It’s Just Another Harness

Last night I met a girlfriend for dinner at our favorite Thai restaurant, but before I left the house I had a media/news/information meltdown.  It turns out Heisman leading man Jameis Winston will not face a rape charge; not enough evidence, reported too late, refusal of a police interview, can’t find the witnesses, etc…  Then there’s Microsoft and the bra that’s going to help women — because apparently we need the help — to not overeat by putting a sensor in buckles and straps that we already hate wearing.

Grandma Ann and baby Teri 1965Tomorrow would have been my grandmother’s 94th birthday.  Grandma hated bras.  When I was little, I laughed at the jokes she would make about bras, how she would call them “harnesses” and that they must have been made by men, how after her breast cancer and mastectomy (that no one mentioned because it was unmentionable) she stopped wearing a bra at home.

Refused to wear it even when the priest came to give my grandfather communion.  Refused to wear it when my young uncles brought their friends over.  Refused to wear it when company was coming for Christmas.  Just refused.

I remember feeling so embarrassed for her back then.  How could she stand (and ignore) the stares?  The shame of that one dangling breast under her housecoat.

If I could talk to her now I’d tell her how bold, how brave she was.  And I can’t help but wonder what she’d think of our latest, new and not so new, harnesses, and how far we haven’t come.

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13 thoughts on “It’s Just Another Harness

  1. tdapra

    Thanks for this, Teri. It really is strange how sexualized breasts are, when you stop to think about it. Learning to nurse a baby was a revelation for me, and against eveything my intellect understood, it wasn’t without initial feelings of shame. But my body transformed from an object trying to meet society’s unreachable expectations of beauty to being something really and truly useful, something pragmatic and magical, something that transformed an underweight newborn into a healthy and flourishing baby.

    Here’s another amazing video about gender and advertising that I use in class: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HaB2b1w52yE

    1. Teri Post author

      Of course now I also see the 9 babies she fed, and how she felt tethered to the house. My grandfather did not allow her to drive a car, as women who drove cars “were out whoring.” I feel like she took off her bra permanently in comfort, but also as one of the few ways she could protest.

  2. Josey

    I don’t know that I’ve ever said this aloud to anyone and definitely haven’t posted on the world wide webs before, but I used to have really great boobs. at least, i loved them. they were the right size, you know? and looked good under a t-shirt, even w/out a bra. and damned if filling them with milk didn’t shoot that to hell. they got HUGE when I was breastfeeding. Like so big, I would sit on the bed with a newborn in my lap, topless and sobbing, “look at them,” i would cry to my husband, “these are never going to be normal again…not without surgery.” which, by the way, i still haven’t ruled out.

    isn’t it comforting to know this about your grandmother now as an adult? to know she was finally able to flip the middle finger to at least one of the bullshit conventions branded on our female brains? (Rule #486: never let anyone see you without proper undergarments, even when wearing house robes.) And those bras, back then. dear lord, they were hideous, and I imagine scratchy. and all that underwire, which you know probably always ended up poking through that material that looked like the same material they use to make box springs mattresses.

    1. Teri Post author

      And how hard is it to fully explain this complicated phenomenon to someone who doesn’t wear a bra? Before I needed one myself, I certainly remember my mother’s and grandmother’s in the laundry — the thick, quilted material, the rough edges and hard wires, the misshapen straps from too many years of wear.

  3. Averil Dean

    This video has officially depressed the hell out of me. I’m such a part of the problem.

    That picture, on the other hand? Warm fuzzies. Those sweet little mary janes!

  4. Suzy Vitello

    I love looking at pictures of beautiful women. What’s hideous is having to also look at fast food being shoved in their mouths by some prick who equates the artistry of feminine shape with unquenchable, greed and the instant gratification that lard and salt provide.

    Good for your grandmother and her personal comfort trumping normative mandates of propriety.

    1. Suzy Vitello

      Okay, that sentence… Jesus. What I meant to say was What’s hideous is having to also look at fast food being shoved in their mouths by some prick who equates the artistry of feminine shape with the instant gratification that lard and salt provide.

  5. Annie Heath

    Thanks for sharing this Teri. I remember when my plastic surgeon and I were making the decision about what would replace my breasts after the surgery and I kept saying, “but I won’t have to wear a bra right?” I don’t think he has ever fully understood what I was saying. Not having to wear a bra was my reward for having gone through so much.

    1. Teri Post author

      The word “he” might be the operative term here. How can you understand the “having the wear a bra” issue if you’ve never had to wear one?

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