For the Last Time, “Tribal African Women” Are Not Proof That Bras Prevent Breast Sagging

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Model photo via Shutterstock

If you’ve followed this blog for awhile, and especially if you read our post on bras and sagging breasts from earlier this year, some of the stuff I’m about to say in this piece will probably sound a bit familiar to you. Bras… breasts… body image, these are topics that come up on TLA time and time again in on form or another, but I felt a blog post dedicated to this particular aspect of the bra conversation was long overdue. As the title made all too clear, today we’re talking about the lingerie world’s obsession with pointing to photos of “tribal African women” as proof that bras “work” (that is, prevent breast sagging).

The reason I felt compelled to revisit this topic right now is because I’ve seen a massive uptick in various lingerie sites (bra bloggers, bra forums, and bra sellers) claiming that bras are some kind of preventative measure or even a cure for ptosis, the medical term for breast sagging. While the distribution of misinformation is an issue in of itself, what’s even worse is how quickly people turn into amateur ethnographers and field biologists when asked about the evidence for that belief. Pointing to their dusty copies of National Geographic, I’ve seen far too many people insist, “See! These tribal African women having sagging breasts and they don’t wear bras, therefore bras must keep your breasts from sagging.”



No.

This post has been brewing for awhile (the way these kinds of articles usually do), and this topic is rich enough and complex enough that it’s hard to pull apart everything that goes into it. At the surface, this probably seems like an innocent enough statement to some. What’s the harm? However, there are three main reasons for why this “tribal African women” trope is a problem.

One, it uplifts and normalizes one standard of beauty, while simultaneously denigrating and putting down another. Two, it completely ignores the body of scientific research on the causes of sagging breasts, replacing hard evidence with pseudoscience. Three, it’s part of a very long, very racist tradition of objectifying and othering the bodies and cultures of non-white ethnic groups in order to reinforce cultural norms (and sell products). This is an exceptionally long article, and I’m going to talk about a lot of major issues here, so let’s get started.

*On Cultural Relativism and Beauty Standards*

When it comes to beauty, and especially what we consider to be beautiful, I think it’s hard for some people to remember that our particular standard of beauty is just that — our particular standard of beauty. There is nothing inherently superior or better about it. It is simply what’s in fashion now, for our particular culture, at this specific time.

While beauty standards do have some intrinsic qualities or commonalities across time and geography (specifically youth, symmetry, blemish-free skin, and proportionality) the details of beauty can vary wildly between cultures and ethnic groups. Body type, body shape, body weight… none of these things are cultural absolutes, and it is ethnocentric in the extreme to imply that another culture’s standard of beauty is inferior to your own for no other reason than that it is different.

When it comes to breasts, the Western ideal is a perky, uplifted breast shape. But would it be so unusual to imagine a culture where a softer, languorous shape is preferable? Especially since that shape, as I’ll discuss later, is often associated with other desirable outcomes, like childbearing and reaching a more mature age? Don’t get me wrong… much like our policy on body snark, I don’t really care about your personal preferences. Like what you like; it’s not really relevant to this conversation. However, one’s preferences are not applicable to the entire world.

Not the only standard of beauty.

Not the only standard of beauty.

If another culture’s standard of beauty doesn’t encompass the Western ideal, that’s fine. It shouldn’t be used as fuel for the insult of, “Either do things our way or you might look like them!” And that issue is magnified because Western standards of beauty are already incredibly Eurocentric, which means using a photograph of dark-skinned Black women as a “What Not to Wear” illustration is faulty all around.

*What Causes Sagging Breasts Anyway? A Review of the Literature*

Forget what you’ve heard. There is no published research which indicates that wearing a bra prevents breast sag. None. As the saying goes, the plural of anecdote is not data, and there is no objective evidence whatsoever to support the notion that wearing a bra delays, arrests, or otherwise affects the inevitable natural process of ptosis. As Catherine Clavering pointed out in her article for TLA about bra fit research and sampling methods, science is not about sticking to your arguments no matter what. It’s about testing your ideas, and accepting or rejecting those ideas based on the evidence. And part of testing those ideas means including attempts to disprove your hypothesis.

