Friday, November 7, 2008

Why Wearing the Correct Bra Size is a Feminist Act

In the 70's, feminists burned their bras. Now, I wasn't alive then, but my understanding is that this was a symbolic gesture intended to express their belief in freedom from the patriarchy, like refusing to shave your legs might be. And to be honest, it is a good symbolic move. I never want to diminish the importance of those actions.

However, women began wearing bras again. Some of them, of course, never stopped. Some still don't wear them and consider them to be a tool to hide and change a woman's body - still a tool of the patriarchy. However, I don't agree. For me, a bra is all about comfort. I just don't feel comfortable in the office without one. So for me, wearing a great bra is crucial to my rise up the business ladder.

As time wore on, the 80s came, big capitalism and bigger companies overtook industries. Women don't know how to sew as much as they once did, and the concept of taking your bra to be custom sized sounds insane to most women of the modern world.

So instead, 80% of women parade around wearing the wrong size bra. It's not because manufacturers don't make all the sizes needed to suit all the women in the world- they do. The situation is that in America, most women don't realize there are over 100 sizes available. Stores like Victoria's Secret, La Senza and department stores don't carry all the available sizes, even if they are available in the brand.

For example, I was in a Victoria's Secret store and saw a brand of sports bras that comes in every size from AA-GG and beyond. They offer some of the best sports support and comfort, not to mention style. They make it possible for me to jog at the gym and not feel weird or sore. I got pretty excited to see that VS was going to be carrying a wonderful brand such as this. Until I looked closer. They were only carrying

32B 34B 36B
34C 36C 38C
34D 34D 36D 38D
34DD 36DD 38DD

That's it. 13 sizes. The brand comes in well over 50 sizes. So why wouldn't VS want to offer all the sizes available, so that each customer is getting the best fitting, most comfortable, most functional bra they could get? I'll tell you. If they sell less sizes, they make more money per sku.

I'll save you the business logic behind that, unless you really want it, but it's kinda boring. And what it comes down to is the bottom line for Victoria's Secret is PROFIT. They want the largest profit they can get from any product they sell. And the less sizes they offer, the bigger profit they make. This male owned and operated organization is not selling comfort and support to women. They are selling ill-fitting, ill-made garments for more than they are worth to the wrong customer with no regard for their body image or needs.

So, how is wearing the right size feminist?

For one, you will likely be purchasing your bra from a smaller business. It might even be a woman-owned and operated business, such as Secrets From Your Sister in Toronto. You will be purchasing a bra in a smaller shop because only smaller shops cater to these "specialty" (read: NORMAL) sizes. By refusing to support the big bra business that lies to their customer through their sales staff and advertising, you will support a smaller business that is there to help you.

For two, you will be comfortable in your bra. The right size just feels great. And feeling great is the first step to confidence. Confidence is the first step to success! You can't go after that big job above the glass ceiling while you constantly adjust your bra straps, can you? Maybe you could, but I'd feel self concious. And I'm not at my best mentally unless I feel well presented, no matter who is interviewing me.

Three, a great bra makes you feel hot. And because no one sees it, it's not about feeling hot for the male gaze - it's about feeling hot in your mind, each day, when you leave the house. Feeling hot for sake of your own mind is a pretty feminist act, if you ask me. It's why I shave my legs sometimes, knowing no one will notice but me. It's a way to take something back, and own it, that was once forced on you.

Four, a great sports bra will prevent any thoughts of "I can't go play soccer with all those guys!! I'll be bouncing all over the place!!" Just like tampax, you can even ride a horse. I'm kidding, but only half.

Fifth, and most importantly, by shopping in places other than the big box lingerie outlets and major chains, you are putting a dent in their profits. You are proving through consumer spending that you are normal, that you are a potential customer and that you should not be overlooked. Every time one woman has the epiphany that they were wearing the wrong size, and that gets corrected, they tell two friends. And so on, until one day, there is so much of a market for the correct size, that the male big-wigs will be forced to take notice, and offer a full range of sizes to meet the full range of women in North America. This business model of offering all sizes is working in Europe and Asia, and there is no reason it should not in North America.

Now check out this great TV ad by British retailer Bravissimo , who are actually a super awesome woman-owned organziation who sell the bestest stuff ever.


SVCON said...

Hurrah! I absolutely agree with you 100%! What I really appreciate about wearing the right size (and you touched on this in your post) is how it expands the limited range of so-called normalacy for women's bodies. In discovering my real size, (and my friend's size and my sister's size and the fact that there are hundreds of sizes out there) I was able to see the wide range of breasts and bodies out there. The key thing is, this has to be shown correctly. Rather than telling a woman "oh you're x size, a specialty size, you're very hard to fit," they need to know "you're x size, and doesn't this feel/look awesome?!" And if they prompt "but I've never heard of that size before, I always buy a 36C at La Senza," all of the information about big business you spoke of above can be touched on.

What I mean to say is... I think with bra fitting it has to be approached as a working together, an education, NOT an "intervention." Too many times I've seen a "These silly women are parading around in the wrong size, wait until we totally blow their minds" type article. While some women are in the wrong size by choice (out of denial or lack of access to bras, or the bras are too expensive), most are not. It's just they are not presented with the information and the selection that is needed. But you know that... I'm just a little sleep-deprived, and this bra talk gets me all feisty. What I'm angling at here is unfortunately even something as Wonderful and Womanisty as bra fitting can be twisted. (Ususally at the end of the "these dumb broads have been wearing the wrong size article" they'll do something riddiculous like recommend Calvin Klein-only-up-to-a-Dcup-bras for "busty women" and tell them to hide their heft in a peasant top). Anyway. I should go to sleep! Sorry to hijack.

Jacalicious said...

I love your comments on bra sizing being something we work together on - we women need to raise eachother up - take back something that was forced upon us by a patriarchy, reclaim it, and do it better. Next up, women's magazines and their bullshit "help" stories, wherein all they achieve is spreading misinformation and fear about our own bodies. Fuck them and thier Calvin Klien d cup bras for "fuller bosoms". They can shove them up their asses, where those "supportive" halter bathingsuits already are.