Bra Necessity: Forgotten While Naked, But Needed While Clothed?
Guest Blog by Liberty Braless
“Why do women wear bras?” is a question that has been around for a long time, women tending to have a love-hate relationship with the garment in question. The answers to this question are complex, but why should it be of particular interest to nudists? While realizing the dangers of generalizing, naturists tend to be more aware of their body and to spend more time unclothed. Therefore we might expect them to be less wedded to items like a bra. However, naturists tend to move in two worlds, naturist and textile, and because of perceived stigma to naturism, they often go to some lengths to keep the two separate.
The bra has many roles in women’s lives. It was first conceived as an alternative to the corset as women became more active publicly in the early twentieth century. It was predominantly a cover, and one of the first models was simply two handkerchiefs sewn together by a corner to make two diamond shape breast covers. As the undergarment industry became a multibillion dollar global industry numerous ways were found to market bras to women – function, icon, privacy, fashion statement, allure and perhaps most important of all, necessity.
One of the claimed functions of the bra is to ‘support.’ If naturists appear to need little support when nude, why would they need support when textiled? The concept of support is of course entirely fictional. Whether evolutionist or creationist it is hard to believe that the human female was created in a way that required her to have her breasts cantilevered to prevent losing them, or damaging them. Breasts are well supported, attached to the chest wall by a wide base and by a skin cover. As they grow larger and mature they bend so that the undersurface of the breast lies on the outwardly projecting chest wall to form the inframammary fold. In reality, what the bra does is elevate the breast to a horizontal position, imitating pubescent breasts, thereby throwing the entire weight onto the back, neck and shoulders, sometimes with serious health consequences.
In the search for new markets, manufacturers, having exploited every color, shape, style and fabric, came up with a new idea. Women, they observed, were becoming more active and participating in sports. Perhaps, they wondered, they could be persuaded to buy yet more bras to cover every time of the day and activity, and thus the sports bra was born. Breasts move with exercise they stated, which is not a very surprising finding. The next step was to argue that this was undesirable. Moving breasts might draw attention to you, and worse might actually damage these organs, therefore women need to control their breasts with ‘scientifically’ proven products. In practice breast movement is not that significant, being well-anchored and generally firm, and most sports bras do little to reduce movement .
Naturists tend to be associated with healthy outdoor, physically active lifestyles, and for many, playing sports in the nude comes naturally. The fact that naturists are not afflicted with damaged breasts raises serious questions about the rationale for the sports bra. There are actually no reports in the medical or scientific literature of breast tissue damaged by exercise.
We have been witnessing a progression towards more top freedom recently, and if it continues, it’s a serious threat to the lingerie industry. But more significantly if women are going to be spending more of their day ‘unsupported’ why would they feel the need to do so at other times of the day?
Also, naturists are not by nature unduly modest, but by simultaneously moving in a dominant textile world they might internalize those values and possibly overcompensate to protect their concealed naturist lives. The modesty argument for bras is inherently contradictory. While providing ‘cover’ and disguising the actual contours and elements of the breast, they are also sold as items that accentuate the breasts, and as sexual lures.
Given that that there is no social or scientific rational for a bra, that there are significant concerns of harmful effects, and that they are expensive, uncomfortable and rarely fit, one might expect them to go down the historical path of many earlier garments like corsets. However given the intense marketing and social pressures this is unlikely to happen in the immediate future. Two factors in women’s lives and health might make a difference though – increasing topfreedom, and by extension normalizing nudism and removing the stigma that creates an existence of two solitudes.
What do my female naturist readers think? Are bras necessary? Do you go braless? Do you run or play sports totally nude or don a sports bra? Leave a comment!
Read More About Bra Necessity & Going Braless:
Category: Social Nudity
About the Author (Author Profile)I'm Felicity, author of Felicity's Blog and co-founder of Young Naturists America. I write about nudism and naturism in today's world along with issues like top-freedom and body acceptance, and various naked topics. Enjoy, and leave a comment when you've got something to say! :)
Medical "experts" think, but cannot be sure, that bras are unrelated to breast cancer. There just haven't been enough carefully constructed studies to be anywhere near certain.
