Every girl knows the struggle- going to Victoria’s Secret and trying to find the cheapest yet cutest bras. Going back and forth from the shelves to the retail workers. Why do we do this? For appeal? Acceptance? Status?

This article is not a critique on bras. I have nothing against bras. This is a critique on society’s standards of how a woman should be and act.

From the beginning of puberty, I was wired by others to think that it was a crime for my nipples to show through my shirts. A woman figure in my life was also not within close reach, so I had a harder time understanding everything. When I did start wearing training bras in 6th grade, an older female relative yelled at me saying I was “too young” to be wearing bras. Although I tried to explain that I would get weird looks in the locker room if you didn’t, she continued. Her husband was in the same room. He looked up, and said nothing. My cheeks burned bright red. All I felt was shame, confusion, and embarrassment.

I couldn’t win. I was playing a game that I didn’t even know the rules of. So, everyday for years, I wore ill-fitting bras that left marks around my bust.

This unrequited obsession quickly escalated. I took in a lot of bras, even if I sacrificed my comfort in doing so. 6th grade was the first and last time I questioned my actions. I did and lived without thinking, because I thought it was the only way a girl should live.

A few years ago, the #freethenipple movement caught a fire on social media. When a #freethenipple post popped up on my explore page, I flinched at the sight of uncovered nipples. Nipples that provide milk for babies. Nipples that tend to every mammal’s basic needs. Nipples that I have.

Later that night, I texted my friend regarding the post and I said, “This idea is nice and all, but I don’t think it will become an actual thing. Our society is too judgmental and strict.”

At the time, that was all I thought, so I dropped the conversation. Until now.

I’ve spent 4/5 of this summer braless. Whenever I find the chance to avoid putting on a bra, I do. Trader Joe’s wouldn’t mind, people are too busy trying to find organic kale, I thought.

Black shirts make it harder for other people to see my nipples. 

Thank god I’m home alone. 

I am so thankful for the #freethenipple post that gave me so much insight and liberation, though I did not recognize that at the time. A question I would’ve asked my 6th grade self is this: why is it that a breastfeeding mother is shamed while a woman showing extreme cleavage is praised? A social experiment by Joey Salads demonstrates how the public reacts to these two scenarios.

This is an article on my experience with bras. I wrote this to open some eyes and hearts to what a young girl should never have to go through. As a society, we have to change. We have to be more accepting and understanding. We have to stop this unspoken oppression of women, and that begins with you.

We have a long way to go, but until then, I leave you with this—

My nipples = her nipples = his nipples.