“But what about the Cooper’s Ligaments?” some might say, “Don’t they support the breast? And if they get stretched out, won’t the breast sag?” While some researchers do believe Cooper’s Ligaments help to hold the breast up (they are part of the internal structure of the breast), there’s no consensus on if they even support the breast tissue at all or if they just divide the tissue into compartments, and scientists are not sure how much breast support comes from Cooper’s Ligaments or from skin elasticity.

Furthermore, there’s no data which indicates that supporting the Cooper’s Ligaments yourself (as in, with a bra) will delay or forego the sagging process. However, there are a couple of small (very small) studies which seem to indicate going braless may actually result in more uplift over time, with the hypothesis being that wearing a bra may weaken your Cooper’s Ligaments ligaments and cause them to atrophy.

The general takeaway here? There’s just not enough research available to make sweeping statement like wearing a bra affects your Cooper’s Ligaments and helps to keep your breasts aloft.

One cause of sagging breasts

One cause of sagging breasts

So what does cause sagging breasts? Well, the body of scientific evidence (references: here, here, here, and here) indicate that pregnancy, age, significant weight loss, a high BMI, and smoking are all associated with ptotic breasts. Hereditary factors like skin elasticity, breast size before pregnancy, and breast density (the ratio of fat to glandular tissue) also influence sagging. As a quick aside, the research also indicates that breastfeeding actually has no effect on sagging; it’s the breast changes that happen during pregnancy which are the key factor here.

In other words, if you are a woman who is lucky enough to grow old/er, then breast sag will be an inevitable part of your life (assuming you don’t seek cosmetic surgery, of course). It’s simply one of the many, many changes that happen to a woman’s body as part of the aging process… and there’s nothing wrong with it. Now let’s bring that entire body of research back to the original point of this post, namely why using “tribal African women” as proof that bras prevent breast sagging is so wrong.

Another cause

Another cause of sagging breasts.

First of all, there’s some confirmation bias going on here. Confirmation bias is a selective interpretation of the evidence or data, and in this case, confirmation bias means disregarding all the women you know who’ve worn bras their entire lives and yet still have sagging breasts. It also means simultaneously ignoring any woman who doesn’t wear a bra, and yet still has uplifted breasts (this could also be called a disconfirmation bias, wherein people require more evidence for hypotheses that go against their current expectations). Here, confirmation bias also results in the repetition of discredited beliefs, even though there is no scientific evidence to back them up. People are simply paying attention to the examples which support their case and disregarding those which do not.

“But it’s so obvious!” some might say. “Women here have uplifted breasts. Women there don’t.” Well that’s where another saying I heard all the time in school comes into play —  “Correlation does not equal causation.” Yes, you are seeing photos of women with sagging breasts who are also not wearing bras, but that doesn’t mean those two factors are in any way related. It’s a bit like noticing that everyone who ate a carrot in 1864 was dead by the year 2000. Yes, those two things are very highly correlated (everyone who ate carrots in 1864 was dead by the year 2000), but it doesn’t mean those two variables have anything at all to do with each other.

In the case of sagging breasts, there are a number mediating factors at play here (mediating means to come between those two other variables) like pregnancy, or, in the case of my deliberately hyperbolic example, age. The women we see in these photos may have already had multiple pregnancies, which has a strong causative relationship on breast sag. In addition, genetic factors, like skin elasticity as mentioned above, may also play a role. Finally, if we’re looking at women from a particular tribal or ethnic group, these women likely to be more closely genetically related to each other than to, say, Western women.

vintage_racist_soap_ad

If you’re trying to isolate a relationship between the variables of bras and sagging breasts, then you need to control for all those other factors that we know cause ptosis. You cannot simply decide, sans evidence, that bras are the significant variable when there are so many other factors affecting the final outcome. And you can’t do that kind of research from a few photos in National Geographic. Comparing and contrasting photos of “tribal African women” to Western women as “proof” that bras prevent sagging breasts is roughly equivalent to using a photo of a black person and a white person as “proof” that your soap gets skin clean. Such an ad, aside from being outrageously offensive, would also be obviously inaccurate since we know it’s genetics, not cleanliness, that makes brown skin brown. The same logic applies to bras and breasts.