That aside, my contention that "Bras ... aren't good for my health ..." had nothing to do with cancer. I was speaking of shoulder notches, underwire welts, back pain, and all the other nasty results.
While I'm at it, I don't accept the idea that breast movement is uncomfortable. For the woman who has worn a bra since age eight, stopping _does_ represent a change, and any change is off-putting for a while. However, I've yet to meet a woman who didn't get used to the difference quite quickly and who wasn't pleased to be done with the darn things.
Harnesses are for horses.
@JenniferAAA My experience is similar Jennifer. I agree the scientific literature on pain, and nerve , muscle and joint damage is much more compelling than that on cancer. The smaller evidence on cysts and other benign breast disease is also intriguing. However benign breast disease is itself a risk factor for breast cancer. The smart woman minimises her risks, particularly if she has other risk factors like family history.
Of the half-dozen posts thus far, this refers mostly to what Jennifer had said about bras, 'not-being-good-for-her-health.' As some years ago, was employed as an on-line counsellor. Somebody wishing to ask a sensitive question anonymouusly could phone or write. And numbers of these were from women that were worrying about getting breast cancer. After some hundreds of them with similar questions, there seemed to be a pattern, that most of the women were of the conservative dressing sort and would often agree that they like dto wear their bra on the 'tight-side.' So, as an independent effort, phoned the not-4-profit that has that mobile Cancer Awareness van and spoke with their director there. Related to the woman what had been going on. Her concensus was similar, that wearing a bra would certainly be a factor to getting breast cancer. As a former pre-med and medic, this seemed to be so obvious, as the lymph glands are located near the armpits. The glands produce the lymphatic fluid that contains significant immune system components. If the glands are injured or flow of fluids impeded as a reult of a bra strap, the breasts would be deprived of the immune system component. We both concurred that the subject SHOULD get some major effort and input. But also had to agree that there would be tremendous opposition form the gymnophobics, fashionistas that loove to collect bras, the fashion industry and the fashion institutions that are still producing thousands of programmed designers every scholastic year.
@zandar Apparently medical experts have already disproved that theory: http://breastcancer.about.com/od/riskfactorsindetail/a/bras-breast-cancer.htm
@Jilli Puff @zandar Actually, and this particular page does not disagree, medical experts have not disproved anything, They simply have not looked. I'm actually in the business of evaluating evidence in cancer and the truth is - we don't know. We have some interesting pointers from Singer - about the same level of evidence as evaluating fibre in the diet and colon cancer but no experiments to either prove or disprove. As I have tried to indicate - such experiments would be very costly, very difficult and take a very long time. Also it is unlikely that any one thing causes any cancer on its own (except smoking and lung cancer). It is more a question of adding another potential risk factor.
Bras are expensive, aren't good for my health, and don't prevent eventual 'sag.' The only reason to wear one is to slavishly do what other people do, which IMO isn't much of a reason. So, I don't wear one. Ever.
I thought the comments about high heels and make up were particularly interesting because they illustrate how far a culture can shift in a generation. In the Seventies a woman calling into question the relevance of bras, make up and high heels in her life would have been applauded (remember we pitched all of these into the brazier at the Miss America Pageant), and now her femininity is questioned.
Of course there are concerns about high heels from a medical perspective, and only the other night in a restaurant I had to attend a woman in her fourties whose fashionable but very unstable heels pitched her on the floor. There are also concerns about the chemicals in make up, to say nothing of animal testing.
