going braless urban plains
photos by Leah Thompson

Leah Thompson leaves her bra at home for seven days, seeking liberation in the #FreeTheNipple movement.

Lately I’ve been hearing more about a movement called “Free the Nipple.” I was intrigued by the name and had to look it up online — where else do you go these days? — and I learned the backstory: The movement is about women wanting to show their nipples by either going topless or braless. I’ve never seen a woman walking around topless, but I have seen plenty of women without a bra on. Obviously, depending on a woman’s comfort level, you can do either. After reading more articles and posts I told myself that I couldn’t do this; I never go a day without wearing a bra and definitely wouldn’t ever go topless.

But now I was curious, so I went to the Free The Nipple website and learned more about the significance and history of the movement. The three main reasons for this movement are equality, empowerment and freedom. I felt empowered just by reading the website. I decided I needed to push back my fears and try going braless for a week.

Talking to Sierra did help settle my nerves, but it was my first day; I was obviously nervous. I’ve never left the house not wearing a bra, and to go in public? That was really nerve-wracking. I just kept telling myself this week would be rewarding. And it honestly was. I felt empowered. I was joining a movement by giving this a try.

Day 1

Outfit choices were a big part of my week. I didn’t want anything too revealing, but I also didn’t want to wear sweatshirts everyday. Lori Rinehart was — and still is — a part of a variety of women’s movements over the decades. From walking in protests to calling her legislators and working with feminist organizations, she’s become an expert on women’s movements. Talking to her helped me understand some of the conflicting emotions I was feeling.

Day 2

Lori made me realize that even taking a week to do this experiment will help spread the word to more women. Heck, just talking to her about it was spreading the message. By the end of one week, who knows how many women I could reach? If I wanted to reach more women I needed to do something besides going to school braless.

Day 3

Going to the grocery store was pretty scary. I always come across videos online of men yelling at women that are breastfeeding. And yes, I know this is not the same. But I was picturing men or women yelling, “put on a bra” or “You shouldn’t be in public like this!” After shopping, I realized that people noticed, but they didn’t care. I think what would make going to the grocery store less scary in the future is going with other women who are also braless. Girl Power!

Day 4

I was surprisingly excited to be able to recruit women to join me in my braless fun. I felt a sense of camaraderie seeing them in classes and on campus — there is strength in numbers! It was also interesting to hear their experiences compared to mine. After talking to them, my sense of empowerment was renewed, and I took this one step further.

Day 6

I was kind of shocked when I realized that I wasn’t nervous going to a restaurant braless. Maybe that’s because, as a server myself, I never notice what people wear — I see so many people a day it isn’t even a thought in my mind. So I thought, why not try a restaurant? This should be easy!

I was right. No one noticed, stared or anything. Maybe more people would notice if I was at a super nice restaurant. But would they mind?

Day 7

Surprisingly, I enjoyed going braless all week. Would I go braless every day now? No way. But I do understand the movement more than I did before. I think actually experiencing it and taking part helped open my eyes to the reason why this is a movement.

Women should be able to go outside without having to strap down our boobs. For me, it’s too ingrained. I simply feel more comfortable with a bra on. But who knows? Now that I’ve done it, maybe I’ll do it again. And maybe I’ll encourage someone else to try it. That is, after all, how a movement spreads.

Music courtesy of www.bensound.com.

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