Policing Girls’ Bodies Part One: Bras

Although middle school was my first experience with the scandal of exposed bra straps, it wasn’t my last. I remember waiting in line with my dad at the grocery store when I was fifteen when I felt a hand on my shoulder, pulling the sleeve of my t-shirt that had slipped back onto my shoulder. A middle-aged woman standing behind me had pulled it up, letting me know with an implied “tsk, tsk” that my bra strap was exposed. I thanked her, but internally wondered why the strap was so offensive that the woman felt the need not only to point it out, but to cover it herself.

This experience isn’t unique to my school, my town, or even my country. This is an issue that girls around the world have most likely encountered at some point. For example, at Menihek High School and Fisher Park Public School in Canada in 2014, girls were sent home for visible bra straps because they made the staff “uncomfortable” and were “distracting” the male students. 

Why are bra straps so scandalous? Is it that they remind the public that we, god forbid, are wearing bras? One of my favorite things I’ve seen online is a post originally from Tumblr that reads: “‘Your bra is showing,’ you say. Children begin to scream. Tears are streaming down my face. My parents disown me and sell me to a shady, moustached man for three goats. No one can ever know I wear a bra.” The post perfectly points out through sarcasm society’s strangely archaic view of bras. Most women wear bras, mostly for practical reasons, yet society sexualizes them to such an extent that even a bra strap must remain hidden. Although the myth of 1960s feminists burning their bras has been found to be false (they actually just threw them in trash cans), one can still empathize with the frustration around bras as a symbol that might lead feminists to do so. 

Read “Policing Girls’ Bodies Part Two: Legs” here.

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