Sexuality, Virginity & “Purity” Series Part 2: Her Burning Bra

This series of posts from the community is in preparation for Paradigm
Shift’s next event, “The Purity Myth: How America’s Obsession with Virginity is Hurting Young Women”
A Discussion with JESSICA VALENTI, Author &
Founder/Editor on TUES, FEB. 23rd, 7pm, NYC. We want to hear your
stories. View call for submissions- deadline 2/19- Click here!

by Courtney Lee Weida

I created this bra to address rites and rituals of women’s bra-wearing. I thought of the bra as an initiation of girls into adolescence and adulthood, at times a marker of physical and symbolic burden as well as pride within a continuum of wearers. I contemplated how women’s breasts and bras change over the course of their lives. I remembered narratives of artists touched by breast cancer, and their ambivalence surrounding the societal expectation that women continue to wear bras and simulate the appearance of breasts (even if these bras made them physically and/or emotionally uncomfortable). Questions of femininity and aesthetics lurked for me in thinking of the forms of stylized lingerie versus the functions of sports bras. I also thought of the conflation of burning draft cards with casting off restrictive clothing of the 1960s into supposed bra-burning. Bra-burning stuck with me, as an inherited idea(l) of women casting off restrictive aspects of femininity. I visualized symbols of beauty associated with images of bras that I would like to banish from my own consciousness. The pristine Hollywood image of the bride and of the mother stood out as my targets. And yet, I found myself again ensorcelled by the allure of these images and symbols. My burning bra (which has been literally set on fire throughout the process of making it) has become an object of protest, as well as a sort of vessel and vigil for my experience of problems in feminine and/or female beauty.

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