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There’s no need for women to hide their nipples behind padded bras

There comes a point in every girl’s life when she realizes her breasts – her nipples in particular – are not her own. It’s at that moment that we know anything from a change in the temperature to the “wrong” kind of bra can bring all sorts of unwanted and crass attention from impolite men in our general vicinity.

The first time it happened to me I was 12 years old and couldn’t quite figure out why so many older men were staring at me – then I realized I had worn a thin white bra under a white t-shirt. I’ll never forget the shame and embarrassment I felt at the moment.

It makes sense, then, that so many women jump through hoops (cups?) to ensure that our breasts retain that smooth curved look via specially padded and strategically seamed bras. But like the corset before it, it’s high time we lose the padded-for-modesty bra. Are nipples really so offensive that they can’t make an appearance even under clothing?

If we’re so willing to #FreeTheNipple on social media – why not in our everyday lives?

After all, it wasn’t so long ago that the outline of pert nipples were the fashion du jour. The 1970s brought us “the nipple bra” – a brassiere with built in nipples so women could have “that sensual cold weather look all the time.” And who could forget the iconic poster of Farrah Fawcett with her girls on full display? When did our nipples have to go into hiding?

My own theory is that with the feminist revolution also came the desire to avoid catcalls morning, noon and night. One way to do that, sadly, was to tamp our nipples down. That doesn’t mean women stopped showing off their breasts – lest we forget the once-ubiquitous WonderBra – but that somehow the outlines of our nipples became the tipping point for breast-related propriety.

It’s exhausting to have to worry about looking properly alluring but not slutty. The other morning when I walking my daughter to a doctor’s appointment I realized, with horror, that I had worn the wrong bra – the one that was a little too sheer, with no padding at all – I decided that I didn’t have time to give a shit. I had an appointment to get to, my daughter in tow and no room in my brain for what a male passerby might think should he catch a glimpse of the outline of oh-so-scandalous nipple.

Besides – is it really women’s responsibility to hide the well-established fact that most of us have nipples, or is it men’s not to be such damn oglers? You know we have them under there, after all. Can’t we all just give up the ruse?

So to women: maybe let’s forget the padding all the time. To men: save us your stares. To bra-makers: bring on the lace.

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