This is very often where bra experts jump in and say they’ve seen the breasts of dozens of women and therefore that’s all the proof they need that bras prevent sagging. But again, there’s some bias going on here… in this case, sampling bias. The people coming into your shop or visiting your bra fit forum or commenting on your lingerie blog are not a representative sample of anyone. They are a small, self-selected, highly atypical group of volunteers, and the observations made about this group cannot be used to make predictions about everyone else. Nor should these observations be treated like science.

In the same way that it would be ridiculous to make generalizations about the population of America based on who happens to drive down your street on any given day, so too is it absurd to make generalizations about women’s breasts from all over the world based on the few women who come into your shop, visit your blog, or comment on your forum. People who visit your shop are only representative of the group named “people who visit your shop.” But that’s okay because bras are awesome all on their own, and shouldn’t require fiction to sell anyway.

*Why Objectifying the Breasts of “Tribal African Women” Is Part of a Racist Legacy*

Finally (and this is the really meat and potatoes of this post so if you need to get some water and come on back, please do,) invoking the image of African women “as a lesson” to Western women has a long, ugly history in racism, slavery, and colonialism. There is terrible, terrible tradition in Western cultures of making the bodies of indigenous peoples open to criticism, commentary, and co-optation, and of using their bodies as an example of what not to look like. The same mindset that makes it okay to use a photo of a “tribal African woman” to make a point about bras, is the same mindset that makes it okay to use a photo of a black woman’s natural hair as an example of how not to look and that allows the skin-lightening cream industry to thrive.

sarah_bartmann

That contrast – of the naked with the clothed, the savage with the refined, the dark with the light, the superior with the inferior — is part of a horrid and horrifying legacy that reinforced a Eurocentric standard of beauty upon the skin, hair, lips, noses, breasts, and buttocks of black women. Pointing to the breasts of “tribal African women” as evidence of your bra-wearing rightness (because let’s face it, there are other places to get photos of bare breasts than National Geographic) is the 21st century equivalent of gawping at Sarah Bartmann’s labia.

life_magazine_1946_fashion_comparison

There is something very exploitative about not only co-opting and subverting the photos of these women, but also of essentializing them… of reducing them to one specific body part — their breasts. Their bosoms become a prop or a tool to aid in commerce: the selling of bras. That is the definition of objectification, and if you are a breast expert or bra expert or even someone who claims to want to help women, objectifying non-Western women should never be a part of that. “Tribal African women” do not exist to buttress the bra industry. Their bodies are not a cautionary tale for what happens if you go braless. And all this would be true even if the research said bras will keep your breasts from sagging.

Listen, if wearing a bra makes you feel better for whatever reason (more support, less pain, preferred shape, fashion and style, whatever), that’s great. People should wear bras if they want to wear them for whatever reason they want to wear them. There’s nothing wrong or bad about wanting support or shaping or what have you. But there’s no need to resort to tired tropes, body myths, urban legends, and racist stereotypes to explain your preference. Just say you like them… and move on.

Mad Mimi Form

Cora Harrington

Founder and Editor in Chief of The Lingerie Addict. I started TLA in a small studio apartment in 2008. Since then, it's become the leading lingerie blog in the world, and has been featured on the websites for Forbes, CNN, Time, Today, and Fox News. I believe lingerie is fashion too, and that every who wants it deserves gorgeous lingerie.

77 Comments on this post

  1. Cat says:

    Thank you so much for this. I also wonder how many of these people have ever seen their grandmother without a bra on, to claim Western women don’t sag because they wear bras. I’ve seen older women not wearing bras, and… yes they do. It’s part of aging. And also, it’s perfectly frickin’ fine.

