Over the shoulder boulder holders

At £30 a pop, I won't be burning mine.

Last night, on Playing It Straight, the boys were challenged to the “Bralympics“. In this task, they had to go along a line of women (and one man), removing the bra that each was wearing. Their vision blocked by a pair of joke glasses, the winner was whoever could unhook the bras fastest.

Somehow, in some production staff member’s mind, this would be a test of who is straight and who is gay. The logic, it seems, is that straight guys would have past experience with bras. Their attraction to women would have given them more opportunities to unhook bras and therefore more expertise in the task.

The oldest contestant, 27-year-old Dean, won the challenge, but it wasn’t as if any of them was stood there for 20 minutes, pawing helplessly at some woman’s back. (Although there’s a minor continuity issue — the strapless bra is a different colour for some of the guy — so I do wonder if one of them got the bra off by tearing it.)

I understand that this is all light entertainment, and by no means a scientific way of testing sexual orientation. The idea that every straight man is Joey Tribbiani, though, just strikes me as odd.

The pop culture representation of men and bras is extensive. Even within Friends, the various relationships of men and bras is discussed at length. Joey instructs Phoebe to show Chandler her bra because he’s afraid of them, not knowing how they work. Yet Joey can unhook a bra almost by sight. In The King of Queens, Doug is criticised for spending too much time trying to unhook Carrie’s bra, not realizing in the process that it was a front closure.

That was another thing that surprised me last night. Despite having four bras to unhook, the biggest difference between them was that one didn’t have straps. The bra closures were all the same — a few hooks in the back. There wasn’t even a massive difference in the number of hooks. The bras were decoration more than function.

There are all sorts of bra politics. The sexual revolution of various waves of feminism have taken bras off of women. They are portrayed as being an item of sexualization, as some perverted shackle placed upon us by men. You know what? They aren’t.

The wearing or non-wearing of a bra becomes a source of bullying in the pubescent years, and it has nothing to do with the boys. I have distinct memories of an older girl running her hand down our spines, checking for the feel of a bra. Those who didn’t have one got bullied and called babies or something equally clever. Only a year earlier, though, one girl’s wearing of a training bra was mocked. Girls are bitches at that age. You can’t win.

A bra is a necessity for some of us. A bra isn’t a chastity belt for the boobs. It isn’t the gateway to some hidden sex toy. It serves a function — one that I’m really quite thankful for. A bra is a symbol of the feminine, true enough. But it isn’t the evidence of anything other than boobs.

And, contrary to the cultural idea, it isn’t an innate skill of the hyperhetero male to remove them. There are bras that I struggle to get off, where a hook is being pesky. I’ve had a past bra that got thrown away pretty quickly when, on more than one occasion, it popped open with any of a number of normal daily tasks including, but not limited to, reaching down, reaching up, being hugged, and leaning back in a chair.

Yet here we are, once again, watching a parade of 20-something boys fumble about with four bras, claiming that a certain type of manual dexterity is somehow equal to being heterosexual.

As a final point, I refer to one of the greatest television comedies of all time, Seinfeld. The bra features regularly throughout the series, both in terms of male understanding of and female attitudes towards the bra. Here, though, is the ultimate breakdown of the concept that bras are innately feminine… I give you, the bro.

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About jeninher30s

A writer and procrastinator.

4 responses to “Over the shoulder boulder holders”

  1. Jill says :

    Well written. I’d burn my bra, but just because I hate to need one.

  2. khristopia says :

    Hi! Before I go on a long-winded spiel on how much I agree with you, I just want to say I found your blog via a link you posted to an entry from a few months back on xojane. We seem so like minded, on that matter and others, that I thought I would comment to give you that acknowledgement that we all crave (so so true!)

    NOW – onto bra talk. In university I took a course that required conducting a “study” in everyday life involving changing something about our bodies. My change was going a few days without a bra on. Being as bust-endowed as I am that was a big step for me, and certainly noticeable by others. Each day I went with a different type of shirt – one tight, one average, and one very large and loose-fitting. I was to report on my personal observations about how I felt I had changed and I had a partner who hung around during this time and reported mostly on others’ reactions. The presentation and paper for this project also required some research on the subject, so of course I came across the debate on wearing versus not wearing bras, including righteous anti-bra crusaders who scream against heteronormative patriarchy, or even say that wearing one causes heart disease and cancer.

    But the conclusion that I came to with this “study” is that I am going to wear a bra every day for the rest of my life. It’s for comfort, it’s for security, and it’s for my own personal convenience. And I don’t need a guy who can unclip it quickly, because when I want it unclipped I’ll do it myself.

    (Plus, don’t you think that guys who cross-dress as a hobby would be better at unhooking bras? Heterosexuality seems pretty irrelevant.)

  3. jeninher30s says :

    That’s an awesome study and exactly my feelings. I marvel at people who tweet and FB things like ‘I forgot to put a bra on’. I don’t think I could possibly forget I wasn’t wearing one, and certainly wouldn’t get out the front door, into any sort of public area, and then have a ‘oops!’ realization about it.

    For me, it’s a pretty fundamental structural item, and even though by the end of the day I might be ready to whip it off and schlub on the sofa, I would be soooo uncomfortable to carry on with a normal day without one.

    One of my less endowed friends never understood the horrors of big boobs until she went bra shopping with me. While she found cute little sets, at every price point, I went from shop to shop finding nothing that I didn’t pour out of. When I did find a single, utilitarian bra it was about double the price of the two-bra set she was buying.

    At some point, I’ll have to document the absolute nightmare experience I had trying to find something to go under what was meant to be a strapless wedding dress (there were tears and self-hatred for even thinking I could pull it off). Since then, my undergarments are generally referred to as ‘scaffolding’.

    • khristopia says :

      Haha, “scaffolding” indeed. I can’t get bras in typical lingerie shops. Specialty lingerie shops have $150 pairs in the right size, but the only styles available are floral lace and just not my style (I’m all for simple, neutral colours for my milk cartons).

      Ugh, I won’t even get into my stubborn crusade to not wear a strapless bridesmaid dress. The conflict was not with the bride or the other bridesmaids. It was entirely with the seamstress, as I was determined to have straps added so I could still wear a bra.

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