Why I Believe Bra-Fitting is a Feminist Issue

As most of my readers will know, I consider my blog to be primarily a lingerie and feminism blog. However, at least on my wordpress, feminism posts have been far and few between – my blog focus is usually on bra fitting and reviews. What I haven’t mentioned is that I consider bra fitting itself to be a feminist issue, and today I thought I’d take a minute to give a few reasons why.

Starting with the simple, the most obvious function of a bra is to support. This is particularly important, of course, for sports. In the words of Beckie from Busts4Justice, a well-fitting bra is “the difference between a sedentary life filled with self-consciousness and discomfort and an active one filled with trampolines”. For exercise, a well-fitting bra is absolutely crucial for many people, and yet most of them go without. Unsupportive bras mean bouncing and ligament pain, which discourages women from physical activity, thereby keeping them less fit. Putting it like that makes it sound like a huge conspiracy, but that is one of the results of bad bra fitting being so widespread, and a clear reason to see bra-fitting as a feminist issue. Poorly-fitting bras can also cause health problems in day-to-day life: from the well-known issue of back pain, to blisters and cuts from rubbing.

Shock absorber
Image from Shock Absorber

Of course, there are much more complicated issues when it comes to bra-fitting. Numerous body image issues are caused, both directly and indirectly, by poorly-fitting bras. The vast majority of stores fit people into wrongly sized bras that are unsupportive, cause quadboob and add back fat, which is a problem in itself. But when these sizes don’t work, instead of changing their fit methods, the bra industry releases “miracle bras” (which never help) to get rid of aforementioned sagging, overspill and back fat. People who don’t realise that poorly-fitting bras are the cause of these things are further exploited by companies looking to profit, and when these “miracle bras” don’t work, they come to believe that their bodies are just “wrong”. They begin to think that bras that fit well and look nice are impossible for them. For many people, the appearance of their breasts and the trouble finding clothes can lead to insecurity about their looks, and often hatred of their breasts and body. Body dysmorphia is a huge problem alone, but when it is either caused or worsened by something that should be so easy to change, I can’t help but find it incredibly saddening.

VS cleavageImage from Victoria’s Secret

On a somewhat similar note, I feel bra sizing can play a huge role in body acceptance. I feel that accepting that you should wear (for example) a 30HH, rather than a 36DD, can be one of the biggest things you can do when it comes to accepting your body. Women are constantly told they need to be smaller, to be daintier, to take up less space, and bra sizing hasn’t escaped this. Many bra manufacturers seem to want us to believe we should all fit into 32-40 AA-E (DDD), and that if you’re out of that range, you must either be a porn star, a child, or a freak. I know women who have cried upon being resized, because of the messages they’ve absorbed about breast size. This image, which I’m sure everyone has seen, is exactly the kind of thing I’m talking about. Cup sizes over an E carry a weird stigma where those who wear them are simultaneously sexualised and ridiculed. Those with big breasts are too often assumed to be stupid, or accused of being “attention-seeking sluts”, solely because of their bra size. I don’t think I need to start on how fucked up that is.

BraMeter007Image from “Bra-Meter” app

I feel that learning how bra sizing actually works means separating your breasts from all of the messages and labels so commonly associated with various cup sizes. It means realising that your bra size isn’t constant, that these labels are arbitrary, and that your size doesn’t define you. When you understand bra fitting, you start to deconstruct the size-shaming and slut-shaming associations, and you realise that your breast size has nothing to do with who you actually are. And personally, I can’t see how that doesn’t relate to feminism.

If you’d like more information on proper bra fit, check out this article on Busty Resources. For a more appropriate view of the bra alphabet, and for examples of properly fitted women, check out this article by Fuller Figure Fuller Bust.

My Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad “Thrill Me” Habit

Back in June, I reviewed all of the unpadded Curvy Kate sets I owned, and I also mentioned that I had bought the Thrill Me in Jade/Fuschia in a 30J, which fit more like a 30HH/32H. Well…that was a bit of a slippery slope. I’ve since bought more sets and, since I took lots of pictures for my SIAB entry, I thought I’d share a few.

Jade Thrill Me
The Jade/Fuschia in a 30J, size 14 shorts. The set that sparked my love for this set, in all of its ruffley, jewel-bright, two-cups-too-small glory…sigh.

Purple Thrill Me
The second set I acquired: Grape/Jade in a 30J, for which I own both the thong and shorts in a 14. Once again, it fits two cups too small for me, it has a stretchy band, and I still absolutely love it. I don’t know what it is with me and ruffles, or the Marie Antoinette style cleavage, or this combination of vibrant purple and jade, but whatever it is, it means that I am hopelessly in love.