    As someone who had a lot of pain from underwire bras and abandoned wearing them 8 years ago, I really wish this information got out more. I know people who love underwire bras and don’t experience significant discomfort like I did, and that’s great. But so many women have problems of them and feel like the “have” to wear them lest they be judged as ugly (*gasp!*).

    Now I get my pretty-kicks from the occasional bralette, which are more much comfortable for me. And over the last 8 years during which I’ve never worn an underwire, my boobs have not suddenly descended to the floor anyway. XD

  2. […] Nah. Have you seen what some of the beautiful tribal women wear? Google it. Or click here. AND, I said “Listen, this may not be your standard, but your standard isn’t […]

  3. Chris says:

    Wow, I just came across this post. What a powerful and well presented article. I am quite moved by it. Thank you so much.

  4. Mark says:

    You go on and on about racism and these tribal African women, but not once do you tell us in this article why it is that African woman have sagging breast and Caucasian and other ethnicity’s do not. Common sense tells you that there is a reason for this. And all your article is really saying is we do not know why it is that African tribal women have saggy breast and other races do not. I find this Article pointless. It is perfectly logical to think bra’s do indeed at help in some way to lift the breast. I mean it has to over time due to the breast constantly being lifted. Whether it is genetics or not, I find it incredibly odd that tribal African women almost always have saggy breast while many African Americans are becoming a lot less saggy over time. I know the research is not there yet, but until then, it is quite okay to use logic and our common sense. While there are things that cause sagging breasts, African women may just have saggy-looking breasts from the start due to genetics. And I am sure there is an evolutionary reason for the difference in breasts between races.

    • Cora says:

      Studies indicate that everyone’s breasts sag eventually, and I encourage you to click on the research links included in the post to read about more about the topic. If you have another study about the breasts of African American women becoming less saggy over time, please do include it here as I would very much like to read more information about this.

    • Fay Patterson says:

      One point about ‘saggy breasts’ and beauty… in Papua New Guinea, adolescent girls start massaging their breasts so they become elongated and ‘beautiful’. As in Aboriginal cultures, the breasts can then be tied down for comfort when traveling, etc – a different form of sports bra. So when you see other cultures having ‘saggy breasts’, it isn’t necessarily genetic or a result of the lack of bras, it’s entirely intentional.

    • Jade says:

      LOL I really need to see studies to support EVERYTHING you have written here, bloody hell.

  5. Clem says:

    OK. You say it is “disproved”… My eyes show me it is proven. I make type-o’s due to typing it on my phone. But the proof is the pictures-that whether in-person white saggy tits or in picture African or South American saggytits-not wearing a bra leads to saggy, tubular tits. It isn’t ” racist”…that is lazy as f…no bra=saggy tits. If you want that, fine, but don’t cry the LIE of “racism”. That proves you for the lazy liar you are.

    • Cora says:

      As I said, you are 100% entitled to your opinion. I wish you a very happy holiday season, and thanks for taking the time to comment on TLA.

      • Mark says:

        And I do agree with Clem in that it is not racist that people point out African women have sagging breasts. It is just a fact. I swear, everyone cries racism so easily and so much nowadays that the word has really lost its credibility and I really do not take the word seriously anymore. It is not racism to make an observation and make logical assumptions based on those observations. It is people like you who make it very hard for races to communicate amongst each other because racism is constantly being brought up and people cannot say what they truly feel out of fear of being called racist.

        • Cora says:

          Alas, it is racism to make completely illogical assumptions about people based on their race, and the assumption that only the breasts of African women sag is one. Furthermore, that assumption is damaging to all women no matter where they live as it creates a culture of false expectations (i.e. people become surprised when their breasts lose elasticity over time as opposed to recognizing it as a natural side effect of aging, pregnancy, etc.). It’s unfortunate that you no longer take the word racism seriously, but I would encourage to examine why you’re so invested in the belief that the breasts of African women are substantively different from the breasts of all other women. After all, people used to think phrenology was logical, so what seems sensible at one time may very well be debunked in light of further research and evidence later on.

