Unladylike: Edition 2 – No Bra November
No Bra November – A Shameless Social Experiment
Let’s talk about breasts. And by breasts, I really mean nipples. Let’s talk about how for some odd reason, when exposed, they’re offensive to people who can’t seem to mind their own business. Let’s talk about how bras are completely unnecessary most of the time and we’ve only conditioned ourselves to believe we need them because of – well, let’s be honest – patriarchy. And let’s talk about this social experiment I challenged myself to carry out for the entire month of November.
If I’m being real with both you and myself, I was terrified and nervous as hell going into this – What if my boobs don’t look great in this shirt? What if they fall flat? What if it’s noticeable that I’m not wearing a bra? (Because c’mon – I ain’t no small-chested girl.) But more “importantly” – What if I wind up getting more attention from this than I asked for?
But why was that the most important question that kept me concerned?
I remember the first time I was street harassed. I was 17, a freshman in college, and luckily for me I lived near school, so it saved me the hassle and expenses of having to purchase a car. On days when I didn’t carpool with friends, I walked; but unfortunately on this particular morning, walking was the worse decision I could have possibly made. The interaction went a little like this:
*A car pulls up on the side of me.*
Him (at the passenger side of his best friend’s ride): “Need a ride, baby?”
Me: “No, thank you. I’m good.” *Hastens steps*
Him: “Are you sure?”
Me: “Yep, I’m good.”
Him: *Tugs on my dress and pulls me in closer to the car* “Where you going, and I asked if you needed a ride?”
Me: *Wrestles to release his hold and runs out of the corner*
Of course being me, I said a word or two to him before I ran away (‘cause my mouth ain’t no deep freezer), but we won’t get into that type of language. What shook me most about that experience was the entitlement of the man and the encouragement of his friend that sat in silence without bothering to do anything but laugh at a “helpless” girl. After that, I vowed to never wear skirts or dresses while walking to school ever again (but of course, I broke that covenant once I got myself sorted out with a car and other means of transportation). That experience led me to think about how we exist within public spaces – how we move and groove and interact with each other… What is considered “appropriate” to wear in such spaces and what is not? And if something is not, who determines that? Bullshit hierarchal standards, religious leaders, conservatives, teachers or friends? What gives them the authority to dictate? Thus, “Nipples Out November” was crafted.
I challenged myself to go braless for a single day during the first weekend of the month, and I’ve got to admit, it was frightening. But as I watched the attitudes of those of whom I surrounded myself with, even those I didn’t know, my own perspective started to shift. Nobody. Seemed. To. Give. A. Damn. So why did I? A weekend became three days, and three days turned into every other day, until I just turned in my card and went an entire week shamelessly. Suddenly questions of “How will my boobs look in this shirt?” turned into an attitude of “Nobody got time for that today!” I even considered getting my RiRi on and piercing them, but that’s another story for another day (LOL).
Nevertheless, this simple yet powerful act of rebellion was a way for me to reclaim the streets, own my body, flip off the naysayers and establish my place in public spaces. And everyone deserves the right to feel safe in public spaces. Organizations like Hollaback Bahamas and Equality Bahamas push this initiative and have been leading the conversation surrounding safe spaces and street harassment for quite some time now. As part of the #16Days of Activism campaign that started last Saturday (and continues until December 10th, World Human Rights Day) against gender-based violence, and the #MyNameIsn’t Netflix campaign inspired by Spike Lee’s She’s Gotta Have It, I encourage you all to chime in to the conversation, do a good deed like giving to an NGO, and/or call out the bullshit when you see it.
You don’t have to go braless to speak up and speak out (at least, not if you don’t want to). But you can be shameless in whatever approach you choose to combat sexism. #NipplesOut… figuratively speaking.
Until next time, take care, loves.