Inspiration from Meghan

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Bra Burning: Let Your Girls Be Free, Part 1


Who invented these convoluted boob contraptions?

Shockingly, it was a woman! A French woman named Herminie Cadolle was the lady/torcheress behind the cups and straps. Cadolle came up with the concept in 1889, originally dubbing it the "corselet gorge."

Bras play an important role in my  life- and not in the way you think. My maternal grandparents were partisans during the war. When Hitler's peeps forced them from their ghetto in Poland, they ran and hid in the woods, living there in hiding for years. My grandmother had a younger brother, orphaned by the war and sponsored by a family in Winnipeg. He came over and my grandparents soon followed. They opened a corsette shop, Rose's Corsette shop, located on Selkirk Avenue in the north end of Winnipeg. My grandmother was one of the first women to construct custom bras for ladies who had suffered mastectomies. When my grandmother past away of cancer at just 48 years old, my grandfather closed up shop and for the better part of the last 35 years, the inventory from their shop was stored away in the back of my grandfather's basement.

As little girls, my cousin and I would go down there and run wild through the best costume supply there ever was. It's possible we always ended up looking like some variation of hooker- seven years old in full length brassieres, girdles and garters.  We put on our fashion shows, jumped on beds, climbed trees and cartwheeled outside on the lawn- all done up in 1960's lingerie finery.

But then we grew up, and grew actual boobs and needed to wear bras and the fun stopped there.

Bras hurt. I hardly even have boobs and I find them terribly uncomfortable. Like pantyhose, the only thing good about them is taking them off (and I am sure our man friends would agree). Nothing better than releasing the girls and giving them a good old lymphatic draining rub down. Freedom!

Who would elect to wear something that has built in wires that dig into you? It's kind of like your own person medieval torture chamber.

It turns out that these annoying undergarments are more than just an uncomfortable inconvenience. They actually pose health risks. Yep. You knew where I was going with this. Cancer!

Here are the stats (courtesy of Ralph L. Reed, Ph.D):

    • Women who wore their bras 24 hours per day had a 3 out of 4 chance of developing breast cancer.
    • Women who wore bras more than 12 hour per day but not to bed had a 1 out of 7 risk.
    • Women who wore their bras less than 12 hours per day had a 1 out of 152 risk.
    • Women who wore bras rarely or never had a 1 out of 168 chance of getting breast cancer. The overall difference between 24 hour wearing and not at all was a 125-fold difference.


Those are really significant differences! Think about the nonsense minuscule breakthroughs they are finding in their misdirected cancer research.  What if the lab coats found that people who took a certain pill had a 125-fold difference in cancer rates than those that didn't? They'd be pushing that pill on everyone. Just by letting our girls go free as often as we can has a significant impact on our boob health- and subsequently, our total health.

One doctor has commented that the current research between bras and cancer is where they were in the 1950s when doctors started to see a relationship between lung cancer and smoking. The association is there, but causation has not yet been proven. Think about that one for a sec.

Why do we even wear bras? What do we think they do for us? Give us a nice looking rack? Give our girls some lift? Maybe we wear them because we have been socialized to. Remember when your mom bought you that hideous lacy training bra? That thing was supposed to denote our entrance into woman-hood. Maybe that's part of how girls learn to take on adult roles.

We all remember the first time our love interest clumsily fumbled with the clasp- sure it had been secured by Fort Knox. Bras do play a part in our grown-upness and there can be something fun, once in a while, to getting all dolled up in a little fancy something, something.... but do we need to wear one when we are watching TV? How about while you sit there reading this blog post?

Anyone wrapping up the 21 Days To Health Challenge this week knows that old habits are hard to break, but maybe this is one worth thinking about. And no- I am not suggesting you let them ladies fly wild... I have better ideas and suggestions.

More tomorrow!


