Cranky Fat Feminist Speaks

liberal feminist from the south who ran away to college in the mid-west, and quickly retreated back after my four years were up. trying to save the world one picture book at a time; attempting to live healthier to lose weight, but without giving up beer. challenging the idea that “big is beautiful” as well as what I’ve learned and experienced about women, gender, and feminism from my time in college as well as my time in West Africa. pissed about the apathy of the world, ready to create change one mind at a time.

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Friday, January 20, 2012

[feminist] mass produced bras and my breast reduction surgery

In response to:
Brumberg, Joan Jacobs. “Breast Buds and the ‘Training’ Bra.” 1977. Women’s Voices, Feminist Visions: Classic and Contemporary Readings, 4th edition. 249-254.

Before reading this I had no idea that the first bra was created in 1913, “designed simply to flatten,” and that the more current/modern bra came about in the 1930’s (Brumberg 250). The concept of the bra is so new yet so universal now. Mass production and mass media are so influential in society, and the bra is a prime example. With mass production came sizing—A, B, C, D, the infamous DD, and the realm of un-tamed breasts even larger. (As a person who once wore the “more than a DD,” I know firsthand the impossibility of buying a bra in a department store that will be the correct size.) I was still in middle school when I made the transition to “larger than my mother” and up to DD, and had to face the realization that I wasn’t just larger than normal, larger than my peers, but I was freakishly, abnormally larger than society as a whole. For years I wore two minimizer bras at a time in an effort to “tame” my breasts even more, as they continued to grow. I was known as “jugs” for years in high school before I had breast reduction surgery, after which I spent my final year in baggy shirts so that no one would I know that I had “gotten my tits cut off.”  (which to this day people perceive as a “tragedy” despite the fact that it was practically a medical necessity)

The physical pain I had from wearing underwire bras aimed at “taming” my breasts has always led me to wonder why anyone would wear a AAA or AA (or even an A) bra when to me they so obviously don’t need one. But with stores and brands like Victoria’s Secret a AAA girl can wear a bra that makes her look like she has real B-size breasts. (I’ve always wondered how disappointed the boyfriend is once the bra comes off?) 

The concept of “teenage breast management” developed in the 1950’s by male doctors (I would also like to call them pedophiles) is absolutely sick and totally bullshit (Brumberg 251). The medical world has been cutting people open and examining them for hundreds of years, and obviously know that breasts are held up by more than skin, and are going to sag no matter how great your bra is, and how often you wear it. These doctors were either funded by the bra-industry or had lots of sons looking for perky-breasted women to marry. And the “boob check” sounds horrifying. No one’s breasts are perfectly symmetrical , proportional, with mirror-image nipples. No one should chart your “breast development” to promote the idea that you need huge boobs to breast feed the children you make with your perfect husband. (Were they doing “penis development checkups”? NOPE. I’d personally be a bit more concerned with whether or not my son was becoming a man than if my daughter had the perfectly-growing boobs to go with her period.)

Junior figure control? (Brumberg 251) Great, if you want to wear spanx at the age of 40, I’m all for it. If you want your 14 year old daughter to wear some spanx to make her look slimmer, you’ve clearly not questioned your daughter’s pediatrician properly. Through the mass-marketing of spanx (and knock off spanx) I’ve managed to buy a few pairs myself in my efforts to look slimmer and “fit in” better. (PS- fail.)Through the media and my own lovely mother I managed to spend middle and high school larger than most of my peers and desperate to find solutions to fit in to the stereotypical  image of the ideal high schooler. In the 1950’s junior figure control companies provided “free purse-size booklets on calorie counting”—way to go making the world feel fat by the age of twelve (253). 

In the back of magazines there are always sketchy ads for dating sites, making your long hair more beautiful (you know, the white girl hair that you can flip), and making your tiny boobs bigger. There were never any creams or exercising for making your breasts smaller. The song “I must, I must, I must develop my bust” (Brumberg 253) I learned in 5th grade, as the song “I must, I must, I must increase my bust.” Way to make the mosquito-bite girls feel like crap about themselves. 

I did not wear a B bra until after my surgery—my mother refused to let me wear more than a tank top until I was clearly, desperately in need of something more to cover my breasts in order to fit in at school... she waited until I was a full C. This was how she grew up (a conservative Southern Baptist). This also meant that I was not allowed to have colored, polka dotted, or lacy bras. Not that they made those in 36DD, 36DDD, 38DDD, 38-“hm. Big...” The very first bra that I bought for myself was light blue with a tiny peephole between my breasts. It cost me $20, and had no underwire and held my breasts perfectly. It didn’t cost me $50, squish me until I couldn’t breathe, and come in an ugly nude grandma style. (I know, I’m perpetuating age-ism, but that’s the only way I can put it…) FOR THE FIRST TIME SINCE THE AGE OF NINE I FELT LIKE I FIT IN; I WORE A BRA THAT DIDN’T RESTRICT MY BREATHING; AND I WORE A BRA THAT I FELT BEAUTIFUL IN. 


  1. I'm a large-breasted woman, and I have lots of pretty bras. I think maybe your mom just didn't take you to the right places. Oh, yeah...I refuse to wear underwires. I think they're torture devices. And they aren't necessary--even for large-breasted women.

    1. Actually, as another DD+er, I've got to say that I love underwires - if they fit well. I find them really comfortable because they LET me breath and KEEP me cooler underneath. It's the jogging gravity I don't like.

      Everybody's body is different - and we've all got to find things that make us happy about them and feel comfortable with ourselves.

  2. My mother definitely failed in the taking me to the right store to get bras department... my father actually bought me my first bra (a sports bra, but still, my first bra). Mother was upset because it was hot pink. No lie.
    Where do you buy bras now?

    1. Breakout bras in sc. They r online too. Never felt better!

    2. I recently lost 30 pounds and my old bras didn't fit. I spent an hour trying on 30 bras in Walmart just finding the right size - which is when I realized my old bras hadn't fit either. I bought two I liked that were pretty, then went to and searched for bras in my size and sampled them until I found some pretty ones I liked in my size. I haven't felt so comfortable or looked so good in years.

  3. I am 66, and have never been over a D cup (and that is mostly fat!). When I am at a healthy weight, I am a B cup. But my mother was born in 1914 in Arkansas as a Southern Baptist, and she told me that as a teenager she bound her breasts so they would not be so apparent. I only remember that her breasts sagged very badly, and she told me that was because all the muscles had been affected by the tight bindings she had worn.

  4. I'm a 36 D and I recently discovered the wonderous freedom of going braless. So far I've only done so during my days off, or at the store. I'm not brave enough to go to work or school with no bra, but goodness gracious. I thought bras were preventing me from worse backaches... turns out, though, that my bras were causing me pain.

    I used to be terrified that because of my size, that my breasts would sag when I got older. That was when I was 15. Now I'm 21 and I've realized... sagging isn't wrong. I hope that eventually I'm brave enough to go braless at work because boobie jail is probably the worst thing ever!

  5. I think most women routinely wear the wrong size bras. We don't get fitted, we just buy off the rack. Wearing the right size makes a big difference in comfort.

    Recently though, there was a story about how scientists have found that women who don't wear bras have less saggy (for lack of a better way to put it!) breasts. Something about the bras making the muscles that are there to support the breasts lazy basically so they don't support as they should. Of course if you've always worn a bra you can't just stop now, it's too late. But younger women, if they just don't put one on....

  6. I always got fitted for all of my bras (until the last year or so, when I've stopped wearing underwire). They were all definitely the right size, except that my boobs were two different sizes-- so it was always the correct size for one boob... sigh.