Sixth-grade gym class was a game changer. It was the first time that students were required to change clothes in order to participate. On the first day we were asked to change clothes, a girl changing next to me gave me a once-over and coldly asked, “Um, where’s your bra?” I came home that day and told my mom that we had to go bra shopping immediately. This was the first time that a bra was presented to me as something that I would need in order to look and be deemed acceptable.
For the first couple of years, I was overjoyed to wear bras. I wore them 24 hours a day, even when I was sleeping. Wearing one made me feel grown-up. I was willing to overlook the underwire that left me feeling sore and the overall constricting feeling that always seemed to linger.
As I got older, I read about people who decided to no longer wear bras. I never formally disagreed with them, but made the conscious decision that going braless was not for me. The people I saw without bras normally had relatively small chests. I was convinced that my larger chest made it impossible for me to even consider it. From a superficial perspective, I was worried I wouldn’t be able to pull it off. I started small, opting for lacy bralettes that were less cumbersome than an actual bra. But even then, the material was stretched so tight that it would leave scrapes on the back of my neck. In an act of desperation, I began to cautiously venture outside my bedroom without wearing a bra and never looked back.
I am thankful that the people in my life are, for the most part, very supportive of my choice. A lot of my friends have also decided to not always wear bras, so I never felt judged. The only real negative feedback I’ve ever gotten has been from strangers. A couple of weeks ago, I was walking, minding my own business, when I noticed a man surreptitiously point to me and whisper-yell, “She should wear a bra,” to his friend. Comments like this are more funny than insulting to me. Whether or not I look “presentable” or “attractive” to people who see me for less than five minutes of their lives is very low on my list of priorities.
I don’t write this article to implore everyone to throw their bras in an incinerator. They are too expensive and could be donated instead. It would be hypocritical for me to say that I never wear them. I still own some myself and wear them in more professional settings. I know people who genuinely love wearing them or feel more comfortable wearing them. If wearing a bra is affirming for you and makes you feel better than not wearing one, then more power to you.
While I have made this decision for myself, I acknowledge that not everyone can or wants to make the same one. To quote Akilah Richards, “I can only speak from the perspective of a cisgender woman who has the luxuries of a cancer-free body and the emotional space to consider the comfort of my breasts.”
Appearance, style and presentation are all heavily personal decisions and should be left to every individual person. People should never be forced to make choices about what they put on their bodies and should not be required to defend those choices to anyone.
Annick Tabb is a junior double-majoring in political science and English.