Bra sizes are not a competition.
I cringe when I see how quickly a comment thread on a “celebrity bra size” article or a bust-related post on Facebook can devolve into an “I have it worse than you” contest. An article will appear suggesting, say, some curve-friendly button-down shirts. Commenters will immediately chime in that they can’t wear button-downs, because they are too curvy. The first wears a 36DD. Another says “oh, yeah?” She “has it worse.” She wears a 28J. Another’s plight is sooo much worse, she wears a 38K. One wears a 30A, and she thinks everyone else needs to count their blessings and quit whining. One wears a 34C, she doesn’t believe that these other commenters’ bra sizes exist, as she has enough trouble finding clothes as it is, and these other commenters must have implants (and therefore deserve condemnation). Then the whole conversation devolves into a series of angry, hurt, sad, and confused protests. The final straw is that these commenters will almost all say “I’m A [Bra Size]” instead of “I Wear A [Bra Size]“, which we know bugs the bananas out of me.
It’s really tempting to join in, isn’t it? I know I’ve done it. I’ve joined a conversation with women discussing their struggles with their breasts, and I’ve dropped my full-bust size on them without warning, just to provoke a reaction. I did it . . . I don’t know why, actually. The self-righteous side of me says I did it to startle the other women, to show them that there are sizes beyond D-cups, to educate, like the Bra Band Project does. The more honest side of me says that I did it, frankly, to shame them. “You think you have it bad? Shut up. You don’t know what I suffer.”
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This week the Daily Mail published an article in which Linda Becker of Linda the Bra Lady fame allegedly claimed that modern bras are vanity-sized so that women feel like their boobs are bigger and their backs smaller than they really are. Now, look, call me crazy, but there is just the eensiest, tiniest chance that the Daily Mail exaggerated, sensationalized, and twisted Linda’s words to provoke emotional reactions and undermine the self-confidence of its women readers. This is a publication that red-pens every alleged flaw or indication of “excess” weight on a photo of a female celebrity while simultaneously concern-trolling celebrities who are “dangerously” or “scarily” thin. If you scroll down the sidebar on the Daily Mail site, most of the articles about female celebrities mention their age, bodies, weight, or some other physical attribute in the headline. So I’m not really inclined to respect their journalistic integrity, and considering Linda’s years of fitting experience and the incredibly vast range of sizes and styles she sells in her stores, I think it’s more likely that she was misquoted, or, at the very worst, that she misspoke. Update: Fussy Busty and Christina on Facebook directed me to the original article the Daily Mail appears to have used as its source, and to which, unfortunately, Linda proudly links on her own blog. It does in fact appear that her words are less benign than I’d hoped. Bummer. Claire at Butterfly Collection has a great post up that clearly explains, in detail, the differences between bras manufactured today and bras manufactured earlier in the 20th century, which goes some way towards explaining what I suspect Linda was trying to say (be sure to click on her link to an article breaking down the very term “vanity size”; it’s worth your while).
The Daily Mail article is an example of the sort of messages women are bombarded with every. damn. day. that lead to competitive negativity. We are told our bodies are all that matter about us, and we are taught to break them down, belittle them, judge them, qualify them. We compete to see who can break herself down the worst, and we internalize the messages that say we have flaws. We have problems. Other people have it easier. Our breasts are problematic. I even heard it once at S Factor, after two hours of beautiful dancing: “No, seriously, my boobs are a PROBLEM”, and it broke my heart into thousands of pieces. Our breasts, NO MATTER THEIR SHAPE, SIZE, COLOR, OR CONSISTENCY, are not problems. They’re human. Everyone has them at some point in their lives. True, some breasts are small, big, scarred, tired, augmented, reduced, young, old, cancerous, or leaking (holla new moms!), but we all have them. Every single one of us (dudes too). And if we can tune out the shenanigans like the Daily Mail article that try to plant the fear in our minds that the lingerie industry is appealing to our “vanity” to disguise the fact that we are in some way flawed and deluding ourselves, we can better accept our own beauty and others’.
Let’s challenge ourselves to stop comparing and stop competing. Let’s remember that we wear bra sizes, we are not bra sizes. Let’s remember that all the extra numbers and letters allow us to calibrate fit for literally hundreds of different sizes and shapes of women, and that those numbers and letters aren’t there to threaten or challenge or insult or define or confine us. Someone has never heard of a G-cup, and thinks you’re exaggerating? Someone tells you your small breasts “don’t count”? Someone needs to look around and get a life.
Bra sizes are not a competition, because we all have a bra size. We all win. Competing for the best or worse is illogical. True, you may find some things more difficult than another woman, but please remember that the degree of your struggles does not diminish any struggles she may face, and to imply that it does is hurtful and unfair. Let’s change the conversation. Let’s keep it positive, and let’s keep it encouraging.
P.S. It’s October, and it’s Breast Cancer Awareness month. The single most important thing you need to do this month, even more important than wearing pink or posting something on Facebook, is to perform a breast self-exam, encourage others to do the same, and make it a habit. I’m TERRIBLE about remembering to do this, but let’s all do it, and remind our friends to do it, too. Breast cancer affects boobs of every shape, size, and age, and dudes aren’t exempt either. Take care of your spirits, and take care of your boobs.