National No Bra Day: Empowering or Objectifying?

Last Monday, July 9th, was National No Bra Day (NNBD). Started in 2011 by the mysterious Anastasia Doughnuts, the group’s Facebook page encourages women to “unleash those magnificent breasts from their boobie zoos.” Apparently last year’s event was a smashing success, with the website reporting 400,000 participants (250,000 of them on Facebook) from around the world, and based on the volume of news coverage, this year has gone great as well.

The idea is self-explanatory: don’t wear a bra. And although the website is down, we also know the day’s purpose — according to Yahoo, it’s breast cancer awareness. This is borne out by a statement at the bottom of the group’s Facebook page: “Breast Cancer is something you should take seriously and be checked for,” and is mentioned in most of the news stories about the event.

Breast cancer awareness is great — obviously it’s a serious problem, affecting 1 in 8 American women, and the recent Komen scandal shouldn’t detract from its importance. However, the conversation about NNBD doesn’t really seem to be focused on breast cancer. And while a few lewd Facebook comments (“Boobies make me smile,” reads one) are only to be expected, this year there are more than a few.

The first Google search result for “National No Bra Day,” for example, is a Huffington Post story titled “National No Bra Day: Celebrate With Celebs Who’ve Gone Braless.” And while I understand that the HuffPo’s Style Section isn’t a bastion of feminism, I had hoped for a little bit more than just a 32 pictures slideshow showcasing various braless celebrities. (About half are awards show pics, where backless or cutaway dresses make bras impossible, and the other half are shots of normal-looking stars who, apparently, didn’t have time in the morning to put on a bra. Look, everybody, that’s how a nipple looks underneath a shirt!)

The most problematic content, though, comes not from an outside source but from the NNBD’s own Facebook page, near the bottom of the informational writeup: “P.S. Ladies…. Wearing a white t-shirt on this day is not only acceptable, but encouraged!”

Wait… what? I thought this was supposed to be about breast cancer, a disease that kills around 40,000 women yearly in the U.S. alone. How does objectifying women’s bodies fit into that? What about all the women whose breasts are disfigured from surgery? What about all the women who go braless because it’s comfortable, or to make a political statement? What about every women, braless or not, who doesn’t think that a natural part of human anatomy, used for feeding children, should be fetishized by the media and offered up for men’s enjoyment?

Considering that women are viewed as objects while men often are not, 1 in 3 11-year-olds have tried to diet, and media representations of women have become progressively more sexualized, the last thing we need is more objectification. Truly, it’s a sad fall from the original, legendary “bra-burnings” of the 60s (which didn’t actually happen; the bras were thrown away, not burned) that a day to remove society’s trappings and honor those suffering from a horrible disease has instead become just one more opportunity for women’s bodies to be paraded around for men’s consumption and enjoyment.

Just like with the “I Heart Boobies” bracelet controversy, women’s bodies are being sexualized under the guise of “awareness.” After all, saying that your day/cause/product is helping those suffering from cancer is a lot better than saying that it’s a chance for men to ogle women without consequences.

I myself did not participate in National No Bra Day, but that was mostly because I didn’t find out about it in time. If I had, would I have freed myself from “boobie zoos”? I can’t say. I did go braless once, at a public beach in Greece, and although the experience only lasted for about 6 seconds, it did feel strangely… liberating. If NNBD happens next year, would I participate? Yeah, probably. It sounds like fun. But I can say this for sure — I’ll leave the white shirt at home.

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Happy Birthday, Bra!

Photo credit: courtesy of think stock.


Leslie O.
Leslie Owen2 years ago


Laura Saxon
.3 years ago

Bras are supportive and every woman should wear them.

Terry V.
Terry V.3 years ago


Lika S.
Lika S.4 years ago


How can they help a woman go from a B to a D if they don't have a cup sizer? Or from an A to a C? I still have back problems, so I can't work full time. So I guess I have to live with ugly square boobs that I hate for the rest of my life.

Lika S.
Lika S.4 years ago

Oh, gosh, I objectify myself on a daily basis! I don't usually wear a bra! I had a breast reduction to try to get rid of back pain, and the pain is still here. So now I have mutilated breasts that do not fit into a bra. When I pick one out for my size, say a 42. a B cup is too big in front, and the fabric sags in funny directions, while the rounded sides are way too tight. So I go up to a 44. and it's just way too big, all the way around. Forget trying to find A cups, but, no matter, the sides would be overly tight anyway, because my breasts got taken all in the front, but not the rounded sides. I still deal with square boobs from the surgery 10 years ago, and he refuses to help me. Now they don't even pick up the phone when I call. Or I just get told to come in with the full amount to pay up front, or they won't talk to me... Now go figure. They mutilate me, and then they won't fix their mistake, w/o over charging me? If I get a car lube job done, and they screwed up, not only can I get my money back, but they fix it for free! How nice that the medical field gets to rake you over the coals. So I don't wear bras, because they were uncomfortable in the first place, and now I can't find one that fits right, since I wanted to go down to a C, and now I'm less than a B... The flat chested, wishing she were cute office manager tells me AFTER that they don't have a cup sizer. So why was I asked what size I wanted to be? And how about for augmentations? How can the

Merredith L.
Merredith L.4 years ago

definitely not objectifying. bras are so uncomfy, as a 30a, i go braless as often as possible, and only wear them when i need my breasts to look padded to conform to society's norm, or make a shirt/dress fit better.

Hope Foley
Hope Foley4 years ago

steve, perhaps if women were earning $1 to every man's $1, fewer of them would feel the need to rely on men for financial support... or viewing them as "money objects" as you so aptly describe it...

Hope Foley
Hope Foley4 years ago

issues such as this make it difficult to be feminist AND sexually liberal. The truth is... I do love boobies. I don't think that the worth of a woman should lie solely in her physical appearance. But I do believe that appreciation of beauty and celebration of sexuality should be whole-heartedly embraced in whatever manner makes everyone concerned feel fulfilled.

It doesn't sound like this campaign is focussing suitably on the breast cancer issue. Undoubtedly they are focussing too much on the sex-appeal of a woman's anatomy to further their public following. But I'm not going to feel guilty over the fact that I'm sexually aroused by the thought of breasts and I'm not going to feel dirty that other people may be sexually aroused by the thought of mine. We don't need to strip the sexuality out of something to appreciate its other aspects. Just like we don't need to discard our femininity to be feminists.

Lynda Duke
Lynda Duke4 years ago

Over the shoulder boulder holder upper - freedom day! I like it! I hate wearing constricting holders anyway - and go without one often. So ladies - celebrate freedom - (a man made the bra - to satisfy his sexual need)

Ed Isaacs
Ed Isaacs4 years ago

I feel that, if a woman wants to make a statement by going braless, that is her right. I myself am a transvestite, and I enjoy wearing a bra on occasion. Where would I put my breast forms if I didn't wear a bra? I am not mocking women; I respect all women. When I do dress up, it is in admiration and respect for women. I am emulating them in order to present myself as a female. I do not dress as a woman for humor, but for respect.