Most girls are told to begin wearing a bra in middle school, or even as early as elementary school, for the rest of their lives. I followed the social rule beginning in middle school up until last summer. Throughout those eight years, the thought of going out without a bra was gasp-worthy taboo to me.
But when I got to college, my roommate commented how she'd never met someone who hated wearing bras as much as I do, as she noticed the first thing I did when I returned to the dorm room was take off my bra.
Some may say I just wasn't wearing the right size or type of bra. But I tried everything from Maidenform to Aerie to Victoria's Secret, all with help from employees at the stores. I simply didn't like wearing a bra: it was uncomfortable.
I've always been self-conscious of my body, especially my breasts. I'll be the first to say they're small. I peaked at a 38 B cup. I used to hate how small my breasts are, but I've come to embrace them over my college career.
They turned out to be a blessing in disguise, because I can comfortably go bra-less without the back pain and other physical pains big-breasted girls may run into if they go bra-less for the day.
So if I am far more comfortable braless — because, let's face it, bras are uncomfortable a lot of the time — why should I feel pressured to wear one?
But I can see your nipples!
And my response to this is: so? Women's nipples are a necessary part of human life and reproduction (we're still not sure why men have nipples) because before mankind developed baby formula, breastfeeding was the only way mothers could feed their newborns.
And still society sexualizes breastfeeding, as women who do so in public can be harassed or even arrested. As long as a woman is showing off her breasts to serve men's sexual desires, it's acceptable.
But this is not why I don't wear a bra. I don't view my breasts as inherently sexual. No one bats an eye when a man is shirtless, especially in the summer. But I would be arrested for doing the same in public.
Nipples alone are definitely not inherently sexual. While one may argue that breasts are sexual body parts because larger breasts signal to potential mates that the woman is past puberty, and therefore able to carry children, and have room to carry a lot of breast milk for their offspring.
The reasons breasts are sexual, then, are simply biological. The same goes for a woman's hips and butt; the size indicates her body's healthy progression past puberty and her ability to get pregnant and carry a baby.
While humans are biologically geared towards reproduction, that's no excuse for any woman to be shamed for not wearing a bra. Wearing a bra often covers the nipples and distorts the natural shape of the breasts by supporting them or pushing them up. Without a bra, I openly and publicly risk anyone seeing my nipples through my shirt, as well as the natural shape of my breasts, unsupported by a ridiculously expensive bra.
And I'm not sorry.
I've realized the extent to which women's bodies are controlled by quite literally, man-made, social constructions, bras being just one of them. Other social constructions that control women's bodies include the social pressure to shave our bodies: armpits, upper and lower legs, and our private parts.
So I refuse to wear painfully uncomfortable, ridiculously overpriced, pieces of social construction meant to control women's bodies, when I am perfectly happy with the way my body is naturally.
Also, if you're not convinced: it's really hot in the summer. Going bra-less makes it so much cooler.