By Meg Grant, Age 21
I started wearing a bra when I was 10 years old. Granted, it was one of those training bras that was basically just a cut-off camisole, but it was still a bra that cost my mom hard-earned money. And I wasn’t alone in wearing one. Most of my friends were wearing them too- some already shopping in adult stores and stuffing tissue paper into the cups to make their chests seem larger. While it might sound crazy, the average age that girls begin shopping for bras is quite young, and getting younger. According to Sophie Law, the founder of a UK-based company called Sweetlings which makes comfortable bras for young girls, the average age that girls start looking for bras is 11 years old. Some who develop earlier begin their journey as young as 8 or 9.
While for some girls it is just about keeping up with their friends, some of these young women actually medically need the support of these bras to feel comfortable in their developing bodies. And, whatever the reason may be for their desire to wear bras, I can’t help but feel enraged by how stores and companies exploit girls and women who wear bras.
As women get older, their chests grow, therefore erasing any real choice in the matter of purchasing and wearing bras. People say, “Well women don’t need to wear bras, they like wearing them.” Let’s get something straight here. If women didn’t wear bras in public (and some are brave enough not to, or simply cannot afford to), people would immediately know that they are not wearing one and feel uncomfortable or make rude comments about their breasts. The bottom line is that breasts are so sexualized in society that in reality women do not have the option of not wearing bras outside the privacy of their own homes. Especially now that the average bra size has jumped to 34DD according to one recent study, it would be extremely obvious and humiliating if a woman decided not to wear a bra in her everyday life: to the office, to the grocery store, to the gym etc.
Now that we have established the lack of choice involving the wearing of bras, is it really fair to overcharge women for these pieces of cloth, foam and wire when they are bound by societal norms or medical needs to wear one? The average price of a bra is about $40.00 in most places, and for plus size women (which is most women considering the average size in the U.S. is a 14), even more.
Ok, so $40.00 doesn’t seem like too much once a year, right? If only that was actually how much women paid. According to a recent study by Victoria’s Secret, women own an average of 9 bras, wear 6 bras on a regular basis, and $16 billion dollars is the amount of money spent worldwide on bras a year. The bra industry is a multi-billion dollar industry that is almost completely gendered. To begin with, that $40.00 for one bra is more than anyone without breasts pays. At least women don’t need to buy anything for any other part of their body that other genders don’t.
Oh wait! Women spend boatloads of money on feminine products too! According to an itemized list by Jezebel, having a vagina costs women an average of $2663.02 a year! Between these expenses and the wage gap it’s no wonder that women make up such a large percentage of the poor. Quantifying what it costs to be a woman in today’s world highlights the need for change in how women’s products are marketed and sold.
All in all, our capitalist society exploits the unique needs of women by charging inordinate amounts of money for feminine products and bras. Women want to be comfortable in their bodies, and feel confident. Should we really be putting a price on that?
Young Women Rising encourages Connecticut women ages 18-35 to raise their voices about issues they care about. Each writer speaks for herself as an individual and Young Women Rising as a whole does not intend to endorse the views of any particular writer. If you’re interested in submitting a guest piece please contact us at Michelle.Noehren@cga.ct.gov.