When Game Of Thrones star Maisie Williams was singled out at the NSPCC Summer Masquerade Ball, it wasn’t to commend her charitable fundraising work. It was to point out something – well – utterly pointless.
‘Unveiled: Game of Thrones goes braless in sheer lace dress….’ The Daily Mail headline began. I wasn’t the only one who groaned and, quite honestly, I’m still stumped as to why this is ‘news’ days later. Why are women still culturally influenced to wear bras – and why should we feel pressured to buy them if we don’t need them?
Here’s an alternative newsflash: sometimes women don’t wear bras. It’s really not a big deal. Sometimes (as was the case with Maisie this week) straps just don’t work with a particular dress – be it sheer, lacy, plunging or strapless. Other times, they’re just too damn uncomfortable. Flat-chested like me? High fives all round! Isn’t our reward that we just don’t need a bra to hold everything in place? So, why am I made to feel like it’s a provocative act if I do – as if I’m somehow courting attention?
I don’t know about you, but I’m pretty sick of the endless headlines that make me feel like going braless is a flirtatious act; designed to titillate the male gaze rather than to - shock, horror - please myself. Why is Pixie Lott ‘keen to reveal her inner sex kitten’ just because she wore a shirt without any support?
Let’s face it: bras have (historically) never been about comfort – or even the woman who wears them. Our ideals on how women should look have always influenced the undergarments we buy – from ribcage-crushing corsets, to 1940s bullet bras and 1960s underwire. Looking back, I think it was precisely these ideals that made me feel like I needed a bra when I was in my early teens. I didn’t. I was a 34A cup size back then, and I’m a 34A cup size now. I often joke that I’m still waiting for my boobs to grow twenty years later – and yet I wear a bra most days.
It would be nice to feel the freedom, without fearing the reaction. I’d love to head out to work without one – like student Kaitlyn Juvik did when she wore a black t-shirt to her high school in the US. Kaitlyn didn’t get very far in her braless tee, however, and now she's hit the headlines too. She was reprimanded and told to cover up. Following the incident Kaitlyn and her friends staged a silent, braless protest.
'The fact that I was told it makes people uncomfortable offended me because it’s my body,' she told MTN outside her school. 'It is my natural body and I’m not sure why that is uncomfortable to somebody.'
I’m not sure, either. Many still joke about the bra-burning antics of second wave feminists in the late 1960s but as far as I’m concerned, their point still stands. Only, I don’t want to burn mine – I just want the option to ditch them without judgement.
I mean - it worked for Jane Birkin, right?