C., breasts were being admired. And that’s no surprise when you look at the men’s view of the women of those days. They adored them. In fact, they all but worshipped them. And the women, in tribute to all this attention, wore bras that lifted their breasts so much that they exposed them in all their splendor (at least, that’s how the men saw them).
Later, as Greek and Roman society grew more male-oriented, breasts were wrapped and flattened to minimize their size. And not only the women, but the men, too. But a pattern had started to develop – the use of bras changed with men’s attitudes towards the female bosom.
This pattern continued throughout the ages, with breasts being bared, or not, in exact ratio to men’s attitudes of the times. Women were at the mercy of the fashion of the day – usually decided by men.”
“In 1863, the U.S. government has registered over 1,200 patents of breast supporters. That’s a lot of support for bras.”
Wow! It sure is! He goes on to say,
“1913 saw the debut of the first modern brassiere. It was created by Mary Phelps Jacobs, who got so annoyed at the bones of her corset sticking out around her neckline that she covered them with a couple of silk handkerchiefs and some ribbon and attached it all together with some cords. Her friends loved the idea and those who expressed their admiration of this lightweight fashion were given one to try out.
Many people asked her to share her idea, but when she got a letter from a stranger, with a dollar and a request for her “contraption”, she drew the line. She immediately sent sketches of her design to the patent office. The patent was granted in November, 1914 for the “Backless Brassiere”. Mary named her new creation the Caresse Crosby. The bra was here to stay (even though it didn’t have stays, like the corset).”
In all my years DeAnna, I have “always” heard, and took to heart, that a “man” designed the bra. Which, leads me into the topic of personal accountability. Most of my youth was spent thinking that was a dirty word. Only in the last few years have I come to really appreciate what it means, and develop my understanding into what it means to me now.
Accountability comes to bear in this context with regard to what women are doing for women in our times. You my dear, are pure delight. I so commend you for what you are doing. As women, and, as crones, I feel we have a response-ablity to educate women on women’s issues. You are doing it! I love that!
From bra’s to menstruation, to pain-free orgasmic childbirth, and I’m sure many other topics. These are all wonderful wisdoms we women can share about with one another and teach our young ladies too.
This stuff is really important for women who truly want, and are willing to go after liberation. In my book though, so much of the liberation we seek – at least here in the U.S. – is … from our own thoughts and beliefs, as well as our own body of mis-information. As Mr. Marples pointed out, women’s lib … the way it’s been done … has not gotten us too far really. It’s time women take on personal accountability for how their lives show up – FOR REAL!
So many of us want to improve the quality of life for women the world over. It starts within each one of us and the way we hold our own lives. I know for me, whatever is in my life, however it shows up, is directly because I chose it to be there or allowed it to be there.
Bras, that’s crazy – smash em or make them as big as you can huh. Thanks for exposing yet another unspoken message aimed at diminishing our view of ourselves as women. Thanks for educating us further. You go DeAnna!
Thanks so much for your great support, your transparency with your process, and the amazing research you were drawn to conduct and share…
We indeed, as women, need to enlighten each other and shed light on our blind spots, as well as continually do our own inner work of opening our eyes to the ways we are manipulated by our culture.
And speaking about this, you referred to ‘Mother Culture’ which I had to object to, since the culture is so patriarchal, so man’s-eye-based, that it is unfair to throw its manipulation on the shoulders of the Mother archetype…
‘Mother Nature’ is a whole different archetype, isn’t it?
It may be that you are going free (bra-less) in alignment with Mother Nature, and in defiance of ‘Father Culture’…
Going up to the mountain today, so just a quick reply for now. The term Mother Culture came out of the book Ishmael & My Ishmael. You know, I love that you pointed that out to me in this way.
You are correct. We DO live in a patriarchal society. I’m not sure why that term “Mother Culture” has worked for me for so many years. I am guessing it is because my own relationship with my Mother has always been so damaged and challenging.
Thank you for pointing that out. I’ll be musing over it today as I hike.
Perhaps I need to steer my language away from assigning a gender archetype to my descriptions.
I am learning and growing all the time. Thanks so much for contributing to my journey.
“Breast Masks” – LOVE that phrase! Very expressive.