October 12, 2008

40 years after the Miss America Protest and the creation of the "bra burning" myth

An ode to my foremothers!

As more and more women, from all social locations (age, race, class), pursue unrealistic and dangerous standards of beauty and a cultural era that reinforces the rewards of achieving this beauty ideal  throughout the cultural landscape, I give a proud nod to the women of the New York Radical Women that publicly challenged the prevailing beauty norms.

As more and more young women are seized by the collective amnesia of their generation, it becomes imperative to promote the learning of women’s history.  In the words and actions of the women that form the continuous lineage we are part of, we find sources of inspiration, empowerment, and examples we can utilize in our current challenges and issues.

While the stereotype of feminist “bra-burning” is a myth, there is no doubt that this event and its protest left an indelible impression, for better or worse (depending on who you ask), on the nation.

NPR interviews: Miss America 1968, Debra Barnes Snodgrass, Alix Kates Schulman, Carol Hanisch and Kathie Sarachild. Listen here.

As a small group of feminists prepared to launch their emerging women’s liberation movement onto the national stage by protesting the 1968 Miss America pageant, they had no idea that the media was about to give them a new moniker: “bra burners.”

In reality, no bras were actually burned on the boardwalk in front of the Atlantic City convention hall that hosted the Miss America pageant, says Carol Hanisch, one of the organizers of the protest.

“We had intended to burn it, but the police department, since we were on the boardwalk, wouldn’t let us do the burning,” says Hanisch. A New York Post story on the protest included a reference to bra burning as a way to link the movement to war protesters burning draft cards.

Women threw bras, mops, girdles, pots and pans, and Playboy magazines — items they called “instruments of female torture” — into a big garbage can.

“The media picked up on the bra part,” Hanisch says. “I often say that if they had called us ‘girdle burners,’ every woman in America would have run to join us.”

Read the full story here.

1 Comment »

  1. Feminists should have burned their bras, for health.

    Ironically, I have spoken with feminists who are large breasted and believe they need bras for comfort and support. This statement assumes there is something biologically wrong with large breasts that require 20th Century lingerie to correct.

    I am a medical anthropologist and breast cancer researcher, and co-author (with my co-researcher and wife, Soma Grismaijer) of the book, Dressed To Kill: The Link Between Breast Cancer and Bras.

    Having pain or discomfort when you are natural, i.e., bra-free, is a sign of breast disease. Being naked should not feel uncomfortable (at least not physically uncomfortable. Emotional discomfort is another thing.)

    Usually the cause is fluid accumulation within the breasts as a result of constriction from tightly worn bras. Bras are designed to alter the natural shape and position of the breasts, and they do this by applying constant pressure to the breast tissue which constricts the tiny, delicate lymphatic vessels within the tissue that drain fluid and toxins. This impaired lymphatic drainage from the breast tissue results in fluid build-up, including cyst formation. The breasts are essentially slightly swollen, suffering from lymphedema caused by chronic constriction from bras. Red marks and indentations in the skin left by bras are signs of pressure and constriction. This is the major cause of breast pain.

    Speaking about comfort, when we were in Fiji doing follow-up research we asked some large breasted women why they were not wearing bras. The common answer was, “my breasts are too large for a bra”. In Fiji, where about half the women are bra-free all their lives, large breasted women are comfortable with their breasts, and think of the bra as intrinsically tight and uncomfortable. In bra-wearing cultures it’s assumed large breasted women need bras. That’s because they have become physically and psychologically addicted to bras.

    It starts with Barbie, and the body image distortion lasts a lifetime. And it’s not new to have fashion killing women. Foot binding in China lasted centuries, disfiguring and deforming women’s feet for the pleasure of their men. Corsets killed women for centuries, too, by constriction. Actually, the corset was broken down into the bra and girdle. So think of the bra as a breast corset.

    If you research the bra/cancer issue you will see it is being actively censored and suppressed by the ACS and Komen Fdtn, which refuse to take the bra issue seriously or do any research into the link. Meanwhile, they ignore our research, as well as a study in 1991 out of Harvard that found a bra/cancer link, too. Clearly, the cancer industry wants detection and treatment, not prevention with a cost-free clothing change. And the bra industry is working with them to make sure this link does not get further research, for fear of lawsuits.

    This is a major feminist issue of our time. Breast cancer is a culturogenic disease related to the way we view and treat women and condition them to view and treat themselves. Meanwhile, medicine profits from treating the disease, and actually encourages bra wearing and cosmetic surgery to further exploit the body image disorder.

    If you want more about this try our website killerculture dot com.

    Comment by Sydney Ross Singer — October 16, 2012 @ 11:59 am

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