          • Abigail says:

            Hey Cora,

            One explanation I read for the “saggy” breasts of “African Tribal women” was that some of the cultures encouraged women to keep working while these breastfed so they would “toss” their breast over their shoulder to their back where the baby was strapped in so they could work and feed the baby at the same time – there are some better articles on it but here is a recent tabloid thing http://www.dailytelegraph.com.au/entertainment/cameron-diaz-explains-why-womens-breasts-sag-as-she-promotes-what-to-expect-when-youre-expecting/story-e6frewyr-1226349190094

            Basically, posting this as another counter-point to the claim that “clearly” bras prevent sagging because “African women!” – there are differences in culture that can contribute to different breast conditions and that doesn’t make any sort of breast inferior to others.

          • C. D. Carney says:

            I don’t think the argument is that African breasts are the only ones that sag. The argument is that African women don’t wear bras therefore their breasts sag. Considering they don’t wear bras and western women do and I have never seen a rack that droops as far as they do in the documentaries I feel it is a safe assumption to make. I would love to see an actual reason they are so radically different instead of a whole article that chastises me for thinking there’s a correlation and I’m a racist for thinking that.

            • Cora says:

              That’s the thing about “safe assumptions,” though…they’re often the result of confirmation bias and inaccurate data. Breast ptosis is common in all geographies and ethnicities. What you may perceive as a “radical difference” may in actuality be a simple side effect of not having seen enough bare breasts from either demographic category to make a fully-informed assessment.

              Take care and thanks for stopping by,
              Cora

  6. Clem says:

    Also, those breasts in NG are extremely saggy. Facts are never racist, as facts dont have agendas. That is a bare FACT. I have breastfed 4 babies with natural D-cups and I am not saggy. Plentynof white ladies I know who didn’t breastfeed but also don’t wear bras are saggy. Bras work. Stop the lazy “journalism” which assumes that any “negative” truths about non-whites are “racist”. It is lazy and calls you out.

  7. Clem says:

    PS to my other post- calling pointing to photos in NG as proof bras prevent sag as racism is just pulling the race card…a faulty argument when you know you’re wrong to instantly shut the correct party up and prevent truth from being shown. Those NG photos that prove bras prevent sag isn’t racist just because the women aren’t white. If NG showed photos of hippies past adolescence, they would show plenty of saggy, tubular white tits as well.

    • Cora says:

      I have no idea what you mean by “pulling the race card,” (especially since 55 comments worth of discussion show that no one is being “shut up” or otherwise censored), but as with all our posts, you are 100% entitled to your opinion.

  8. Clem says:

    Sorry but this article is too defensive. Bras prevent sag. Photos of tribal women from around the world (including Africa) confirm this…as do photos of (predominantly white) hippie women. Bras prevent sag. Cultural groups-no matter the color- who don’t wear bras prove it with their deflates, tubular, saggy fits.

    • Cora says:

      Alas, there is no scientific to evidence to support this hypothesis. And, in fact, the current body of research, as small as it is, would disagree with you.

  9. Evija says:

    My breasts sag. I’m not even remotely African (FYI, Northern European), I’m 22 and my breasts sag and always have. They were just made that way. I’ve been wearing bras since 11. And if anyone tries to tell me I’m doing something wrong, or there’s something wrong with me, they risk encountering the spectrum that starts with throwing shade and ends with banning. Or, in some cases, calling security (a separate story tho..)

    All that aside, this is an exceptionally well-written article that makes my geek go wooop! Truly, I’ve never had doubts that Cora, you have an amazing brain, but rereading this just confirms that this woman has it all. Brains, looks, kindness and awareness of so many issues that need to be addressed and to make people aware of. Thank you for this.

    //Sidenote – sorry if I wandered into offtopic somewhere along the road, babysitting + friday does inexplicable things to the brain.

  10. […] before anyone suggests that “Tribal African Women” Are Proof That Breasts without Bras Sag, it should be noted that actual researchers who have studied this explain it by way of multiple […]

  11. Penny says:

    This article is just perfect. Thank you.

