Happy National No Bra Day!

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and today, October 13th, aka #NationalNoBra Day, I’m standing in support of those who have survived this disease and those who continue to fight it.

The unfortunate truth is that we all know or have known someone who has suffered from cancer, indicating the first signs of cancer’s commonplace. “Nearly 1 in 2 Canadians (45% of men and 43% of women) is expected to develop cancer during their lifetime.”1 This alarming yet somewhat unsurprising statistic proves why we need campaigns like No Bra Day.

No Bra Day was established on social media in 2011 to raise awareness for breast cancer symptoms and gender equality. While No Bra Day is ultimately to help raise awareness for breast cancer, it is also a day for bra wearers to liberate themselves from the literal and metaphorical restrictions of the bra and become comfortable with their breasts. Being aware of your body can help you identify when something is not normal for you (i.e., a breast lump) and take action before symptoms worsen.

Breast cancer affects all genders but is more prominent in the female sex due to the growth-promoting female hormones, estrogen and progesterone.2 Breast cancer is the second most common cancer among women after lung cancer.3 The treatability of breast cancer and its high survival rate makes it all the more critical to advocate for women’s health and the importance of breast screenings.

Since breast cancer largely affects the female sex, women see No Bra Day as an opportunity to make a social statement about the imposed notions of femininity, referencing famous feminist protests like the 1968 Miss America Pageant. No Bra Day “asserts femininity and our appreciation of who we are as a woman… The bra symbolizes how women are being held in bondage.”

Some feminists are concerned these connections between No Bra Day and gender equality are sexualizing the campaign to raise awareness for breast cancer; their concerns are not overlooked.

Some viewers may not look beyond the body in this photo; they may not care what I stand for or my intentions. Some viewers may not look beyond the provocative nature of such an image; they may not support my methods of advocacy.

However, some viewers will go beyond the photo, listen to my message, and understand that it’s the 21st century; my body is no longer solely used for procreation, and the only way to change the taboo nature of sexuality is by challenging the status quo.

My sisters of womanhood will, unfortunately, understand the burden of being subjectified by the male gaze and prejudice from others. But if “women can do anything men can do,” then female toplessness is not subject to questioning. Your body is not inappropriate; it’s who you are, so embrace it as such.

While we may not all be comfortable with ripping our shirts off in the middle of a public street (which I don’t encourage), our acceptance of the human body starts with conversations about sexuality and raising awareness for diseases like breast cancer.

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