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Celebrate No Bra day on October 13th

By Maya Khamala

It's that time of year again babes—not only is October National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, but since roughly 2011, October 13th has been observed as No Bra Day. 

The purpose of No Bra Day, you ask? To raise awareness about the importance of knowing how to carry out breast self-examinations, being able to recognize the symptoms of breast cancer, and encouraging women to partake in regular breast cancer screening. Those with breasts are encouraged to go braless as a means of drawing attention to and encouraging all of the above.

The risk of breast cancer: fast facts

Because knowledge is power, here are a few breast cancer stats to help inspire your self-education this October.

- Breast cancer is the most common cancer in women in the US, with the exception of skin cancers.

- It is the second leading cause of cancer death in women (after lung cancer). 

- It accounts for roughly 30% of all new female cancers each year. 

- The average risk of a woman in the US developing breast cancer at some point in her life is roughly 13% (or 1 in 8). 

- The chance that a woman will die from breast cancer is about 1 in 39 (2.5%).

- Getting older is a heightened risk factor, as is being Black—at every age, Black women are more likely to die from breast cancer than any other race or ethnic group.

- Although rare, men can get breast cancer too—less than 1% of cases occur in men.

How 'No Bra Day’ began

The very first incarnation of No Bra Day was a 2011 medical event organized by a Toronto plastic surgeon. The purpose of the event, named BRA (Breast Reconstruction Awareness) Day, was to educate breast cancer survivors—many of whom must navigate self-image issues—about their reconstructive surgery options. 

The day was later rebranded by an anonymous individual as No Bra Day. Users on social media are encouraged to post using the hashtag #nobraday as a way of encouraging women to enjoy being braless, and to learn more about the signs and symptoms of breast cancer. Some users also encourage women to post pictures of themselves without a bra. 

While some embrace No Bra Day as a political statement on gender equality, others use it as a way to raise awareness about reducing the risk of breast cancer—including lifestyle factors like diet and exercise—and still others are largely focused on the sheer comfort of discarding what they deem a restrictive, uncomfortable accoutrement. And some, of course, embrace No Bra Day for all of the above reasons and more.

Criticisms to be aware of

While there are zero reasons to question a) not wearing a bra (if you dig it), and b) the importance of breast cancer education, there are nonetheless valid critiques of the approaches often used to promote awareness.

- Although No Bra Day is now observed by people around the world, some find it controversial, viewing it as an event that sexualizes women's bodies and deemphasizes the seriousness of breast cancer.

- National Breast Cancer Awareness Month as a whole has faced criticism for corporate involvement by drug companies, as well as instances of pinkwashing associated with events. Pink Ribbons, Inc. (2011), is a feature documentary that delves deeper into how the devastating reality of breast cancer—which marketing experts have labeled a "dream cause,”—has been hijacked by a shiny pink success story with corporate interests at heart.

Is not wearing a bra in any way bad for your boobs?

For many of us, work-from-home life has made sweats, loungewear, and bralessness a mainstream fashion choice. Others among us remove our bras the second we get home from a day in the outside world. Still, although many love the feeling of not wearing a bra (especially an underwire bra), some worry that freeing their boobs will adversely affect them. 

Allow me to disabuse you of that notion!

- While wearing a bra doesn’t increase or decrease your risk of breast cancer, wearing a tight bra for many hours a day is associated with an increased risk—and sources show that 80% of women are wearing the wrong bra size. So just be sure your bra is comfortable and fits you properly, or get a professional bra fitting!

- Wearing a bra doesn’t prevent your breasts from sagging and not wearing one doesn’t cause sagging. 

- Wearing a bra won’t impact the shape of your breasts.

- If you have a larger cup size, you may feel more comfortable wearing a bra simply because it can help alleviate (or prevent) back pain due to breast weight.

Random facts about your breasts…to further inspire your breast education

- Nipple stimulation can lead to orgasm. Nipple stimulation alerts the same part of the brain as does stimulation of the clitoris and vagina, which is why some women can orgasm from nipple stimulation alone.

- Your breasts are likely not the same size. Statistically, the left breast is larger—65% of women report a smaller right breast. So worry not—symmetry is truly overrated. 

- Men can potentially breastfeed. You read that right. They have the necessary equipment and with a few weeks of consistent stimulation (suckling), they may just be able to lactate. Test this out if you dare. As an aside, the reason men have nipples in the first place is because all embryos initially have female parts—testosterone doesn’t really take hold until six weeks into prenatal development.

- Your breasts will likely change a lot over time. Not only can your boobs fluctuate a full size in the course of your menstrual cycle, but they can also change size and shape at different times throughout your life—from puberty, to pregnancy, breastfeeding, and menopause, to name just a few.

Looking for a special something to wear without a bra this month (or all the damn time)? Get your ‘Bras Suck’ crewneck here—10% of all proceeds go towards Breast Cancer Research. <3

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