Diversity in Lingerie: Gender

I’ve been thinking about writing a post on gender for a while now, and #DiversityInLingerie seems like the perfect opportunity to talk about this:

I am transgender*. The asterisk there signifies that “transgender”, as used here, refers not just to binary trans persons, but also to genderqueer and agender individuals. More specifically, I am agender. That means that I don’t identify as female… or male… or genderfluid… or anything gendered at all. I am not a woman- I’m just a person.

diversity diversity2 diversity3

In the realm of lingerie, there’s a lot of pressure to conform to traditional gender roles… a few months ago, I was even afraid to post photos that showed my armpit hair.  Over the past few years, I’ve seen a lot of transphobia in the realm of lingerie, and it makes me really sad.  I’ll talk about a few things here:

1) I wear lace and frilly things. I cannot for the life of me understand what lace and frills have to do with “womanhood”. But I’ve had countless people tell me that clearly I am female because I like to wear dresses and velvet and lace. Or that I have large breasts and don’t try to minimize them means that I identify as female.

Nope. I like lace and velvet and dresses because I like the way they look. It’s as simple as that.

2) Lots of bra forums and related websites are “for women only”. I know the intent is to keep out fetishists**, but what about people female-bodied persons who are not women?

3) Related to the last point: a lot of hate spouted at transwomen. My hunch here is that people just don’t get that there is a difference between people who wear bras or who post on bra forums because they find it sexually arousing** and transwomen (non-female-bodied women). Transwomen aren’t “sort or women” or “men pretending to be women”… transwomen are women.

(**I’m bringing this up not because fetishes are “icky” or “perverted”, but because there is a big difference between crossdressing and being transgender. When you’re involving sexual things (fetishes), you need to make sure all involved parties are consenting… which isn’t the case on forums for bra-fitting, which isn’t a sexual subject.)

I haven’t nearly exhausted my thoughts on this subject, but I think this is a good place to start.

Body Dysmorphic Disorder

Apparently, I have no idea what I look like. I’ve known for a while that I’ve had some issues with distorted body image, but I’ve recently realized that my problems are more than just not liking my own body… I really have no idea what it looks like. Body dysmorphic disorder (BDD) causes sufferers to perceive (often imagined) flaws as disfiguring. They can look at others normally, but will notice even the smallest blemishes on their own bodies. Another common manifestation of BDD (one which I am very familiar with) is excessive “grooming” (ie: plucking hairs, picking blemishes, etc).

To give you an idea of how bizarre BDD really is: Once I was looking at a picture of a group. I noticed that one woman’s body was very attractive and remarked “wow, she’s hot”. I was mortified when I looked at her face and realized that the “hot” woman was actually me. Had I seen my face before the rest of my body, I would have been disgusted with what I saw.

Every once in a while, I look in the mirror, forget who I’m looking at, and actually like what I see. But as soon as I remember who I’m looking at, I suddenly feel much heavier. Though I know my weight, I imagine myself as looking much larger than I am. When I see someone who I think looks about my size, I usually find that they are 25-150 lbs heavier than I am. On a good day, my guess is within 25 lbs… on an average day, I’m about 75 lbs off… and on a bad day, I apparently think I look morbidly obese.

By doctors’ standards, I am overweight. I am overweight by about 15 lbs… but I often wonder how much of that is my hair (I have 3 feet of hair) and my larger-than-average breasts (neither of which contribute to weight that I should worry about). I also have reason to think that a good amount of my weight is muscle. But either way, I’m at least somewhat overweight.

That being said, I am going to stop referring to myself as “fat”. I used to think it was okay to do so, since I’m technically overweight… but using the term “fat” hasn’t helped out my psyche in the least bit. The term “fat”, to me, has always been a comparison to others. I’ve always felt like the “fattest” person in my friend group, even when I was underweight. I thought I was being honest with myself, but constantly (subconsciously) comparing myself to others only makes my disconnect with my body worse.

“Fat” has also become a term of aesthetic judgement. I know for a fact that there are plenty of beautiful people who would be beautiful at almost any weight. But even taking “fat” merely as a term to describe a general build, I have issues with it. Given my problems with BDD, I may never know what I actually look like… so I’m really not at a place to judge whether or not I’m “fat”. My battle with weight should be about health, which is something I can judge, and not about looks. (Edit: Weight doesn’t always equal health (plenty of overweight people are much healthier than normal weight people), but my weight problems are exacerbating some health issues.) So, since my concerns are about my health, I’m going to stick to the term “overweight” and stop calling myself “fat”.

