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
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.
Labels: Culture, Environment, Personal, Social Justice