Yet all of these things have become engrained in our lives as 'must haves'. Who knows - in another generation shall we have pitched them all again?
it is not so much criticism as the need to periodically question what we do and why we do it. "Why do women wear bras?" is a question that turns up regularly in the media and the internet. Since most people don't necessarily reveal their status as naturist or textile, we don't know whether naturists ask this question any more or less than the general population. It is also true that there is a significant proportion of the population who do not wear bras (higher in other cultures), and a larger proportion who do so only for certain occasions or functions (eg work), and also a substantial proportion who complain about them. Therefore it is a legitimate question we need to ask ourselves, a feminist question (the bra has symbolic as well as instrumental value) and as naturists we don't blindly follow all social norms.
Jilli, you raises a number of valid issues, so thank you. You would be one of many people who remove their bras after getting home from work. Fashion is a powerful force. Bra manufacturers refer to bras as 'fashion accessories'. However fashion is also subjective. For instance it is noteworthy that bras have almost completely disappeared from the catwalk, and are uncommon on the red carpet. Therefore the statement that "most women's clothes look best with a bra" cannot be universally generalised. However I will be the first to admit that most of us don't necessarily have the figure of models or celebrities!
Yes bras are part of burlesque, and are sold and used as sexual allure. Although interestingly industry sales data reveal that most women don't buy sexy frilly bras, but rather plain functional models.
I have found a wide variety of views on the comfort and movement question, including obviously how we participate in exercise and sports events when nude. If its a question of comfort and convenience, that's fine.
Ultimately its a matter of choice, and that's a feminist perspective. Clearly many women love their bras and they shouldn't be criticised for doing so. But if they don't and raise the question - must I? Then this article provides some things to consider in making informed choices.
@LibertyBraless I may have chosen a bad word ("criticizing") in my comment, sorry for that. Questioning is always an important thing to do.I just wanted to say that's not so much a "right" or "wrong" situation, but a matter of personal choices. There are valid points from both sides.
Speaking about clothes in general, I generally don't agree with this kind of speech criticizing them. At least for me, it's not that I don't like clothes - I just feel (very) good without them. So, even in situations they don't have any practical function, I see no problems of using them only for fashion issues.Specifically about bras, I can't say many things, because I'm a man. So it's better to wait for women's feedback (like Jilli's).
LOL! 'Liberty Braless' is a man, right? Who else wouldn't know all that Jilli related? Who else would use terms like 'rationale' in regards to fashion, appearance and women? You might as well ask why women wear make-up or high heels!
Just because a woman is a nudist doesn't mean that she doesn't live in a Textile world, and when in Rome... appearances DO matter!
I am both a naturist and a burlesque performer, so I think I may be able to bridge the gap here. I am one of those people who gets naked or nearly naked as soon as she gets home. But when I'm out, I find that my clothes don't look as good if I go bra-less. Yes, the bra is a part of fashion, even though it can't be seen on the outside. Just because I'm a naturist doesn't mean that I don't care how I look in clothes. It's not an issue of modesty. There are some clothes that look perfectly fine without a bra, but most women's clothes look best with a bra.
Then there's the appearance of the bras themselves. As a burlesque performer, I know that every layer counts. Bras can be beautiful, and they can make attractive breasts look even better. It's not a matter of shame or concealment, but a matter of adornment. Just as some earlobes look more inviting with the right pair of earrings, the right bra can accentuate the breast, whether on stage or at home with a lover. Often a little bit of just the right clothing is hotter than no clothing at all. There's nothing wrong with that.
And lastly, there is the matter of comfort. Usually I wear a D cup, but now that I'm nursing, I'm up to a DD. But I love to dance. I take musical theatre dance classes, and there is a lot of jumping around. I'm not concerned about my breasts becoming damaged, but when I dance, I don't want to feel my breasts moving around. They really do get in the way. I like to wear a tight sports bra to class so my breasts move in time with the rest of my body. It is more comfortable (for me, at least) to wear a sports bra than go braless.
when you've got small breasts, probably not. But when you're built like I am (very large, past age 50 (saggy) and want to wear certain clothes..YES, they're very necessary. Or if/when I exercise, they might bounce up and hurt my face