Pictures in response to the awful “bra fitting scam” post…

Edit: Bianca James did not intend to offend anyone with the post she wrote. It did, however, offend many people. The following post was written in response to what read as body snark and policing other women’s bodies.

You’ve probably heard of/seen this nasty little post about how “bra fitting is a f*cking scam” over at MsBehaved. No sh*t, it is a scam… except that the “scam” she is talking about is fitters who don’t add inches to the underbust. How is it a scam? “Vanity sizing”, she claims.

She tells the horrible story of her fitting at Nordstrom in which her 42DDD body was shoved into a 38H. It was, apparently, difficult to breathe. But most importantly,  “H cup was bra size no-woman’s- land, inhabited by porn stars with massive implants who looked like they might fall over from the weight of their breasts.” Oh, I must be a porn star! And I don’t recall getting implants… but I guess I did!

OF COURSE the 38 band felt too tight! If you’re used to wearing a huge band, going down even one band size will be a big deal. You need to take it in small steps. For example, I went through every intermediate band size on the way from 36 to 30. Had I immediately gone to 30 or even 32, I would have felt like I was being suffocated. (edit: this isn’t “corset training”. Big changes in band size just feel weird.) She should have started out with a 40GG. And she asks “How does one push one’s breasts back into one’s armpits, exactly?” Um… most people do it. If you’re wearing a bra that is too small in the cup, the breast tissue will migrate to the armpit. Look in a mirror. Is there breast tissue beyond the side of the cup? If so, it’s getting shoved into your armpit. It’s not rocket science…

It’s bs like that terrible post that made me afraid to try on bands smaller than 36 or cups larger than DDs. Even now, I still tend to buy the smallest cup I can cram myself into. I actually cried when I first read that post. I wanted to respond to it weeks ago, but felt like my words would fall on deaf ears. Perhaps images will be better?

So without further ado, I present two images in response to the infamous post:

36DD:

30GG (altered from 32G):

See the difference? (Hint: it isn’t just the colour of the background.) Hun, I’m not wearing a 30GG to flatter myself… I’m wearing it because it fits.

Reading Recommendation

I’ve included the Butterfly Collection blog in my list of US and Canadian D+ bra blogs, but I want to draw special attention to it for a few reasons. Every time I pop over to look at new posts, I am amazed at the work that Claire is doing. Her posts frequently cover matters of body image, fitting, and feminism… three of my favourite topics. She manages to express things that I’ve struggled to find a delicate way to phrase. For example, her post on topless sunbathing deals with our culture’s oversexualization of the female body, which is something that I’ve been thinking about for a long time. The most recent post is a guest post by her sister-in-law about the amazing things that a well-fitting bra can do for one’s self-confidence and overall body image.

Her posts are really uplifting (pun intended) and I’m really excited about the work that Claire is doing. Check out the Butterfly Collection blog here: http://blog.butterflycollection.ca/

Dismal D+ Options in the US

Specialty bra stores (and Nordstrom) stock D+ bras from the UK. What are the US D+ options like?

  1. Many bra brands make up to a DD cup… but DD styles are usually “full coverage”.
  2. JCPenny carries up to a US I cup (UK G cup)… but the band sizes start at 36.
  3. Victoria’s Secret just started offering some cute bras in beyond a DD cup… but they only went so far as DDD.
  4. Soma has D+ options… and they start at a 32 band… but they only offer up to a US G cup (UK F cup).
  5. Ferderick’s of Hollywood has bras for 32DDD… but the few 32DDD options look like armored trucks covered in frills.
  6. GAP has a 34DD… but no 32DD.
  7. Cacique makes up to a US H cup (UK FF cup)… but only for 38-46 bands, 36 and 48-50 bands stop at DDD.

