No Bra Day

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No Bra Day
No Bra Day.jpg
No Bra Day October 13
Date(s) October 13 (during National Breast Cancer Awareness Month)
Frequency Annual
Location(s) World-wide
Established July 9, 2011 (2011-07-09)
Website No Bra Day

No Bra Day is an annual observance on October 13 on which women are encouraged to forgo wearing a bra as a means to encourage breast cancer awareness. No Bra Day was initially observed on July 9, 2011, but within three years it had moved to October 13, the month of National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Users on social media are encouraged to post using the hashtag #nobraday to promote awareness of breast cancer symptoms and to encourage gender equality. Some users on social media sites also encourage women to post pictures of themselves not wearing a bra. Some women embrace No Bra Day as a political statement while others prefer the comfort of discarding what they view as a restrictive, uncomfortable garment.

The observance has spread worldwide. The event was spun off a medical event in Toronto, Canada, that encourages breast cancer survivors to consider reconstructive surgery. First held on October 19, 2011, the medical event was named BRA (Breast Reconstruction Awareness) Day. It was adapted by an anonymous individual who conceived of No Bra Day as a way to encourage women to enjoy being braless and to become knowledgeable about breast cancer symptoms. The day is controversial as some see it as sexualizing and exploiting women's bodies while at the same time belittling a serious disease.

Origins[edit]

Event origins[edit]

The original event known as "BRA Day" was started by Toronto plastic surgeon Dr. Mitchell Brown. The first BRA Day event, titled "Breast Reconstruction – An Evening of Learning and Sharing", was held in Toronto, Canada at Women's College Hospital and Toronto General Hospital on October 19, 2011.[1] Brown found that many Canadian women who underwent a mastectomy due to breast cancer resisted undergoing reconstructive surgery. He founded "Breast Reconstruction Awareness" (BRA) Day to increase women's awareness of the availability of reconstructive breast surgery.[2] BRA day is intended to raise awareness of breast cancer screening, alert women to breast cancer symptoms, and to encourage women to conduct regular self examinations. The event was adopted in the U.S. in 2012.[3]

As of September 2018, the BRA Day event devoted to educating women about reconstructive surgery, and hosted by the Canadian Cancer Society, continued to be held across Canada. BRA day is observed on different dates in different provinces of Canada during the month of October.[4]

The origin of No Bra Day can be traced back to the first BRA Day held in Toronto, in 2011. In July that year, an anonymous individual using the name Anastasia Doughnuts conceived of No Bra Day and published the first website promoting the event.[5][6][7]

Cultural genesis[edit]

Women have protested the physical and cultural restrictions imposed by bras over many years. In 1966, during the height of the hippie era in San Francisco, two women students at San Francisco State College protested a proposed law that would require women to wear bras by walking topless near the campus.[8][9] On August 1, 1969, an Anti-Bra Day was declared in San Francisco to protest societal pressure to wear constrictive, feminine garments. The protest drew large crowds, blocking traffic, and a few women took their bras off from under their clothing in the Financial District.[10][11] In 1968, feminists organized a protest at the Miss America Contest and tossed a number of feminine products in a garbage can. A newspaper headline erroneously stated that the women had burned their bras.[12] That protest has been interpreted as a rejection of society's perception of women's bodies and dress requirements. During the 1970s women wore what they wanted without regard for political correctness. During the last two decades of the 20th century, bras expressed both professionalism and, due to the attention given a pink satin conical bra worn by Madonna, sexual freedom.[13]

No Bra Day[edit]

Beginnings in social media[edit]

The first No Bra Day event was created by an anonymous internet user self-named "Anastasia Doughnuts" for July 9, 2011[5][13] and was observed on that date through 2013.[14] In 2013 and 2014, social media posts announced both July 9 and October 13 as No Bra Day.[15][16] Since 2015, the event has only been promoted on October 13. The event was initially described, in part, as:[5][17]

Boobies are Fantastic… We all think so. And what better way to express the way we feel than to support a full day of boobie freedom?? ...
Women are magnificent creatures, and so are their breasts. Let us spend the day unleashing boobies from their boobie zoos.
**Breast Cancer is something you should take seriously and be checked for.**

The announcement was later reposted on a Facebook page promoting the event.[14] October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and by 2014 the official day of the event was moved to October 13, during which women are urged to forgo wearing a bra.[18][19][20] An increasing number of women, especially millennials, have expressed opposition to and are giving up wearing bras.[21]

Participation[edit]

