Unlatching the Boob Cage

It’s like that feeling you get when you’ve had a hat on for too long. The casual twist, the subtle squirm, the strap readjustment, and then the relieving, final unlatch.  They come in all different sizes, colors, and fabrics. Some are for everyday use, others are for night use, and select few are for very special occasions. They are certainly pretty, with little bows and tassels and lace detailing. Some are manufactured with all the bells and whistles (quite literally) so that we will want such a device.

The device? Bras.

Before a bra was a “bra” it was a “brassiere,” which is French for “the upper arm.” The term “brassiere” was first used in 1893, was first printed in Vogue magazine in 1908, and eventually became an Oxford Dictionary-worthy word in 1911. Then, on November 3, 1914 the U.S. issued a patent to Mary Phelps Jacob for the brassiere, which would be called a “bra” in 15 more years.

There were many variations of the bra before it became as we know it today. In Ancient Greece, women wrapped their breasts with bands of fabric and fastened them with a pin or knot. And we know from Pirates of the Caribbean (and countless other Kiera Knightly movies) the struggles of the corset. Fortunately, we have better options than girdles and bustiers, but evolution and mechanics aside, there is a bra revolution amongst us. Free the girls.

You no longer need a concert as an excuse to rip your bra off. Today, it is becoming increasingly more acceptable to unleash the twins, or at least give them a little breathing room.

The bralette, for example, has become the gateway to a bra-less life. The bralette is comfortable, decorative, and allows wiggle room. No fancy push-up techniques, no painful wiring, just some lacy fabric. Plus with bralettes, it’s not a hiding game—you want people to see it.

“If you're a person who’s uncomfortable with not wearing a bra, but you really want to not wear a bra: wearing a bralette is a great way to transition into that and to get that support you need,” said sophomore Tori Dreyer, 34 C. “And at the same time, it doesn't confine your boobs into an uncomfortable shape or make them what they're not.”

And once the bralette phase is over, it’s Go Time. Some ladies are tentative. Some think it’s weird. Some don’t like the word “nipple,” never mind freeing theirs. And some people think their boobs are too big to go free.

First of all, why do we wear bras? Social acceptance, mostly. There is no benefit to wearing a bra. They don’t counteract sagging, in fact, they do the exact opposite. However, some people, especially the bustier bunch of us, wear them for added support, especially during physical activity.

Sophomore Jill Harrison, 36 C, said, “Bras are like shaving our armpits and legs. It is all so that we can feel comfortable with ourselves and comfortable in society, rather than actually comfortable.”

For many ladies, one of the best feelings is getting home after a long stressful day, putting our hair up in a bun, and then immediately taking off the bra.

“The story has changed more so now that I'm in college and I've learned how to stop caring what people think of me, but in high school, if I was going to a party, there would be a 98 percent chance I would wear my biggest push-up bra,” said Harrison. “There was a fear of doing anything that would make me stand out or make people talk, and wearing a bra is a way of fitting in with the norm.”

Societal norms: Once a girl “comes of age” and starts to “blossom” it calls for an uncomfortable and exciting trip to the mall with your parent. They awkwardly stand back (or get over-involved), while you pick out your first bra. Then the next day, you walk into school, holding your Orlando Bloom folder, feeling super proud of what is underneath your Aeropostale T-shirt.

“Now I think of it as a goal to not wear a bra. The problem is that it's still hard to feel comfortable in society without a bra. It's hard to not feel self-conscious,” said Harrison, “but I can't remember the last time I wore a bra with padding,”

“The only time a girl should feel the need to wear a bra is when it’s uncomfortable for them,” said Freddy Gerngross, 21, a Temple University student visiting Emerson. “It should just be completely up to the woman.”

And it’s true, a girl with D-cups needs that extra support sometimes, bras can alleviate the weight and lag. Yet, just because a woman has large breasts does not mean she should feel obligated to wear a bra.

“People don’t like the negative attention that they think they’ll get if they don’t wear one,” said Dreyer. “There’s a taboo on nipples and I don’t think anybody knows why.”

The mere thought of their nipple peeping through a T-shirt makes the hesitant females shy away from a free chest. Maybe that’s because people always feel the need to say, "it’s a bit nippy out" when this happens. However, the nipple is natural. The nipple is universal. Everyone has one, even the boys. And heck, some people have three or four. Why are these things that were once suckled on so taboo? Why do women have to wear bras during television sex scenes? Why must we wear bras with “extra padding”? Why are we suppressing the nipple?

“Women have always had to deal with wearing things to physically take the shape that’s expected of them,” said Dreyer.

For centuries women have had societal pressures to alter their bodies. In c. 1300 it was popular among Asian and African cultures for women to wear neck-rings (stacked, heavy metal coils placed around the neck) meant to elongate the neck, or give the appearance that it was long. In 10th century China, women’s feet were bound to prevent growing because small feet were seen as elegant. In 16th century Europe, corsets and bodices were worn to give the appearance of a tiny waist and slender, flat torso. The examples go on and on.

“I think society has a problem with women taking control of their own bodies and making their own decisions of how they present themselves, and boobs are seen as inherently sexual. So if you want to walk around with your boobs as they are, maybe men are afraid that the natural shape of our boobs will be too distracting,” said Dreyer.

If it is too sexual to let your breasts’ natural shape and movement be seen, but it is also sexual to see a bra strap (in places like high schools), then what’s not sexual about a water bra or Victoria Secret’s Bombshell Bra?

“I'm not used to seeing that all the time,” said Gerngross. “If I grew up seeing that all the time it would just be way more normal, and I wouldn’t be as distracted as much, so I think it’s going to take society a few more years until we are all going to be okay with it. I think we are okay with it, but it’s not to the point where we are all completely accepting of it.”

Though it is not yet considered “normal,” the mere fact that people are advocating for it means it’s becoming less taboo.

“I think it’s definitely becoming more acceptable and more than anything, I think women are realizing that you can’t really put a law on how women carry their boobs under their clothes,” said Dreyer, “so I think women will begin to act how they want, and society will just be forced to catch up.”

Catch-up, don’t push up.

Why wait until you get home to unlatch the boob cage? Free them now.

LivingMia Zarrella