I hate bras. 



And I’m pretty sure I’m not the only woman who always wonders exactly WHY bras are made some sort of necessities in every woman’s wardrobe. I believe no woman would find any need to be wearing bras right now but for patriarchy that’s obsessed with controlling women’s bodies; always telling us what to wear, how to look like, how much to eat, what we do with our sexual organs, who we have sex with, how many people we have sex with… The list is endless and exhausting!


I stopped wearing bra roughly two years ago and I tell you that it’s been liberating.

Of course women are not monoliths and the idea of “liberation” is subjective and different to every woman but for me, being able to ditch my bras and stare down everyone who tries ogling at me on the streets is liberation. I mean in a patriarchal world that practically dictates what I wear and tells me I MUST wear bras, I think not wearing bras is badass.

Not wearing bra or not, for women, is both a cultural and religious issue in Nigeria.


A woman that does not wear bra is regarded as a “loose woman” culturally or a “Jezebel” that is looking for an unfortunate man to tempt. Women’s bodies are naturally sinful afterall.


It’s a love-hate-love-hate relationship out there when it comes to women’s bodies.


Almost every girl has experienced being body shamed. It does not matter what size you are, or what height you are. This body-shaming sometimes starts from the family.


In my own case, I was body-shamed a lot for being too tall for a girl and I was constantly reminded of how my feet were too big. My mother, especially, body-shamed me a lot and would make fun of how I loved to eat and yet, I never got fat. I was a teenager already struggling with body image issues, so that really broke me.


Watching the movie, PHAT GIRLS, also did not help matters. If you remember that movie, you would remember the plot is centred around thin women being initially celebrated and then fat women being celebrated and raised over thin women especially by these Nigerian men. I hate that one category of women have to be disrespected before another category of women can be appreciated. And I hate that this particular trope is fast gaining popularity in the fat liberation movements I have come across on the internet.


Instead of fighting the common denominator which is reducing women’s worth and essence to how we look like, the fat liberation movements are turning on their thin/slim sisters, discarding our gruesome realities in the hands of patriarchy and saying we have it better. I remember all those days and nights crying because someone called me “pancake” (because I was apparently so flat), or someone calling me a walking bone fit for a dog to chew on the account that I was a thin woman and it makes me really sad that other women who are supposed to be allies in fighting this patriarchal idea of attaching women’s worth to their bodies are still the same ones turning on my kind so they could feel good about themselves, equating themselves to meats and subjecting themselves to men’s approval while chanting “real men eat meats and not bones.” (This is disgusting to say the least).

Thin women are absolutely NOT the enemies here. We are also victims, just like you; victims of patriarchal beauty standards that keep changing from day to day and from country to country.


I understand that in the Western world, being thin is regarded as the beauty standard. But here in Africa, and specifically Nigeria, being thin is absolutely not a beauty standard at all. In PHAT GIRLS, the Nigerian man derogatorily addressed the thin woman as “ó rí bíi ìtayín” loosely translated as “she looks like a toothpick.” That is exactly how thin women like me are regarded in my country. I am constantly asked if I’m sick, or asked to eat well. Sometimes, I’m asked if I’m so poor I couldn’t afford good food?


As a thin woman, I apparently must be sick or poor, as being thin is abnormal.


Wouldn’t it be very hurtful for a group of people to now assert that I have it good under a patriarchal structure that deals with me as much as it deals with you, a fat woman? Wouldn’t it be hurtful to discard my realities and minimize my hurtful experiences of being body-shamed while ignoring the idea itself that’s boxed us all up to deal with us so much we’re never gonna feel comfortable in our own bodies?


I believe every woman must understand that a woman is constantly reminded that she’s not enough; she’s not tall enough, or short enough, or thin enough, or fat enough. She has too much hair on her body, her natural face is not beautiful and we have the beauty industry exploiting women’s insecurities that come to play as a result of this constant patriarchal body image harassment.


Beauty standards are different from time to time and from country to country and THIS is the enemy. It does not make sense turning on other women and using their physical appearances to profile and minimize their oppressive realities. That is like shooting yourself in the legs.


In a village in Phuket, Thailand, for example, being very fat is considered the beauty standard and the fatter the woman is, the more she is deemed eligible for suitors. Whereas the reverse is the case in a place like China.


Vera Wang is considered beautiful in some countries while Lizzo would be a woman to die for in a place like Nigeria because “she thick.”


How about we just scrap this whole idea of reducing women to their bodies? Because the last time I checked, I have never seen anywhere where men are personally and collectively judged based on their appearances.


Apart from my tiny long legs, the part of my body I used to be so ashamed of was my small breasts. The obsession with women’s bodies is really appalling, so appalling that the sizes of women’s mammary glands are judged. And we claim we’re an intelligent species?


