We talk about boobs a lot in our house (and before I go any further, I’m using the word “boobs” only because it’s my preferred euphemism. I’m not a fan of most of the others, and the word “breasts”, while of course anatomically correct, feels strangely formal. And we’re all friends here, right? So boobs it is. But if you don’t like that word, feel free to substitute your favorite alternative as you go.)
Anyway, as I said, we talk about boobs a lot. Not in a creepy or weird or crass way, but just because we have an eight year old who is extremely open when it comes to talking about… well, everything… and a favorite topic at the moment happens to be puberty. Side note: She also talks about farts way more often than the boys ever did, combined. I always laugh when people equate potty humor with mostly boys, because they obviously haven’t met Tegan yet. But I digress.
She knows – at least in basic concept – about sex, she understands what happens during puberty, and while not necessarily excited about it, she accepts that she’s going to have boobs one day. She knows that they make milk should she become a mother. She knows that they come in different sizes. She knows that you don’t get to pick your size unless you have surgery of some sort. She knows about bras, and sports bra, and as of recently, she knows about these too:
These are the greatest things ever if you don’t wish to wear a bra, or if the cut of your top or dress means that straps would show, or if you’re like me (a 34A to be… lying. An AA, with zero reason to wear a bra for support) and want to be comfortable, but don’t want to worry about any nipple issues.
They’re also similar to what Kaitlyn Juvik says she was wearing under her (completely modest and appropriate and loose-fitting) black top the day that her teacher reported her for not wearing a bra, because it made him “uncomfortable.” Juvik – rightly – protested, it instantly became a whole big internet thing, and people are quickly jumping to one side or the other. I read one article that had a little survey at the end about whether or not girls should be required to wear bras to school, and the response was rather disturbingly divided down the middle: something like 54% to 46% in favor of yes.
There are so many things wrong with this, I don’t even know where to start.
1. No teacher should be looking at an underage girl’s chest long enough or closely enough to even be able to discern if she is or is not wearing a bra. Let’s just start there. Her shirt was not see-through, it was not sheer, it was not tight. It was a black t-shirt; nothing that demanded special attention. Why was he looking at her breasts long enough to determine that there was no bra in the first place? That to me is a larger issue that I wish more people were talking about.
2. Schools shouldn’t be in the business of policing undergarments. If Juvik had violated the school’s dress code, this would be a slightly different conversation. But she didn’t. She wasn’t showing cleavage, and she wasn’t wearing anything revealing. I’m not a fan – to put it politely – of the idea of dress codes in the first place, but I understand why they exist, and can even get behind them if they are fair to both male and females… which, let’s just be honest, they so very rarely are. But the school’s dress code said nothing about bras (as it shouldn’t, because HELLO they are undergarments!) What sort of underwear someone does or does not choose to wear should be nobody’s business but the owner of said underwear. The fact that I even need to say that out loud is so disgusting that I feel like I need to immediately take a shower to wash off some of the ick.
3. It encourages misogyny and rape culture. We find ourselves, again, with another situation where a woman’s body is deemed responsible for someone else’s discomfort. THIS IS NOT OKAY! Women are not responsible for men’s thoughts. Women’s bodies are not responsible for men’s comfort. Women’s boobs are not responsible for men’s actions. My body, and my daughter’s body, and Kaitlyn Juvik’s body have just as much right to take up space in this world as my husband’s, and as my son’s. If someone is uncomfortable due to what someone else is or is not wearing, that is on him, and him alone.
4. They’re just boobs. Let’s just take a minute here for some perspective. Males and females both have nipples. We’re basically talking about a matter of a little bit more (in my case, a very little bit more) fatty tissue beneath them. That’s it. It’s nothing to get freaked out about. Seriously, they’re just breasts. Yes, I understand that they’re often viewed and used in a sexual context, but these are not genitals. And you know what? Even if we were talking about genitals… I might not be “comfortable” if I were eye-level with the graphic end of a Speedo, but I would defend till my last breath the wearer’s right to wear it.
It makes me angry, and to be completely honest, a little bit scared, that this is the world in which my daughter will grow up…. a world that wants to tell her that she needs to wear a bra, whether she wants to or not, lest she offend the delicate sensibilities of the men around her. A world that wants to tell her that she is nothing more than a body. A world that wants to tell her that she is somehow less than exactly as she is, and that she doesn’t deserve to be here, exactly as she is, as much as her male counterparts.
My daughter? I’m going to tell her to be strong, and to hold her head high. I’m going to tell her that she matters, not because some man told her she mattered, but just because she is her. I’m going to tell her that she can be anything, and do anything that she puts her mind to.
And that it doesn’t make a damn bit of difference whether or not she’s wearing a bra while she does it.