Bra or Nah?

There’s been an ongoing conversation if wearing bras is good for breasts or not. An organization has been trying to spread the word of how much harm bras cause and that there are no actual benefits from wearing one and that wearing a bra could heighten the chances of breast cancer. Maybe it does give visual dramatization and fits more breasts into what societal norms dictate a female chest to look like, but at what cost?

Sydney Ross Singer and Soma Grismeijer wrote a book “Dressed to Kill: the Link Between Breast Cancer and Bras,” highlighting that tight clothing inhibits the proper functioning of the lymphatic system—the system that flushes waste and toxins from our bodies— and leads to a buildup of carcinogenic compounds in the constricted areas.

However, the American Cancer Society (ACS) declines the idea of bras causing breast cancer, “There is no good scientific or clinical basis for this claim, and a recent study of more than 1,500 women found no association between wearing a bra and breast cancer risk.”

The Susan G. Komen breast cancer association doesn’t believe that breast cancer is affiliated with bras either, referring to a study by the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR). The research concluded that “No aspect of bra wearing, including bra cup size, recency, average number of hours/day worn, wearing a bra with an underwire, or age first began regularly wearing a bra, was associated with risks of either IDC or ILC. Our results did not support an association between bra wearing and increased breast cancer risk among postmenopausal women.”

Okay, but how about younger women and girls?

Jean-Denis Rouillon, a French sports doctor, spent 16 years—still ongoing—conducting research with over 300 women between 18 and 35 and studying the impact of wearing lingerie. His preliminary outcome suggests that wearing a bra from an early age does not prevent sagging of the breast tissue, but actually worsens premature sagging and loss of elasticity of the breast tissue.

Rouillon suggested that forgetting about a bra will actually improve posture and breathing. He claims that the cut off circulation deteriorates the natural suspension system of the breasts.

In a Harvard study they found that women who are pre-menopausal and did not wear bras had half the risk of getting breast cancer. However, they suggest that to be a result of being thinner and having smaller cup size than women, because larger cup size was associated with an increased risk of breast cancer among postmenopausal women and was accounted for partially by obesity.

According to another study conducted by the breast biomechanics research team at the University of Portsmouth, wearing the wrong bra size is the cause of premature deterioration and health problems.

“And some women cause breast pain or discomfort by not buying the right sized bra,” explains Wendy Hedger, a researcher on the team. “There’s a social stigma about certain sizes; many women don’t want to be seen as too small or too big and buy a bra that doesn’t fit well in order to be what they consider to be a normal size.”

Due to societal expectations women are hurting themselves to achieve a specific look of their body. A young woman from Madrid expanded on how society pressures her to wear lingerie, “I have big breasts, there’s some clothes or some bras I can’t wear–it would definitely give an incorrect impression of who I am. For example, I can’t use push up bras, or people would be staring at my chest all the time.”

Another young woman from Brooklyn, with a small chest still feels unconfident not wearing a bra as well, “Even in a professional work setting it’s a rule to wear a bra, which I think is really fucking stupid. It’s just breasts, they’re no different from men’s breasts, they just have more fatty tissue. And if a woman doesn’t wear a bra it’s considered she’s dressing provocatively.”

Aside from health issues, the bra holds back equality between men and women. Free The Nipple is a movement empowering women and working toward equality and change. Moving from body discrimination and toward closing the pay gap between genders, the organization strives for gender rights to be the same.

By letting go of the double standards we have for women’s nipples and men’s, we are taking a step closer to making men and women of the U.S. equal, “The United States is only one of the seven countries of the world that have not ratified the UN convention of the elimination of all forms of discrimination of women.”

It’s up to you to decide what’s comfortable and better for you as a woman. I personally prefer no bra at all or to gift wrap it in a no underwire lacey bralette. One day women will stop being seen as sexual objects and we will reach equality to the point where our nipples are okay to be seen from under a shirt and no push-up bra will make us targets of harassment.

No matter how we look at it, bras, bandeaus, and corsets were all historically introduced to manipulate a woman’s figure, but it’s one’s own business to wear one or not. As Germaine Greer puts it in “The Female Eunuch” in the second feminist wave, “Bras are a ludicrous invention, but if you make bralessness a rule, you’re just subjecting yourself to yet another repression.”