  12. jessa says:

    You know, sometimes I wonder whether being very definitively outside of Western beauty norms isn’t actually a blessing in disguise. Don’t get me wrong, I understand there is inherent privilege associated with being white, slim and attractive, but sometimes those who are excluded from those spheres also seem to escape some of the pressure that they exert. If you feel like you could almost like a disney princess if you lost 10 pounds, bleached your teeth and spent hundreds of euro on clothes and make-up, you might feel like you have to try. If you accept that your ethnicity or body shape or whatever means that you are never going to look that way, maybe that puts you in a position to define your beauty in your own terms earlier on. I’m not saying that makes up for the privilege experienced by women how are traditionally beautiful but maybe it’s something. As a disclaimer, I am a white conventionally attractive woman living in a predominantly white area, so while I do my very best to be sensitive to racial issues, I am always conscious that I may make a misstep. Please let me know if anything I say is unacceptable.

    • Cora says:

      I’m glad you said this and I wonder the same. I had to reconcile myself very early on (like early to mid teens) with the fact that women who look like me were never going to appear in a fashion magazine anywhere. And it wasn’t so much about my hair and skintone as the fact that I was just really, solidly muscular and you just don’t see athletic women in a lot of publications. In a way, it’s liberating, because once you realize you’re never going to fit the mold and there’s literally nothing you can do about it, you’re free to live the rest of your life as you will. Thanks for mentioning this other aspect to the whole beauty conversation.

  13. Pixie Strong says:

    Hi Cora,
    Thank you for your article. I just have one question regarding the “Pointing to their dusty copies of National Geographic, I’ve seen far too many people insist, “See! These tribal African women having sagging breasts and they don’t wear bras, therefore bras must keep your breasts from sagging.”
    I am aware that that sort of terrible misinformation did indeed used to happen, but i though that we had evolved a bit loved then as I haven’t come across that particular comparison for many years. I was hoping you could provide some links to these sites etc?
    Also, I just want to point out that Africa is a large continent made up of many different countries and many ethnically diverse people. I think a huge step forward would be for us (in the west as we like to call ourselves) to stop lumping ‘Africans’ into one category – It happens all the time and I think it shows a huge lack of education and consideration on our part.

    • Cora says:

      Hi Pixie,

      The point of these articles isn’t to name and shame people. It’s to start conversations about issues I’ve seen in the lingerie community. If it’s the sort of thing you’re interested in researching more, I absolutely encourage you to visit some of the more popular bra fit forums,communities, blogs, and Twitter accounts and investigate for yourself. However, on TLA, I’ve deliberately talked about several social issues without naming where I’ve found certain offensive remarks (here, here, and here), because I want people to focus on the issue at hand rather than to focus on tracking down and interpreting web comments. Naming and shaming people (and all the negative repercussions that would inevitably accompany any decision to do so) are a distraction from the topic at hand, and these issues are sensitive enough and complex enough already without invoking the nuances of web etiquette when it comes to publicly outing racist remarks.

      I also absolutely agree with you that Africa is a large continent made of many different countries and ethnically diverse people, and that is certainly another reason why language like “tribal African women” is problematic (which is why it’s in quotes; they’re not my words). However, I chose to limit my discussion on the problems with that phrase to the 3 points I felt were at the core of this issue and could be easily conveyed on a consumer-oriented blog. One would easily write a thesis paper on all the things wrong with that kind of phraseology, but that sort of in-depth analysis wouldn’t necessarily be the best fit for the informal environment that is TLA.

      Thanks for stopping by,
      Cora

  14. In no way did I wish to imply that women in severe, severe financial distress should make lingerie a priority over basic necessities like shelter, food, or childcare. My comments about making choices were intended for people of modest means, which is why I used myself as an example. That being said, I agree, it is not for someone like me to dictate to any woman where her priorities should lie. It was absolutely not my intention to offend anyone, and if my comments have done so, I sincerely apologize. This is a very excellent opportunity to remind those of us who are fortunate enough to have an excess of quality lingerie to donate their bras, even to a place like Value Village (where I frequently both shop and donate). Most women’s shelters and bra shops will always accept gently worn bras to be donated to those who are in need. It is very appreciated by the recipients of these garments and can make a huge difference in a woman’s self esteem.