In 2012, about 400,000 individuals took part, 250,000 of those on Facebook.[14] As of 2017 the day was observed by women in 30 countries,[22] including New Zealand, Romania, Malaysia, Scotland, India, and Ghana.[23][24][25][26][27] Women are urged after taking off their bra to give themselves a breast exam.[28] On social media, women are encouraged to go braless and to post photos using the hashtag #nobraday.[29] More than 82,000 women posted pictures on Twitter and Instagram in 2017.[30] Women who choose not to go braless and men are encouraged to wear something purple on that day. Some sites suggest that participants donate to breast cancer charities.[31] A Romanian photographer capitalized on the idea and published an album of photos depicting braless women.[27]

Impact on fashion[edit]

Many celebrities world-wide have been seen braless in public for a number of years.[32][33][34] A increasing number of women are following their example. Fewer women are buying push-up style bras. Some are choosing an unstructured, wireless soft cup bralette, and some choose to go bra free altogether. Victoria's Secret's parent company L Brands Inc. derives about one-third of its earnings from bras, and in 2016, its revenues were down nearly 30%.[21] Capitalizing on the trend, companies had begun offering clothing designed to advertise that the wearer is not wearing a bra, or fashions designed to take advantage of the no bra look.[35][36] Some women choose to go braless to wear fashions that would otherwise expose straps and to create a streamlined silhouette.[37]

No official sponsorship[edit]

The unofficial No Bra Day is not recognized by any cancer research organization or is formally part of National Breast Cancer Awareness Month.[38][39] Some critics have described the event as being "purely sexual".[40] The event does not directly raise money for cancer research or prevention, although individuals are in some cases encouraged to support such causes.[41]

Feminist connection[edit]

Some participants connect not wearing a bra to feminist protests like those at the 1968 Miss America protest. There, protesters symbolically threw a number of feminine products including bras into a "Freedom Trash Can".[42] They described the items as "instruments of female torture"[43] and accouterments of what they perceived to be enforced femininity. The protest gained notoriety when a local news story in the Atlantic City Press erroneously reported that "the bras, girdles, falsies, curlers, and copies of popular women's magazines" were burned.[12][44]:109–110 Some feminist activists believe that anti-feminists used the protesters' suggestion of going braless to trivialize what the women were trying to accomplish and to minimize the importance of the feminist movement in general.[45][46][47]

Some feminists who support the idea of using No Bra Day to raise awareness of breast cancer are concerned with the sexualization of the #nobraday hashtag in social media.[48] In the Philippines, the observance is seen as a day to advance the cause of gender equality. One journalist supported No Bra Day, saying that it "asserts femininity and our appreciation of who we are as a woman... The bra symbolizes how women are being held in bondage".[49] The observance and its connections to gender equality has drawn comparisons with the Go Topless women's rights movement and Go Topless Day, a protest in which women assert their legal right to go both braless and shirtless.[50][51][52][53]

Criticism[edit]

Going braless during the current decade has according to some been politicized by No Bra Day,[54] and the association between going braless and breast cancer screening has drawn criticism.[55][56][57]

Sexualization vs. disease[edit]

The tabloid website TMZ posted an item about "Happy No Bra Day" with an image of Selena Gomez wearing a see-through top. Another site featured a photo gallery titled "#NoBraDay: 15 Celebs Who Frolick About With Their Fun Bags Freed".[58] One of the issues with the concept is that breast cancer survivors who use prosthetics must wear a bra to conceal their disfigurement or wear prosthetics and inserts in their bra to make them appear "normal".[48][59] Some critics have described the event as sexualizing and exploiting women’s bodies while at the same time belittling a serious disease.[38][14][41][60][61][62]

Jean Sachs, CEO of Living Beyond Breast Cancer, thinks No Bra Day is offensive. "I mean breast cancer is a life-threatening illness. It has nothing to do with wearing a bra or not wearing a bra." Gayle Sulik, founder and executive director of the Breast Cancer Consortium, said, "But we don't really pay attention to what's going on with breast cancer. That's a hugely damaging impact of this sort of message".[63]

In New Zealand, the New Zealand Breast Cancer Foundation attempted to repeat the success of a Scottish television breast cancer awareness campaign that educated women about the appearance of their breasts. It featured comedienne Elaine C. Smith showing pictures of typical breasts displaying cancer symptoms.[64] But New Zealand's Commercial Approval Bureau would have likely given the ad showing breasts and nipples for medical purposes an Adults Only classification, requiring it to be broadcast after 8:30 pm.[65] The Breast Cancer Foundation opted to place objects strategically in front of the nipples instead.[64]

Personal decision[edit]

One writer criticized the Facebook site's message "P.S. Ladies…. Wearing a white t-shirt on this day is not only acceptable, but encouraged!" as objectifying women's bodies. Some women resist the attempt to politicize their decision to not wear a bra or fetishize their breasts for a cause.[14] One woman commented, "The reason is that I tried being braless, and I liked it better. It wasn't a political decision, except insofar as everything a woman does with her body that isn't letting someone else dictate what she ought to do with it is a political decision".[54][66]

References[edit]

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External links[edit]