It was January of my sixteenth year when I noticed that, for some reason, one quite beyond my scope of knowledge and certainly unrelated to the steady diet of holiday pies and roasted meat which had sustained me through the winter, my bra began to leave bright red marks across my ever broadening back and underneath my burgeoning breasts.
Rather than come to terms with my newly formed winter weight, which would have doubtless less required a laborious reexamination of my body image and near quotidian trips to the 24 Hour Fitness, I renounced the torturous contraption labeled by man as the “bra.”
Thus began my pseudo sexual revolution against patriarchy and male dominance. It was with pride, but mostly arrogance, that I took up the crusade of my bra-burning foremothers who so gallantly paved the way for girls, nay womyn, like myself to live freely and truly. I reveled in the knowledge that unbeknownst to culturally conditioned peers and attractive American History teachers alike, beneath my oversized sweater, foxy and roxy hung looser than a middle-aged surfer in Hawaii suffering from a mad case of Peter Pan syndrome. For months I stared down at my bra-wearing friends from my soap box of feminism, shaking my head with contempt and generously bestowing unwarranted bits of eclectic wisdom.
Without the measuring tape of a back strap, I continued my pie eating and gym avoiding. Before I knew it was March and I was sitting on my floor squeezing my inner thighs and crying because I could no longer fit into my not-so-skinny jeans.
While I wish I can say that immediately thereafter came my moment of clarity, unfortunately such moments occur rarely in life and never in adolescence.
In retrospect, I see that initially my bralessness constituted a revolution not against patriarchy, but against the constraints and discomforts of underwire, in the most literal and prosaic of terms. This in itself is admirable, though not quite as great in significance as I had once believed. It ceased to be admirable however, when it became less a matter comfort and more a matter of denial. Whereas the bra-burners and other like minded feminists, shed their bras as a celebration of the female body, my refusal to wear a bra was, at its core, a refusal to acknowledge and an effort to hide the changes in my own body.
Feminism, as a political stance is nothing close to nebulous, on the other hand, feminism as a personal ideology, is inherently individual and thus difficult to define. Generally speaking, however, feminism is about liberation, not oppression by denial, embracing one’s body, not swaddling it in shapeless sweaters, and confidence in one’s own self, not crippling insecurity thinly masked by a carefully constructed superiority-complex and a false sense of bravado.