  15. Becca says:

    This is why I badger my friends to read this site :D
    As someone who has been threatened with “saggy breasts” for the last 25 years if I did not wear a bra 24/7,
    I *loved* this post.

  16. Alison says:

    Well I’m going to use the representative sample of ‘people who come to my shop’, or rather people who come into the department I work in, to say that breasts sag no matter what depending on all the factors mentioned. And as a busy high street store sandwiched between an affluent area and a housing estate I’d say we get a fair mix. All ages, and although the ratios of the racial mix will vary from the US, or Canada, or even England there still is one. Every woman is different. They’re a different shape and they sag in differing amounts and at different times in their life, or they don’t. One of the most severe cases of ptosis I’ve seen was on a 20 something woman who had worn a bra, as most of us do, but had lost a lot of weight post pregnancy. The other day I ftted a woman in her 70s with remarkably full and resiliant breasts for her age.

    However, I do find it hard to accept that a high level of energetic activity without a bra wouldn’t be detrimental over time. Given the substantial amount of motion and stretch that occurs. So I’m inclined to think that lack of support may exacerbate the situation on someone predisposed to sagging. But that’s borne of my own logic rather than anything scientific.

    But, bras do gather up that tissue, sagging or otherwise, and make you more comfortable and make your clothes fit. Kind of hard to wear a fitted dress if those GGs are at your waist. And from the earliest days of corsetry women have found some way of doing that in any culture where clothes are a necessity. But bras don’t keep your boobs there after they’re removed any more than a corsetted waist stays permanently reduced (not talking about waist training, which is a tad more complex).

    So, individuals and many, many factors. Logically. After all, if bras stopped sagging, most women would be sporting perky uplifted racks until their 90s. They aren’t, therefore they don’t. The tribal comparisons you’re referring to are therefore pointless and meaningless. I can’t say I’ve seen much like that myself to be honest, but I would say anyone foolishly pointing to that as any sort of indicator is blown out the water by the first bra wearing since teens woman with pendulous breasts.

    • Cora says:

      Hi Alison,

      Thanks for sharing your point of view. I definitely agree that bras can make life in general more comfortable, and you’re spot on about the logic (or lack thereof) that pretty much instantly disproves the belief that bras stop sagging. If you’d ever like to come over and write a blog post for us about your experiences a high street bra fitter (or corsetiere), please do! ;-)

  17. Lindsey says:

    So well written. A pleasure to read and such worthwhile and valid content!

  18. Candace says:

    Cora, thanks for taking on the “hard” topics and handling them! It was an insightful article and the comments regarding the article were very good as well.

  19. Icy says:

    I completely agree with the article and I enjoyed that it is so informed. My only… I guess small amendment, is that I did not appreciate the use of the blanket statement of “Eurocentic”; the women of Central or Eastern EU, for example, are also told to conform to “Western European” standards and that how the look is “wrong” and “backwards” and needs to be “Westernized”. And these women are white and European yet are also told they must conform to “proper Western” standards. While I agree that tribal African woman are the ones cited as “proof” of breast sagging, I feel that it is unfair to call the standard “Eurocentric” since Central and Eastern European woman are also told they are “wrong” and it may be better to be described as “Western Eurocentric” standards. It’s a bit of a nitpick, but I wanted to state it since I’m of Eastern European decent and I know my extended family has been told many times to conform to the “proper” standard as well as my immediate family.

    • Cora says:

      Hi Icy,
      Thanks for leaving this comment. I fully admit that I don’t know all the nuances of Western European vs. Eastern European beauty standards. I live in America, and my experience with beauty ideals tends to be very focused on the fashion and intimate apparel industry. So thank you for giving me something else to research.

      However, I think it’s also important to remember that some people are further from the beauty ideal than others. That’s because beauty standards aren’t just categorical, they’re also hierarchical. For example, having light skin is viewed as more attractive in Western society than having dark skin (and I’m not talking about tans here), even if both women are identical in every other respect (size, shape, age, hair texture, etc.). Similarly the treatment a black woman of size receives in our society is very different from the treatment a white woman of size receives.

