I once went to a psychic who told me "Everyone has a good and a bad side. It's okay to see the negative in people. It's just about how big and how important that part is." The science of choosing battles is much like this. There will be good and bad consequences to each actions, but how important are those sides to you is what makes the decision. This was reminded to me recently when I got fired from my job of more than a year because I did not wear a bra.
I want to make it clear that I am not angry, and that I understand why I got fired. The business was not mine, and I was paid to work for my boss therefore what I wear while working at this establishment is not completely my choice. He had the authority to fire me, and he was fighting for his beliefs, just as I was fighting for mine. I disagree with his beliefs, but I respect his right to have them. This is why for the first year, I did wear a bra. I don't wear one anywhere else, but I wore one there because I was afraid that if I didn't I might be objectified or fired, or in this case, both. During the last few months, I felt comfortable with the people I worked with. They are my friends. I did not discuss whether I had to wear a bra with my boss because, to me, the person I work for should be able to decide the uniform that they can see, a shirt, a hat, and maybe even pants. What I wear under my clothing should be no one's business but my own.
So I decided to not wear a bra which has always been more comfortable to me. No wires poking into my side for 5+ hours. No need to make untimely adjustments to my chest throughout the work day. Recently I had been working maybe 20 or so hours a week, so comfort was nice. That and no one at work, customers or staff, was complaining. I was not being objectified, I felt happy to be around people that did not care, because they shouldn't, in my opinion. I have gotten two promotions in my time working there. I was always early for work except maybe twice because of traffic or snow. I did what was told of me without complaint. I was the best employee I could be, and that's how I liked it because I take pride in everything I do.
So when my boss had a female coworker tell me that I should wear a bra, I was in shock. He did not want to say it to my face, nor did he really want me to know that it was him saying it. Why, after months, was it suddenly a problem? Was this an ultimatum? My first reaction was to laugh and say "No, no, no. HA! No way, this is not seriously happening." She explained to me that he had just figured out that I was not wearing a bra and that it might be a distract to the boys I work with so I have to wear one. Let me make this a little more clear. What was being said, in my mind, was that because there was a chance that the boys would be too busy drooling over my chest, to the point where they might make a mistake, it was my responsibility to change. I had to change, not them, me. I didn't understand this because since when were other people's thoughts and actions my responsibility? The rage, discomfort, and disappointment I felt from this realization is hard to put into words. To make it worse, all the males I worked with saw no problem with this.
It was not my decision to be born with boobs, but still, I am being punished for it. I thought about apologizing for making the mistake of feeling comfortable and safe in my work environment, but to tell them not to worry because it won't happen again. I cannot feel safe in an environment where I would constantly have to be worried about what the males were thinking about me. That is the kind of environment women have to live in every day. It is the environment that makes us afraid to walk alone at night, it is the fear that keeps that other headphone out of our ear. It's the fear that keep our guards up, because if a man cannot control himself around us, not only does the world blame us, tell us to change, but sometimes, we do as well. "Boys will be boys" is the phrase that kept beating against my cliff side of my mind, eroding away my last nerve. I was not being inappropriate by not wearing a bra. It never crossed my mind that I wanted inappropriate attention from this because, to me, this was normal. They were the ones being inappropriate, thinking inappropriate thoughts. They should change.
It’s unfortunate that because I was born with tits that I should be sexualized from nine years old when I was told by my own family to start wearing a bra, then to the world. The world could not wait until I reached double digits to start imagining me naked. It is sick. So I put it down, a while ago in fact, the stigma of sexualization, and I will not pick it back up now. It’s unfair that because people cannot stop sexualizing women, we take the consequences for it but, as in the phrase of America, this is the land of the Free and home of the Brave. You cannot have freedom without being brave, whether it be from something like leaving a job that stifles your beliefs, leaving a husband who beats you, or leaving a family that hurts you. It is all the same principle.
Not knowing who I would be if I stayed in this job after this conversation, I told my manager that if my boss would not let me stay bra-less, I would quit. I understand the science of choosing battles, which is why when I first started and I was told I could not wear shorts for the same reason, I complied. Or when my coworker got yelled at for wearing legging (not transparent, and worn solely for comfort,) I decided to keep my mouth shut. Making enough money to remove myself from that negative environment at the time seemed more important. Now, I felt as though who I am was being put on trial. If I gave in to this, if I decided to be obedient to the will of men one more time, I knew it would compromise everything I believed in. I would not be able to tell women to never give up on fighting inequality if I myself gave into oppression now, for a paycheck.
People will tell you "Wearing a bra is not that big of a deal, you should have just done it." To that, my rebuttal would be that if wearing a bra is not that big of a deal, why did I get fired for not doing it? It must be a big deal then, to me, to my boss. People will tell you that your side of the argument is not a big deal because then you will doubt yourself, your convictions, and be obedient. Where you sit on a bus is not the big of a deal, but African Americans used to be arrested if they did not sit in the back. Nothing that can get you arrested, get you fired, is ever not a big deal. There is always an underlying principle, I know it, and they know it too. Even if they cannot admit it.
I will not be obedient. I refused.
Before I could even come into work to talk with my boss about it. He had my manager message me and tell me I was being let go. I'm okay with this. I'm glad someone had the chance to show the other women I work with that you don't have to be obedient. Even if I'm going out, I'm going with my pride intact, and with it, the pride of all women who cannot leave these environments, for one reason or the other.
There is this poem I fell in love with last year called "If We Must Die" by Claude Mckay. It was written about the fight for equality in the black community in 1919. The last lines are my favorite.
"Like men we’ll face the murderous, cowardly pack,
Pressed to the wall, dying, but fighting back!"