Every morning, I find myself asking the same two questions: 1, why do I wear make-up, and 2, why do I wear a bra? Because I don’t enjoy either. I find putting make-up on boring, a waste of time and even more of a pain in the arse to take off in the evening. If you ever say ‘fuck it’ and roam the streets fresh faced and fancy free, you’ll know the sheer delight that is rubbing your eyes without smearing mascara halfway across your face.
And I feel the same about bras. I find them uncomfortable, I don’t like the way they look through clothes and I’m endlessly adjusting bra straps because I have a weird child-sized torso but with normal woman tits. I take no joy in shopping for bras, as pretty as they often are, because I know that as soon as I pop it on, I’m going to be counting down the hours until I can take it off.
But of course, going bra free is easier said than done. I’m quite lucky in a sense – I have B-cup boobs and pretty broad shoulders, so I can hold my puppies up without problem. For someone with F-cups and a back that’s giving up, going commando is not so easy. And I get that. Before I get any further, I know we’d all love to throw our boobs to the wind and burn our bras in an act of rebellion, but a lot of the time, bras are key for support and are actually helpful, rather than a hindrance.
For me, however, they’re worn simply for aesthetic reasons. Whether it’s to hide pointy nipples or to dull the side-to-side bounce that is characteristic of uncaged breasticles, the reason I wear bras is to cover up and to hide, rather than to help or enhance. And I resent that I can openly share my disdain for bras and still feel obliged to wear them. I won’t go into the office tomorrow with the girls unstrapped and at risk of a chill, simply because I feel like I can’t.
I remember Lily Allen once saying she doesn’t wear a bra because she doesn’t like them. This was years ago – I must have been in my early to mid teens – and I remember thinking “fuck yeah, why wear it if she doesn’t want to?! Her tits, her rules!”. And as much as I am still devoted to this mindset, I feel like I can’t really follow her path.
It’s all well and good to make a statement by glaring your nips through a sheer grey t-shirt when you’re a famous performer, but when you work in a corporate environment, are not so body confident or don’t have those small, perky, stretch mark free boobs that the media loves, then you’re a bit stuck.
(As a side note, if you do like to wear a bra or choose to wear a bra for comfort, then you’re also expected to keep it hidden. Bras should be worn, but should not be shown. Make sure you opt for nude or strapless or multi-way or t-shirt – undergarments are for function and modesty, and should only be celebrated in the bedroom. Bra straps showing? Well madam, to room 101 with you.)
For some reason, nipples are still taboo. They’ve been manufactured into sexual subjects – most of the time without our permission – instead of the natural, unisex body parts that helps to keep tiny humans alive. And that unisex part is important to remember, because only female nipples are overtly sexualised.
Take your boyfriend, brother or Dad to a BBQ and there’ll be no fuss when he whips his t-shirt off to cool down. Heck, you might even hear a supportive “go on lad”, because he’s hot, you know? But when you get the girls out for some much needed cool air and chill, your Grandad faints, the neighbours bring their kids in and you’re all set for a long-winded chat about ‘common sense’ and ‘self-respect’. Tell me – why can men wander around public parks shirtless and care free on a roaster of a day, but when a woman strips down, it’s suddenly an issue of public indecency? Because your boobs have been decided for you, not by you.
Heck, I would love to live my life nipple cover free, let alone bra-free, but I worry that when I’m walking around and my nips inevitably start to show, it will attract unwanted attention. I don’t want creepy old men leering at my tits because they’ve suddenly realised I have nipples. I don’t want middle-aged Mum’s turning away and whispering because they can’t believe I’ve forgotten to get dressed that morning. I don’t want a schoolboy and his mates to shout “TITS!” as they giggle and bike down the road, tiny Nike backpacks in tow.
(It’s worth mentioning at this point that Keiran just came and sat back down on the sofa and leaned over to give me an affectionate boob squeeze, only to be met with a hand slap and a fervent exclamation of “they’re mine!!”. Unfortunate timing on his part.)
But how do we reclaim a part of our bodies whose associations are so heavily dictated by outside perceptions? I want to not wear a bra, but I also don’t want to have to deal with the archaic and sexist reactions that will inevitably come as a result. It’s something I so often feel conflicted about, but something I feel I’m starting to make some leeway with.
After discovering petal nipple covers, my bras have been largely out of use. Yes, I’m still subduing a natural part of my body, but it’s one step away from tight straps and back suffocation, and one step closer to freedom. There wasn’t a bra in sight today when I headed out to shoot, and even when we took the dog for a walk and I popped on a comfy grey t-shirt, I thought “fuck it – yes they are going to wobble and move and do their own little dance, but that’s what boobs do – if it shocks anyone, then they’ve got some serious biology to read up on”. Hardly the grandest feminist expression of all time and painfully white of me (BuRn BrAz), but hey, it’s something.