I did not have the pleasure of being breast-fed at birth (which might explain a lot in my life), but I sure appreciate the beauty of this act. Still, when people around me argue that the value of boobs relies entirely on motherhood and breastfeeding, I get angry. If the only way a woman can enjoy her breasts is to become a mother, then what hope do the rest of us non-childbearing females have?
Given that I was a size AA cup until I left ballet at 16, I’ve always wondered what was the necessity of me wearing a bra when, evidently, there was no movement going on there. Furthermore, why are we so fearful of braless breasts? And how not wearing bras can improve our love for the female anatomy, and therefore, ourselves?
It was a Saturday night when, as per usual, I had given up on the quest for the perfect outfit to wear to a drag show and indie band concert. The weekend before I had received a somewhat weird advice from my 38-year-old and 21-year-old cousins: go braless. Her arguments fell under the umbrella of attracting men on nights out, but contrary to their desires, I opted to go braless for pure anthropological research.
My internal debate over leaving my bra at home extended the dressing period for over 20 minutes. Finally, I gave up, which led me to pick a pajama camisole I recently purchased with black jeans, booties and red lipstick. I felt like the my entire sensual energy gravitated towards my boobs. I felt secure.
(The outfit itself. Forever 21 shirt, Zara boots and jeans, Sephora lipstick)
The thing about going braless for the first time is that, as much as it is a special experience, you realize no one gives a fuck. My friends were not surprised and, as naked as I felt, my cousin’s response to the outfit was: “I need more skin. I could wear that to work”. At the end of the night, the initial arguments that led me to this experiment were debunked: I got no men.
Was my investigation worth it? Had I put myself as a lab rat for an issue that no one cared about and only saw as a device to get attention from potential lovers? I felt ashamed.
But, just the other day, a mural in my neighborhood of Santurce was vandalized and ignited much debate towards this matter. The painting, which originally showed black women naked— no breasts or vaginas covered, was vandalized with bras and panties covering their genitalia. Social media was angry. Black females were angry. Feminists (this covers men, women and all gender non-conformists) were angry. I was angry. “Free women provoke anger”, wrote Puerto Rican writer Yolanda Arroyo on Facebook. And it’s completely true.
Women have forgotten about the beauty of their breasts and how it frees them from socially constructed beliefs that they should be hidden. Moreover, the real issue that is uncovered by this vandalization is how uncomfortable society is with the female nipple. Throughout history, art has garnered a massive collection of penises and male nipples, as well as vaginas and breasts, that are glorified instead of vandalized. The David and his penis have been parading around Florence for centuries and millions of people have traveled there to literally admire his penis (and, of course, the artwork).
How is it that half of the population is still not allowed to love their breasts? How is the showing of genitalia— on art or on the street— still considered a taboo or a crime? And, most importantly, how can women ever feel secure in their own bodies when they are taught to never admire their boobs, and, in consequence, commit to a lifetime of efforts in order to hide or perfect them?
Still, this is not a case to burn all bras. What this vandalization and my own research should generate is that women gravitate more attention to their breasts, to be comfortable with them and to make decisions around them based on their own desires, not cultural stigmas. Religion has had a way of inflicting upon us the belief that showing skin— and therefore breasts— is the sole cause of sexual desires from men. But, if not wearing a bra taught me anything, is that most males don’t even notice.
The act of ordering women to cover themselves is as violent and offensive as any other known type of aggression. We need to get past the taboo and onto self-love. But, as with anything worth fighting for, talking about it is still not enough. So, I’ll make it a case to buy more camisoles and wear them out, braless.