Today is National No Bra Day. I found this out, as many have, thanks to my Facebook newsfeed. "Do I dare?" asked my friend who forwarded the announcement to let it all hang out.
I didn't realize that in 2012 going bra-free required was such a big deal but maybe I underestimated the symbolism of the bra these days.
For the second year in a row,
a Facebook group has deemed July 9th a good time to "free your breasts." Launched by an anonymous internet user self-titled "Anastasia Doughnuts," the cause has women of all bra sizes a bit befuddled. Is it an homage to bra-burners of the '60s? A grassroots breast cancer awareness program?
"The thinking behind this event was to spread breast cancer awareness and make sure everyone involved enjoys themselves," Anastasia told Yahoo! Shine in an email.
But aside from a line at the bottom of the group's mission statement ("Breast Cancer is something you should take seriously and be checked for") there seem to be no other references, links or information about illness. There is however, a lot of references to "boobies!"
The bulk of the group's explanation is as follows: "Ladies, it does not matter if your boobies are the perkiest things in America, or if they touch the soil you walk on… Those puppies need to breathe. On July 9th, spend 24 hours unleashing those magnificent breasts from their boobie zoos....yay boobies!"
The response has largely been lighthearted. Lots of "lols" and exclamation points. Some women have expressed a giddy relief at the idea of a condoned day without support. "9 months preggo and its HOT!! I wouldn't dream of putting one on. Hope all the ladies participating are super comfy today," writes a Facebook commenter.
It's been a while since the idea of going bra-free was controversial. Bra-burning of the late '60s was a rejection of the structured perception of women's bodies and social obligations. The '70s was a time of letting it all hang out regardless of your political views.
But by the '80s and '90s, bras were a mixed message of professionalism and, thanks to Madonna's conical contraption, sexual freedom. In 1999, when World Cup winner Brandi Chaisten threw off her shirt after her winning kick, the sports bra became a "symbolic of a new kind of woman: athletic, strong, confident," writes Robin Ghivan in the Daily Beast.
Today, the bra is simply what you wear to work, and working is the freedom so many bra-burners of the '60s were fighting for. Just ask Tina Fey, big-time boss and feminist heroine of the new millennium. "This is what I tell young women who ask me for career advice....I encourage them to always wear a bra," Fey writes in Bossypants. "Even if you don't think you need it, just…you know what? You're never going to regret it."
With more women in power positions taking Fey's advice, the bra has become an unspoken requirement put upon by other women. For proof, see Seinfeld's Elaine, who fumed over the "bra-less wonder" her male friends couldn't quit ogling.
So the question remains, what's the message of a national bra free day?
The best guess for campaign is that it's something like New York's topless women's rights movement, a protest each August in New York City when women assert their legal right to go shirtless.
But today's No Bra Day takes place primarily on the web rather than in person, and calls for worldwide proof of bra-less-ness via photos. Wait, what?
"Ladies…. Wearing a white t-shirt on this day is not only acceptable, but encouraged!"
For those who want to submit topless pictures that aren't Facebook-friendly, the group set up a separate website, boasting about 125 plus members. By mid-day today the site was temporarily down due to bandwidth issues. Blame the onslaught of half-nude self-portraits posted by real women and large number of male members joining the site by the minute.
One in particular, with the username Graydog, described his affiliation with No Bra Day like this: "[I'm] just a web surfer who loves boobies, big ones small ones in between size."
How to go bra-less this summer
Is the bra top trend wearable?
The scientific key to the perfect sports bra