Why Does My Visible Bra Make You So Uncomfortable?
“Your bra strap is showing, tuck it in” “No, don’t hang your bras out in the balcony. Someone will see it!” “Why don’t you hide your bras in your cupboard?” It is 2020 now, but bras continue to be seen as inappropriate, so much that they need to be hidden and hushed in public. Even more disturbing is the hypocrisy that finds visible bra as indecent but going braless as blasphemous. It is a known fact that women wear bras and they are an essential commodity, to some extent, then why should bras be wrapped in stigmas and silence? Until when are we going to sexualise and police women’s body to fit into the definitions of ‘acceptable’ as set by patriarchy? Why does society expect women to behave decently and not show their bras rather than confronting the deep-seated patriarchy that feeds such notions?
The major reason that explains society’s obsession with bras is the patriarchal gaze towards a woman’s body. The sexist ideologies reduce a woman’s body into an object of sexual pleasure which is already a taboo in our society. That is why a man’s bare chest gets hits in movies while a woman’s naked body or visible nipples are termed ‘vas vulgar’. And just because the bras are used to cover breasts, one of the most sexualised parts of a woman’s body, talking about bras or showing it off is considered as vulgar too. But why can’t we see the gender bias and double standards in it? Patriarchy has deemed a man’s body as normal but has always repressed a woman’s femininity as sexual. And since bras indirectly “remind” the onlookers about the stigmatised breasts, it automatically becomes sexual and indecent.
It isn’t shocking that a man’s visible boxers are considered as a statement of masculinity but a woman’s visible bra is outright promiscuous. Prejudices on woman’s morality are quick because they are often based on her clothing and appearance. If a woman flouts any patriarchal norms of dressing in a ‘decent’ way, she is outcasted as a slut. Red lipstick, short clothing or visible bra strap are perceived as inappropriate or immoral. The reason that we are given is that such dressing styles distract men, are indications of ‘consent for a sexual advance’ and attract the molesters. How can a revealing bra strap tell about the sexual life of a woman and whether she is interested in sex with the onlooker? It is just a piece of cloth and often we aren’t even conscious that the bra is visible. Unconsciously, we might be sending out those signals while just relishing a good me-time. It is utterly disturbing that we are made conscious about it time and again by the onlookers, sometimes by a comment and sometimes by uncomfortable stares. And these onlookers are not just men but women also who internalise patriarchy and take on the responsibility to protect women. Ever wondered why your mother made you wear a bra as soon as she realised your breasts were “inappropriately” visible through your t-shirt? Or your aunty or friends who quickly and secretly pulled up your top to hide the bra strap in public making you realise how childish and irresponsible you are? Society only expects women to pull up her t-shirt or pull her skirts down.
Wouldn’t it is more sensible to teach our men to control their sexual desires if just a thin strap can act as a signal? They need to stop sexualizing women’s body and anything related to it. There is a need for a shift from the objectification of a woman’s body to understanding her bodily autonomy. She has the freedom to be as she wants, wear whatever bra colour she likes and is not obliged to wear a strapless or off-colour bra to make it invisible. She equally has the freedom to go braless. Women own their bank balance, breasts and bras and have the freedom to show them off. No one gives the uncomfortable onlookers the right to stare at her, police her or molest her. If she is comfortable with a visible bra, or no bra at all, so be it. Start taking women and their lives seriously. Because we have more important things to achieve than the perfect bra size and the standards of patriarchy.
The views expressed are the author’s own.