The older I become, the more I realize the hold society has on my neck.
She’s Beautiful When She’s Angry is a documentary on Netflix about the feminist movement in the sixties and seventies. I watched it and become enthralled in the strength– it was a big movement, but it also had so many subgroups that I think made women feel more included. Seeing men uncomfortable makes me smile, and seeing men involved in the protests… ugh, that was really cute.
Fast forward to a couple of days later. I was having my good friend over to take pictures of her, and I was pressured by my mom into putting on a bra in my own home for a friend that I have known since 2011. I didn’t think much of it, and I put one on. My friend left, and I took a shower, knowing I was going to see her later on tonight for some dinner at a pizza place. I took shoes out of the dog’s mouth, slipped some running shorts on, and yanked a child’s size London Olympics 2012 t-shirt over my head– that’s it. One step away from dashing down the stairs and out the door, my sister says to my parents, “You’re gonna let Kennedy go without a bra on?”. I smile (because she’s saying it in a nagging/whining manner instead of a serious question manner) and hold the banister, literally putting my body in motion to get to fresh air and freedom. This time my dad tells me to put a bra on. I look to my mom, who agrees, and I’m in shock. Thinking back on it, I don’t know why I was surprised. Society has sexualized girl’s bodies once they surpass the cute-naked-baby age. But now, when I’m ready to take my body back for what it is, a normal female anatomy that has nothing to do with the male gaze, I’m stopped short at the door. Yeah, he’s a dad and she’s a mom, and I’m growing up faster than they can catch up to, but this is my body and, to me, bras are not comfortable. I live in their house, and almost all of their rules I will follow. But when it has to do with embracing my body, now everyone else is in my wheelhouse. I am in charge. I turned fully towards them and stood up straight (when I’m angry, I get really brave), and I ask my dad something that could be considered as back-talking, “Why?”.
“Because you’re a young lady.”
This made me think of the split opinions on the high school student who recently got in trouble for not wearing a bra in class. But this isn’t a new thing. Situations exactly like these have been happening for decades. Many of the students and young people of the internet were on the side of the student. How can someone’s body make someone so uncomfortable? Women in school already have enough superfluous dress codes. Now we are being forced to wear a bra or else we will lose class time? It’s not like they are being pulled away after watching an hour of Youtube videos and being scolded. They are sitting in an office with a female administrator, as she wastes their time to learn, telling them that their natural body is distracting to others (boys, probably). Other people, like the principle of the high school student, believe that she was dressed “inappropriately”. He also made sure to add that they would ask students to cover up who were both male and female. Enlighten me on the idea of telling a male to cover up? I’ve never seen that one before. Unless his actual dick is out, it’s pretty hard to put my feet in an administrators shoes. Guys, of all sizes, have nipples. These nipples often show through their shirts. Males that are heavier set definitely have chests that look similar to a female’s chest. I won’t even get started on the outlines in basketball shorts and sweatpants. The dots aren’t really connecting for me here.
So I go in my room tight-lipped and squeeze on a bra, feeling like a manufactured doll as I came back down the hall. I jumped in the car, and before even turning it on, I claw the bra off like it was made of raw meat. I felt empowered. I texted my group chat, telling them I would be a few minutes late from the bra debauchery. One laughed at the whole ordeal, and one texted back, #freethenipple. I felt like I had my wolf pack on my side, therefore confirming that my rebellion was a just one. It was like I could hear a strong black woman shouting feminist chants as I throw the bra underneath the seat and reverse out of the driveway. I drove abnormally fast, realizing my anger, and knew I had to write about it. Reliving the entire thing, it all happened in a total of maybe three hours, and it was such a small situation. But it was me taking my body back, and I felt so strong that I cried. My body is something that should always have been mine, but it never really felt like… mine.
Now, some people, like my sister that whined and other people I know, prefer bras because it helps with their back, or they just choose to wear them. And that’s the kicker– women should be allowed to choose. If they want to wear a bra, fine. If they don’t want to wear a bra, fine, but don’t shame them into thinking that their bodies are anything less than totally lovely because they don’t want to wear a bra. This is the very first time that I went out in public without a bra and I wasn’t in an oversized sweater. The very first time, and my body was shut down “because you are a young lady”. Sorry, but that isn’t a good enough excuse to not do the normal teenage thing and rebel. There are so many implications to that response. At the end of the road to all of the implications is a shirtless male wagging his finger at you. All roads lead to the patriarchy– everything I do seems to be for the male gaze. Maybe if he would have warned me about the crazy boob sweat I could get from not wearing a bra, I would consider his command to change. However, no cute or #justgirlythings advice came from it.
Moral or the story, I will wear a child size London Olympics 2012 shirt with or without a bra. Whatever I decide, really. If we want equality, we have to stop treating our girls like sexual objects that need to be covered up their whole lives. Yo body, yo business.
Power to the MF’n sisterhood,
Synonyms for the word Strong (how you should feel all the time, no matter your underwear):
capable mighty in control qualified impressive
compelling able prevailing gifted powerful
dynamic effective worthy intelligent competent
P.S. I felt weird writing this. Like I felt kind of disrespectful. However, I stand by what I say, and that’s it.