I remember a lot of women have laughed at me for having small boobs. It has been really difficult for me to accept these parts of my body, really. Why couldn’t they just be big? It has been an arduous journey of words of affirmations, obsessively listening to Alessia Cara’s SCARS TO YOUR BEAUTIFUL and constantly going to Quora to read from others in a similar struggle with me but I tell you that the journey has been worth it.


Many times I broke down thinking I would never love my body, particularly my small breasts because nothing seemed to work. I wanted something magical, a miracle of some sort. I wanted to wake up and just embrace my body. But it did not work that way; it was a “one step at a time” “slow and steady” kinda journey. Every word of affirmation, every time I wrote about my insecurities, every time I listened to body positivity songs and everytime I went to Quora… These moments and steps were coming together little by little and reached a crescendo one day when I could wake up and decided I would not wear bras anymore. I used to wear bras to give the illusion that I had big boobs too. But I became so confident I stopped altogether and could go anywhere braless. THAT is not one small feat, I tell you. 


One day, I was strolling down a street close to my house when this car slowed down as it passed me and the driver, a man, said to me: “Try to wear bras, okay?” While his friend in the front passenger seat guffawed. I didn’t as much as spare either of them a glance, I didn’t break the beat in my step and I just kept moving. These two men would never have had that audacity but for the patriarchal systemic structures on ground that groom boys who grow into men that believe women’s bodies belong to men and not to the women themselves. Who believe we’re supposed to (aesthetically) please men and seek their approvals.

Patriarchy messes men up and women are the victims of that. I was a little pissed to be honest but I understood the mechanism that was at play; even those men were not in charge of their minds obviously.


It took me a very long time before I started accepting my body. I used to hate my legs because they were too ‘long and tiny’, my breasts because they were ‘too small’, my feet because they were ‘too big’ and my lips because they were ‘too dark and meaty.’ Even some of my own family members would always ask me if I wanted to grow tall enough for my head to touch the heavens? I was also apparently ‘too tall.’


Watching PHAT GIRLS as a skinny 16-year-old also didn’t help matters! And I apparently cannot stop hammering on this movie because that was the first movie I would see addressing women’s bodies and it really messed me up. That scene comparing slim girls to something Iike sticks REALLY got to me and my already messed-up self-esteem got even more messed up.


Then later, in my latter years, I got to know about feminism which taught me I wasn’t the one exactly hating myself, it was patriarchy repressing me and telling me I was never enough and I would never be perfect or pretty.


I also got to learn that fatphobia was a thing. I’d been cocooned in my own little ‘slim’ world that I never realized that women who were big were also getting body-shamed. In my naive mind, I thought if I was getting body-shamed for being thin, then definitely, my big counterparts had it better and were the beauty standards and I have never heard a lie greater than this.


You just can never win in a patriarchal world as long as you identify with femininity and I really do hope that my big/fat sisters also come to this realization and stop picking on their thin comrades.


Little by little, I started realizing that I didn’t have to conform to any beauty standards. Those beauty standards are not invented to make women feel good about themselves, they’re made to keep us in check. And generations of women that don’t feel good in their own bodies can never think of smashing the patriarchy that represses them economically, politically, psychologically and socially so you will agree with me that body positivity is very important in EVERY woman’s psyche. 


I started this whole body positivity journey four years ago when I consciously started reading about feminism and I will confess it is a tough journey. It is really tough loving your body as a woman but it is worth it.


It is a revolutionary act in itself.


You should start doing things to your body just for YOU, stop caring about what the patriarchal society says!


You love make up, then make up JUST FOR YOU. It is YOUR body, it doesn’t belong to anyone else.


I write beautiful letters to myself affirming that I am beautiful. I look in the mirror and I admire my body INTENTIONALLY. Heck, I even get horny watching my own body sometimes. I am THAT in love with it.


I exercise because I fancy having a bigger butt. See? I AM all that matters right here right now, because it is MY body and having a bigger butt will feel good. And if I don’t have the big butt, I’m still sexy and hot and pretty. My body is just perfect!

I read books and articles on body positivity, especially on ones that link body positivity to social conditionings. We just didn’t wake up hating our own bodies, we were conditioned into doing so by patriarchy. I feel exercising and dieting and daily positive affirmations are not enough, we need to understand the WHY.


WHY does the world want me to hate my body so much as a woman? Who is benefitting from I hating my body?


Little by little, all your efforts will conglomerate and reach a crescendo so much so that sexist men catcalling and body-shaming you on the streets won’t get to you in any way. Because you understand, you’re armed with knowledge, you’re not on an ignorant level as sexists, you can see the puppets and you can operate on a higher level of consciousness.


YOU can also start that journey if you haven’t already started it, I am rooting for you and I love you.


And in Alessia Cara’s words:


Written by Sisí Afrika.

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