My breasts are jealous of my lungs. “Autoimmune disease this. Lung biopsy surgery that. When do WE get some attention? We look waaay better than her lungs have ever looked. With or without her illness.”
So let’s talk about them.
Over these last couple of years, I have really accepted myself. From a body image perspective. I definitely know that my training influenced this. But also mentally, really loving the features I have and embracing them, as opposed to trying to downplay them. Part of it is finally understanding that there are going to be some people who look at me and like my features. And there are going to be some that don’t. So let’s focus on highlighting those things I already have, for those who already do like them. And for me.
There is so much attention placed on a woman’s breasts. From all sources. Sex. Femininity. Motherhood. Gender identification. We will actually look at the size and shape of a woman’s breasts, and instantly label or judge her personality, character and place within society. And they are just out there for open judgement. Even being clothed, we can still gain perspective from what we imagine underneath. And for myself, part of my personal acceptance has been related to my breasts.
I would never say that I have had a strong urge for larger breasts. Although I have never wished for smaller breasts. I guess I always felt that they fit my body frame and they weren’t “too small” and they weren’t “too big”. Having said that though, I have worn bras that help with cleavage and lift. I remember a guy friend once telling me, “Anything larger than a handful is a waste.” And I guess I held onto that. But I am pretty sure he wouldn’t have said that to a girl with “larger than a handful” breasts.
When I started burlesque, I was worried I would have Burlesque Breast Envy, because compared to other burlesque dancers, I would be smaller on average. But I was pleasantly surprised that it actually made me love my breasts even more. It confirmed all the things I love about them.
Delving into this self-acceptance, I found it was related to feeling natural. This body is my natural state. And whatever it may look like, it is beautiful and unique and mine. So why am I wearing a bra? Why am I containing my breasts with a contraption to mold them into another shape, when they really don’t need to be. It’s not as though my breasts are large enough that it is uncomfortable to be doing normal daily tasks without them being strapped down. So, one of my 2015 Resolutions was to “Wear a bra less often”. Also, in my research, I found that studies show that constant bra wearing can actually lead to more sagging of the breasts as you age, because your muscles are not having to do any work when your breast tissue is lifted up and supported by the bra. So, it began. At home and on weekend. Bra off. There are certain clothing items I wear, where I still wore a bra. But if I didn’t really need to, then it was off. And I loved it.
With my illness, I was braless for weeks!! When I returned home, I still went braless, also because the pain from my surgery didn’t allow me to wear anything under my breasts. But once I returned to work, I was faced with a new issue. What is considered “professional”? I am now wearing cotton bralettes, which really just act as a buffer layer. I personally would be fine without wearing any sort of bralette or bra. But what would my co-workers think? My male dominated, 30 to 50 year-old peer group? Because here we go back to the instant labeling and judgement.
Not wearing a bra could be viewed as overtly sexual. But that’s not my intent. My intent is to be comfortable and not wear something a man designed for a woman to wear, for the only purpose of shaping her to his desires. And it’s the man’s choice to choose to look at my natural breasts and view me this way. It reminds me of the news stories I have heard where girls in grade school were not allowed to wear spaghetti strap tank tops, as they were deemed inappropriate. These girls are not choosing to be looked at in a sexual manner. It’s the men who need to re-shift their views on how they connect bare skin to sex.
So what do I do? Bra or no bra at work? Yesterday I wore a dress to work, where I wouldn’t wear normally wear a bra with it. But I put on my little bralette for when I was at the office, and when I got to my car, I immediately took it off. Isn’t that ridiculous? And the other day when getting dressed, I tried on an underwire bra to see how it was with the pain. And when I looked at myself in the mirror I thought, “My breasts look HUGE!” The underwire bra made me feel unnatural and out of proportion. I have become so accustomed to my natural breast shape, I just felt silly wearing the bra.
So. What to do? When will it be acceptable Business Dress Code for women to not wear a bra? It seems like the approach would need to be personalized for each set of breasts and what the clothing is. But it shouldn’t be. No matter the size or shape, a woman should be have the choice as to whether she wears a bra or not.
So what is not acceptable? Seeing the nipple definition through the cotton of your t-shirt? Seeing more movement to your breasts underneath your sweater dress? Seeing the breast in its natural state, only to have one thin layer of material between skin and the world? And who are making these rulings? The men who choose to view my breasts as sexually inviting, even though I am not advertising them as such?
And when will this happen? I think it’s the wavelength of us redirecting our definition of the breast and sex connection. Of course breasts have their role in sexual settings, but that shouldn’t be the focus, as that is not their true purpose. Breasts are for nourishment of our babies and provide comfort to our children. They have become a taboo that society has tucked away as to not distract or offend. But distracting and offending whom? Men?
So what do we do? For myself, I am going to keep going braless, when I feel comfortable doing so. And keep having the positive breast conversations with my daughter as I do now, and as she grows up too. And do little things along the way, to try to help others realize that female breasts and nipples are really not that big of a deal. Like we all have them. Everyone has seen them before.
You can even come see mine when I perform on stage. And maybe I will let you motorboat me afterwards.