Tuesday, July 31, 2007,8:46 AM
The Bra Issue
It has been an interesting experience the past few days to read the reactions to the "My Search for a Justice Bra" article (posted here and here at the God's Politics Blog). There are a couple of things that I want to respond to here, but first the part that caused the most controversy - why did I write about bras for the whole world to see?

Most simply because it was true. It was a true story based on the fact that I really needed a new bra, but it became amusing because of the oddity of writing about a bra. I expected people to smile at the situation and move on. But that proved too difficult for some. Apparently there are a lot of men out there who have the maturity level of a junior high boy when the subject of women and their bodies is brought up (no offense to jr. high boys intended...). Bras are for breasts and the only purpose of those is for sex - or so some seem to believe.

I think I should clarify before I go much further. I have issues with the way the secular media and the Christian church have oversexualized the female body. Of course the body has sexual aspects, but that is a limited and not holistic view. Our bodies are wonderful creations that should be appreciated and cared for. Too often we see them only as shells to be starved and carved into cultural definitions of sexual attractiveness. If the natural functionings of the body don't aid our sexiness, we hide (or seek to eliminate) them. As discussed recently over at Emerging Women, our menstrual cycles have become a thing to be feared and despised rather than celebrated and accepted. Same thing with breasts. They have become so associated with being a sex object that their natural function for breastfeeding has become taboo for many. Hence the issue with bras. For me a bra is just a part of everyday life. Oh, yes, they can serve a sexually charged function, but as one of the basic everyday parts of life I found it appropriate to see if I could bring environmental stewardship and ethical consumption into that area of my life.

But as a few of the reactions to the story demonstrate, there are some who do not think such a thing is possible. Oh there were those who resorted to cleavage and support jokes - lighthearted attempts to deal with the uncomfortable, but there were others who assumed that I could not possibly be serious about justice issues because I was talking about a bra. Some went so far as to claim that I was a right-wing critic who must be making fun of people who care about justice since I dared to talk about bras. Apparently anything remotely sexual cannot be taken seriously. (which is kinda the whole problem with women only been seen as sex objects and therefore not being taken seriously...).

The point of my search for a justice bra was to see if I could live holistically. To see if I could care for the environment, care for the poor and the oppressed, and be a conscientious consumer. Doing such things requires one to be aware - to consider where and how plants are grown, to think about the long term impact of dyes on the environment and our health, to care for the people who had to work with those chemicals or make my clothes. Our food and clothing does not magically appear in the stores - it all has a story, often a tragic and painful story. Being aware of that story and seeking to improve it is just part of what it means for me to let Christian values influence all areas of my life. But I also see living holistically to include accepting and being comfortable with my body. To care for its needs and not to fear the parts that men have defined in ways that divorce them from their natural function. I do not want to clothe myself with harmful chemicals or dump unnatural hormones into my system. I also don't want my body to be commoditized by men who think it is only useful as a sex object. So I will not shy away from discussing natural and normal aspects of life. And that includes bras.

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posted by Julie at 8:46 AM ¤ Permalink ¤


  • At 7/31/2007 09:32:00 AM, Blogger PrincessMax

    Woohoo! Perfectly stated. How rediculous people are to think that we should live accordingly to God's plan - which usually involves loving all of the people that support our lifestyle - except for the lifestyle that involves our "dirty parts."

    Thank you for not accepting their limited definition of your (and my) body as taboo.

  • At 7/31/2007 09:40:00 AM, Anonymous sonja

    Rock on, sister!!h

  • At 7/31/2007 09:49:00 AM, Blogger Wendy

    Way to go Julie ... I thought the articles were a great way to illustrate how difficult it really is to live according to environmental and fair trade standards in all parts of our lives ... even those we hardly ever talk about.

    And how utterly (pun intended) ignorant to think that women's breasts are only about sex. (and even if they were ... what would be so bad about that?) Maybe next time, we could have a man write about the frustrations of finding an environmentally friendly and fairly made condom :) ... ok ... I'm done.

  • At 7/31/2007 11:09:00 AM, Blogger Erin

    Bravo! I thought the articles were great and I learned something valuable, too!

  • At 7/31/2007 01:51:00 PM, Blogger kent

    Well put and don't stop. Which brings up a good point, how do you find clothes that are justice oriented? I hate shopping so I go to the stores that I know have clothes in my size and are easy to get to. I run grab what looks reasonable and get out. So how do you find clothes that are compassionate and not supportvie of abusive practices?

  • At 7/31/2007 07:58:00 PM, Blogger Julie

    Thanks all.

    Kent - while some cities have stores for stuff like that, I find that I have to do most shopping on the internet to find ethical items.

  • At 8/02/2007 01:51:00 PM, Anonymous Natalie


    Check out Decent Exposures - a bra and more company made by women and for women in Seattle. You can get bras made out of green cotton, plus, they sell the most comfortable bras I've ever worn!


  • At 8/03/2007 07:40:00 AM, Blogger paul

    it's an interesting point you raise julie - how much of our eroticised culture has emphasised the sexuality of a woman's breasts - often with the collaboration of women who refuse to be oppressed with the breasts for milk/mother stereo type on the one hand and with the freedom to dam well do with their bodies want they want on the other.

    I'm not surprised that a lot of christian men therefore don't know how to handle the issue of bras/ breasts and therefore retreat to the perptual safety of the last time that sort of confusion existed, somewhere/time around 12.

    Thanks for writing the article, i wonder if there is something on the justice of sexuality that will also have a result where we can begin as men and women to mature a bit and not stay stuck at 12 :)

  • At 8/03/2007 09:07:00 PM, Anonymous Kyra

    The level of misogyny in their comments was overwhelming. For whatever reason, I expected better. I suppose economics, ethics and justice are matters best left to those men. It just irks me to no end that they could be so dismissive. These are foundational garments. Why would these men even think about bras besides wanting to ogle ladies in them let alone the ethics involved? It's for this reason that women should take the initiative such as you have done, to start a dialog about such matters. If we don't, no one will.

    Your piece was wonderful and informative. Recently I decided to not buy any clothes that aren't made by my thumb or second-hand for about 6 months (having recently graduated, I've got some time to spare). It had never occurred to me that it was even possible to buy a bra that was made ethically. Thanks.


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