Policing Girls’ Bodies Part One: Bras

Flickr.com, Caitlin Regan.

Flickr.com, Caitlin Regan.

I started wearing bras in seventh grade. I didn’t really need to—I was something like a 32AA—but it felt like at age 13, it was time. I remember how mature and grown up I felt walking down the bra aisle of Target with my mom, selecting the brightest, most ornately patterned bras I could find in my tiny size. She couldn’t understand my fascination with what she often called “boob prisons,” but bought me three. Come the spring, I would often wear shirts that exposed my tiny, 13 year old shoulders as well as (gasp) my hot pink bra straps. I wasn’t purposefully trying to show this new sign of womanhood off (okay, maybe a little), but I didn’t really understand that bra straps were something to be hidden until my Latin teacher held me after class one day.

“Ariel,” she said, “Your bra straps have been showing all class.” She looked at me expectantly. I gave her a blank look.

“Do you have anything you could change into? Maybe a sweater or something?”

I didn’t. She handed me a bright yellow piece of paper with “Dress Code Ticket” written in Comic Sans at the top and I went to the front office, where I was presented with a giant, purple shirt, what the lady at the office called the “disciplinary shirt” and what everyone else referred to as the “shirt of shame.” Throughout the rest of the day, when my classmates asked why I was wearing a shirt that went down to my knees I had to explain to them that my bra straps were distracting to other students. More distracting than an enormous purple shirt, apparently.