Friends, it’s hotter than Brigid’s forge in lower Alabama, so I’ve been going sans bra as much as possible. It’s ridiculous to be layered when atmospheric conditions are at rain forest levels. If it would not result in arrest, I’d probably go around naked through the Dog Days of summer. Since public nudity isn’t an option, I can at least shed my bra.
If you trace the word brassiere to its Old French origin, it means armor or “a protector for the arm.” I’m not going into battle, so why do I need “armor” for my breasts? Why does any woman? What are we protecting our breasts from, or rather, why is the world still so concerned with the appearance of breasts that we spend $16 billion on bras annually? Such a waste of funds!
When I look at ancient statues of goddesses, so many of them are bare breasted. Consider the Venus of Willendorf, or Astarte, or the Minoan Snake Goddess…I could go on. All of them reflect eras when the life-giving, nurturing aspect of the Goddess was honored. Breasts were powerful, not just sexual. They represented fertility, sustenance, and abundance of the land and its people. Goddesses don’t wear bras. The very idea would be insulting.
Today, breasts are hypersexualized, objectified, and somewhat divorced from their main function. Ask any woman who has breastfed her child, and she will describe the challenges of doing this in public without feeling shamed and judged. Society is much too worried about the appearance of a woman’s nipples, despite the fact men have them, too.
How far we have fallen from our matriarchal roots.
When I posted about bra hatred on my personal Facebook page, several friends raised their virtual hands in agreement. We discussed the fact that even when we go braless, we often resort to hacks like covering our nipples with those nifty circular Band-Aids if we’re wearing tight clothing. So even if our breasts are freed from the underwire cage, our nipples might still be muffled under cheap adhesive bandages or nude-colored pasties. Why? Because we feel self-conscious. Our culture has made us believe that if our breasts bounce and our nipples show, we will be considered loose and immoral. We’ve been trained to avoid attracting the wrong kind of attention, lest we be assaulted, raped, or killed.
Yes, trained—and it all begins with the training bra we’re told to wear at the first signs of sexual development. Think about it. Who or what is being trained? Are we training our breasts to get used to the bra, or are we training ourselves to conform to a social standard that we didn’t even set? I remember asking my mom for one, because all the other girls in school were beginning to wear them. I was beginning to feel self-conscious without a bra, which shows just how much pressure girls are under to conform. The message we internalize is that there is something much too vulgar and tempting about breasts, so they must be hidden under double layers of fabric. We carry that message our whole lives, unless we consciously work to reclaim our natural beauty and worth. Reaching way back into our collective memory and connecting with the Goddess is a doorway to the process of reclaiming our selfhood.
Thankfully, some wonderful teachers and empowerment coaches are now actively assisting in the work of showing us better ways to appreciate and work with our bodies. Saida Desilets, Ph.D., creator of the Taoist-based Jade Goddess teachings, describes the energetic quality of breasts in this way:
Our breasts are considered our love center because they sit on either side of our heart and represent the external expression of our heart chi. Chi naturally flows from our heart center out into the world. Our breasts have long been a symbol for nurturing and loving energy. They also hold the secret to our longevity. (206)
Susun Weed, herbalist and author of The Wise Woman Way, also speaks of the power we hold in our breasts:
We are the Ancient GrandMothers and our breasts are ancient. Perhaps you find them ugly. See how they drift yearningly toward the Earth, lower with every passing year. We smile knowingly; we know our breasts contain a power that is resilient, flexible, supple, easy, and impossible to restrain. Whether the whim of fashion says our breasts are to be large or small, pointed or flattened, with cleavage or without, padded or bound, accented or obscured, it matters not to us. Our breasts fall free, untouched by current notions. The power of our breasts is the power of life.
Yet, we block and constrict that power, and we’ve been doing so for the last 500 years since the introduction of the corset.
I have this fantasy that women all over the globe will join together in a Bra Burning Day. I see us all flinging off our constricting garments of torture and dancing around the flames, never looking back. I see men there with us, drumming in the outer circle, supporting us lovingly and committing to the work of demolishing the old paradigms.
May we unlearn the rules imposed upon us by earlier generations that were ruled by fear and shame. May we nourish our breasts with freedom of movement, healthy relationships, massage, good nutrition, and a positive self-image. May we remember that we are the reflections of the goddesses of old, who are still alive and within us now, calling forth our courage and our love.
So Mote It Be
Copyright © 2017 Jennifer R. Miller. All rights reserved.
Désilets, Saida. Emergence of the Sensual Woman: Awakening Our Erotic Innocence. Kihei, HI: Jade Goddess Publishing, 2006. Print.
Weed, Susun S. “Ancient Breasts.” Wise Woman Herbal Ezine, http://www.susunweed.com/herbal_ezine/February09/breasthealth.htm. Accessed 14 July 2017.