And so on. There really is this notion that a D+ cup means you’re overweight (I’ve addressed this one)… and that DDD is incomprehensibly huge (and this one, too). Most D+ bras here are plus sized… it’s nearly impossible to find a large cup with a small band. Countless snarky articles talk about the introduction of larger cups to handle our “obesity” problem and plenty of thin people think they are fat when a VS fitter puts them in a 32DD (when they should probably be US 28G). Most D+ styles are pretty hideous (mostly minimizers and very high cut bras), which doesn’t help matters much. But there’s also the idea that huge breasts are sexy. Which of these bras looks “sexy” to you? That ugly grey minimizer used to the the only option for DDD cups at Victoria’s Secret and is still the only option at many bra stores. If big breasts are supposed to be so sexy, why is the only option to minimize (ie: squash) them? And if the stereotypically “sexy” figure is a small waist and a big bust, then why do D+ cups only start at larger band sizes? Our attitude about breasts is bafflingly contradictory. There is one thing about the US bra scene that I like: I prefer the US bra sizing system to the UK one. I’m not a fan of DD instead of E… but the rest of the letters run alphabetically, with no repeating (some just continue to add Ds, but that’s bizarre). It’s clear… it’s logical… it’s simple to understand. But it’s a lot scarier to hear “you’re a 30K” than it is to hear “you’re a 30H”. Why? Because we’re taught that a D is “huge”, a DD is “really huge”, and anything above that is a joke. Like this: Um… that’s not even what an F cup looks like. Not even close. This cartoon captures the frustration of the D+ crowd… … but the person in the image is clearly MUCH larger than an F/G cup (US or UK), and this image just perpetuates the myth that anything over a D is incomprehensibly huge.  So perhaps our logical sizing system does play a part in scaring people away from wearing a well-fitting bra. But blaming our sizes is as silly as blaming a knife for a stabbing. The real problem is that our culture is mistaken about a) how bra sizing works, b) how to fit for bras, and c) how big (or small) sizes really are. If we consider 34C to be the “average” size (using the +4 or 5… or 6 method), then the “average” person should probably be wearing something between a 28F and a 30DD… possibly with even bigger cups, since many people wear bras that don’t fully contain their tissue. Is it strange to think that DD-F cups would be an average looking size? Here, taken from Lobby Biuściastych, is what D and DD cups really look like: Some of these people could even wear smaller bands/larger cups, so there might be some F and G cups in there. And they look… well, average. But even if your breasts ARE “huge” (whatever that means), there’s nothing wrong with it. And there’s nothing wrong with an A cup either! No one is the wrong size… they’re just wearing the wrong size! My fingers are crossed for better bra education and more D+ options in the US!

30 Band and Under Project

I went to try on bras (and bathing suits) yesterday and, much to my surprise, a 30G was much too small in a few bras! So I guess I’m a 30G/30GG now.

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(Freya Lagoon)

The Deco, known for having large cups, fit perfectly in a 30G. But the best fit in Freya Lagoon (bikini) and Cleo Lucy was a 30GG. The adorable Freya Patsy was so small in the cup, that I may have even needed a 30H, but that bra stops at a G cup.

I’m officially out of range for many large-cup bras, which is strange to me, since I don’t feel like I have a tiny ribcage or a huge bust. According to the “add 4” (or 5) method, a woman with a 25 or 26 inch ribcage would wear a 30 band. A 24 band would supposedly fit a 19 or 20 inch ribcage. But for women with heavy breasts, adding 4 to 5 inches in the band results in an unsupportive bra. There are plenty of women with 24-30 inch ribcages (or 31, as is my case) who need bands smaller than 32.

A group of bloggers, including BoosaurusBraless in BrasilStackDDBy Baby’s Rules, and Bras I Hate, has created the 30 and Under Bra Band Project. The goal of the project is to raise awareness of bands smaller than 32, so that companies will start producing and carrying bras in smaller band sizes. If you wear a 30 band or smaller, you can help out by adding your photo with the form in Boosaurus’ post about the project. I just uploaded a photo. :) If you’re above a 30 band, you can help out by spreading the word about this project.

How to “pull up” on underwires

I’ve mentioned “pulling up” on the underwires in two posts recently. Here’s a clearer explanation of how that works.  For this how-to, I’m wearing my beloved Freya Deco (32FF) (on its tightest hook).

Before:

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It’s on the loosest hook and the underwires are about 2 inches away from my tissue, causing the strange “fold” at the bottom. It’s a little hard to see in these pictures (taken just after putting the bra on), but after a few hours of wear, the bra would end up almost at my stomach and I could feel my breast tissue folding over onto my ribcage (eww and totally unsupportive).

Band on tightest hook and pulling up on the underwires:

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Pull from the wire itself and then again from the top of the bra at the straps (photo is from top of bra).

The cups look HUGE now:

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But after scooping, I fill out the cup more than I did when wearing it on the loosest hook:

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And I always wondered why this bra looked so different on the models!

The bra does migrate a tiny bit over the course of a few hours, but it pretty much stays right under my tissue, which is great. I really thought my breasts were just “weird shaped” and would never look good in a bra… and that I’d just have to deal with my breasts folding over onto my ribcage, but this really seems to do the trick. So there you have it: the amazing effects of pulling up on the underwires (and a snug band)!