37 Responses to “Bra Burning: Let Your Girls Be Free, Part 1”

  1. Basht said…
    I remember growing up i used to wear a bra all the time. I had one for daytime and one for night, because my breasts hurt a lot. They still do. I've been told it's a size thing, their rather large and overly sensitive. But they hurt less when contained. I don't wear a bra at night anymore, but i do have to creatively prop myself up on pillows to get comfy. I also get a horrible rash under my breasts. The rashes started after I had my daughter and we gave up on breastfeeding. I've changed my diet, switched soap, don't pretty much everything i can think of. but the only thing that really works is wearing a bra in combination with bathing daily. If that skin touches for too long the rash appears.
  2. Katherine said…
    Barely an A cup here so I usually go without a bra. If I need something under a shirt to prevent my nipples from showing (I work in a casual environment, but not that casual) I wear a tank top or camisole. Bras are ridiculously expensive so I've been glad to save money by not buying them. Glad to hear that there are health benefits too!
  3. gaile said…
    I love your blog. I love you and all that you do for healthy lives. But, this one worries me. This study has been debunked and questioned repeatedly by the cancer professionals. As someone who works in the breast health field, it set off red flags for me for many reasons, beginning with what appears to be a flawed understanding of how breast cancer develops. There is a good Q&A about this article here, for a different perspective on it: That said, thank you for all you do, your wonderful advice, sense of humor, and kindness.
    • Meghan Telpner said…
      Most of what I share here- is very much opposed to one study or another. I personally do not put much faith in the collective common assumptions, claims, or mandates of groups such as the American Cancer Foundation, the Canadian counter part (or others like the CCFC etc.) Whether I choose to site a study which has or hasn't been published in peer reviewed journals (which I also don't have too much confidence in- as most are funded by pharma and the medical system and are rather political documents), it does make sense to me that lengthy constriction of sensitive tissue in synthetic fibres would increase risk. Now, with that being said, I only offer my views and opinions and have never suggested that I am the final say on anything. Like you have done, I encourage people to decide what is right for themselves. Thank you for raising the opposing view.
  4. Colleen said…
    Or, might it be this, and not the contraption per se at all: The larger the breasts, the more likelihood a bra will be worn. Larger breasts may have a statistically relevant and direct correlation to overall percentage of body fat, i.e., so it's more likely that large breasts will be sitting on a larger body. The greater the percentage of body fat and weight, the higher the risk of cancer, especially given the obesity problem occurring in North America. So, bras may not cause cancer, they may only reflect weight issues which are the real culprit. The statistics you cite may well be relevant but maybe not for the reasons you suggest here. Maybe a lot more research is in order?
    • D said…
      Colleen....WELL said! Excellent and thought provoking connections made on your part. Thank you for posting that!
  5. pdw said…
    Yes, it may be easy for a "hardly even have boobs" girl to go bra-less, but not so those of us who are very well endowed! And forget exercising - running, jumping jacks, etc. without a bra is not only . . . interesting . . . to watch, but agony the next day! The stats that you quote have been questioned, other studies have shown no correlation. So take it with a grain of salt.
  6. melissa said…
    I read about those stats somewhere and ever since then I don't wear my bras as much, especially when I'm at home. Thanks for sharing the info!!
  7. Emily said…
    I quit wearing underwired bras ages ago they just got so uncomfortable and I found a decent sports bra that supports yet no wires and not tight around me! The bras I like are no wired the more traditional ones made out of silk found some nice looking ones on etsy that are handmade, I haven't got them but its hard to find sexy no wired supportive bra's these days especially if one is a bit bigger busted yet small back size. When its hot either I am braless in tight vest top or I wear bikini top! The sports bra I like and wear all the time is the shock asorber max sports bra in a larger size than they told me to have as I hate it being tight round my chest as when I do any sport then I cant expand my rib cage fully so I went up a back size and its worked out quite well! Tho I prefer bras to be in a natural material and those aren't well many bras hardly have cotton in them these days!!!
  8. Maria said…
    As a holistically-minded gal who greatly resisted surgical intervention, having a breast reduction in fall 2010 was the most freeing thing I've ever done. I presently need to wear a support bra (sans underwire) as I heal, but not having to don a torture contraption over my chest has been liberating, both physically and emotionally. I will never wear an underwire again. That said - I couldn't have functioned bra-less with a 32FF chest pre-reduction for many reasons: primarily the health of my spine and to comfortably exercise a normal range of movement and activity. I'd just venture that we should be respectful of the many body types that exist, and that some woman do need to wear a bra for reasons outside of their control.
  9. Tracey said…
    Thanks for sharing that! I think it is important to think about this but we do need to think of cancer in terms of "odds" and note that the odds go up and down in terms of lifestyle and genetic propensity. For example, I'm sure the kind of woman who reads this blog probably does lots of things to decrease her odds of getting cancer (e.g. greater consumption of fruit and veg, decreased meat and processed foods as a start). It's probably worth noting that the likelihood of getting cancer for women who wear a bra less than 12 hours a day (1-152) is very close to those who don't where one at all (1-168) compared to more than 12 hours per day (1-7: ouch!). So I think this suggests that we need to be more aware of how often and why we wear them. Worn in a certain context (work, out of the house) is fine but definitely take it off when you get home!!
  10. Nancy said…
    What kind of bras are you wearing that they are that uncomfortable? I don't get any major sense of relief when I remove mine and seeing as I have larger breasts it hurts like hell when I don't wear one. It seems a bit short sighted of you to suggest everyone go braless when for many it isn't an option.

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