Azure Plum Thrill Me

And finally, the Azure/Plum in a 30J, size 16 shorts. A bit different in this much more subdued colour, but still just as gorgeous. I found all three bras to fit pretty similarly. For anyone wondering if they could get away with going down from their usual size (or anyone who wants a laugh…), here are the various stages of bra wear. As soon as I put it on (and stuff my boobs into the cups)…

After putting on
After a few hours of wear…
After wear

And if I scoop and swoop properly…
If I scoop...

And that, children, is why we shouldn’t stuff ourselves into bras that are clearly much too small. Yet of all the people who should know better, I just can’t help myself. It’s like lingerie Stockholm syndrome: no matter how badly it fits, no matter how many times I hastily tuck my nips back in, I constantly convince myself that the fit isn’t that bad, that it’s okay to carry on wearing. Not to mention my burgeoning desire for more Tease Me sets. Gulp.

Sadly (or should that be luckily?), Curvy Kate has already discontinued the Thrill Me, and the Tease Me is going the same way after SS13 not in AW13 but should be back in SS14, making room for new styles. You’d think this would encourage me to step away from the Showgirls, but if anything, it just means I’ve started looking for them everywhere so I can stock up before they disappear. Problem? Me? Nah.

As I said, these were my SIAB entry pics. Obviously I didn’t get through, but on a related note, voting for the top 10 has just opened. If you haven’t voted already, go check it out here!

 

Sexism and children: Why it’s not “just a joke”.

Today’s post is going to be a bit different from the usual. A couple of weeks ago, my niece turned 4. I’ll be honest, I find it quite hard to pick presents for my princess-loving nibling! I like giving her something a bit different from the mountains of pink, so I usually try to find her something princess-with-a-twist, and this time, it seems I picked a pretty good one: a Princess Merida dress with a bow and arrow set.

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When she opened it, she was so excited to find a princess dress, but she had no idea what the bow and arrow was. After I explained what it did, and I showed her a picture of Princess Merida wielding it, she couldn’t wait to try it out. So I started showing her how to use it. Obviously it’s just a toy, and it isn’t all that sturdy, which means you have to hold it a very specific way to shoot it, and the arrows only go a few feet.

While I was trying to show her how to use it, I started hearing comments from a couple of men standing behind me.

“What’s this, a girl teaching a girl?! Hahahaha! Well that’s never going to work!”
“What does she think she’s doing?! Having a bit of trouble there, love? Want me to take over?”

I ignored them. When she got the elastic lined up and tried shooting it for the first time, the arrow slipped sideways.

“Ahahahah! Well, what did we expect from a girl? Leave it to the men next time, eh?”

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Forgive the language, but what the fuck? Really? I am teaching a 4 year old girl how to use a bow and arrow. She has never done anything like this before, and it is hard to get right. And these two absolute asshats think it’s appropriate to stand there ridiculing both of us on the basis of us being female?

Let’s get one thing straight. Comments like this are not a joke. Society constantly bombards us with messages of what we’re supposed to be, how we’re supposed to act, what we should enjoy. If you say things like this, a child will not think you are joking. You are telling her that she is, at core, incompetent, because she is a girl. You are giving her the impression that it is absurd for women to be smart, or to be able to teach or explain. They knew nothing about me, and they assumed that I was stupid because I am a woman. You are telling her that she is expected to fail at anything she attempts that isn’t regarded as a female pursuit. You are telling her that anything she does, a man will be able to do it better.

I told her to ignore them, but I could see the seed of doubt forming. The look of confusion, then unease, the wondering if she should really be doing this. And it doesn’t stop with the use of a bow and arrow, something that (let’s be honest) doesn’t have many real-world applications. I’ve heard similar comments whenever she tries to play with her brother’s toys: lego is for boys, girls don’t play football. Even just looking around at the shops, the message is clear: Construction toys, science toys, sports and superheroes fill the boys’ section; Kitchens, dolls, cosmetics and princesses fill the girls’, something that infuriates me no end!

boy-vs-girl-toys

They’re all little things. A kitchen joke here, a casual “leave it to the men” there, an amused look of surprise when a girl is interested in a stereotypically male-pursuit. Adults may be able to separate these jokes from reality, but kids haven’t yet developed the perspective to do so. Individually, these jokes might be nothing. But they add up, and together they create an environment where our children learn the realities of sexism from the moment they begin to talk. It perpetuates a culture in which the things that we can and should do are dictated by gender. And it normalises the idea that women are lesser simply because they are women.

I don’t pretend to think that this post will eliminate sexist jokes and thereby conquer sexism, but please, consider the things you say around children, and realise that sexist comments can have a much greater effect than you would think – even if they’re “just a joke”.