      While I definitely believe there may be nuances to beauty standards that I’m leaving out, I’m reluctant to say that the experiences of African women as relates to beauty standards are identical to the experiences of Eastern European women. After all, when you look at fashion spreads, runway shows, and magazines (i.e. places where beauty standards are at their most visible and undiluted), you’re still much more likely to see an Eastern European model than you are, say, a model from Sub-Saharan Africa. Beauty standards go beyond just dress and grooming, they also involve people’s actual physical features.

  20. Paulina Angelika says:

    That was just AWESOME post! I love to learn something new everyday, so today I’ve learned I was using racist myths without knowing it. Thank you :)

  21. Adrianna Elizabeth Carpenter says:

    Cora this article was amazing! I am a white woman who has worn a bra for comfort and shape since I was 13 and I know that it is likely that my breasts (without the aid of surgical intervention) will sag either with time or after I have children (especially if I breastfeed which is a cause of breast sagging that was not addressed in this study or the French study). I know that my decision not to smoke and maintaining my weight may help delay that eventuality but it’s gonna happen. Just like without hair dye my hair will go grey/white, and without great intervention I will develop fine lines on my face; while I choose not to smoke or tan, and I try to avoid stress to delay those reactions as long as I can (also and mostly because I really don’t want cancer) it’s a natural part of the aging process. I think too often things like fine lines, greying hair, stretch marks, and breast sagging are treated as aging signs that can and should be completely avoided, which is not possible. I’m 23 now and I know that I want a long life and when I die in 70-80 years my hair won’t be blond anymore, my skin won’t be perfectly smooth, and my breasts won’t be as high as they are now. I also know that those facts won’t change how valuable my life will have been and I will still be beautiful. I’m sorry, wearing a bra or not wearing a bra is not going to halt aging. I don’t have to look at women of other races/nationalities to know that a bra isn’t the fulcrum on which you breasts’ natural aging process rests. I think bras have less to do with my long term breast height than the fact that I’m a 36GG, and the many differences in bra sizes weren’t addressed in either study. Using bras to prove/disprove the cause of breast sagging is like saying ice cream causes domestic violence. Ice cream sales go up in August and domestic violence rates go up in August but like your carrot analogy that’s not causation and not even correlation. They are two almost entirely unrelated facts!
    Some people bring up genetics and that’s all good great and grand but my grandmother(a longtime smoker) topped out at a 34B and my mother is a 38D and neither one of them breast fed. Somehow I think if I choose either not to have children OR if I choose to nurse my children, my breast size (36GG), and different life choices (no smoking) will affect my breast height more than their genetic influence. Especially since clearly my breast size is so different.
    In general I don’t see why people are so freaked out by OMG NEVER let the breast sag. It’s gonna happen. Wear a bra if it makes you happy (I love my bras, they fit perfectly, they are beautiful, and they make me feel beautiful) and if not then don’t wear a bra. Find what makes you happy right now and lets focus on ending breast shame and shaming, and disordered eating, and increasing body acceptance especially in the youth. And let me tell you I think your article definitely hits the right notes on that front. Thanks for that!

    • Cora says:

      Hi Adrianna!
      It’s interesting that you mentioned breast feeding because recent studies suggest that breast feeding does not affect breast sag. Instead, it’s the changes which occur during pregnancy that are the significant factor here. That’s why I didn’t address breast feeding in the article (aside from a quick sentence about those research findings). And thank you for sharing your experiences and another great example of correlation! I agree…I wish the conversation we (and by we, I mean society) had about bras and breasts and women’s bodies was very different to the one that’s currently out there. But hopefully blog posts like this and comments like yours can be a part of changing that.

  22. Thank you so much for writing this, Cora. It is an incredible, thoughtful, well researched piece of informative writing. I sincerely wish we could banish the word “saggy” in relation to the description of any woman’s body. I tackled some of these issues when I took on the resurgence of the “women don’t need bras” study. It’s true, it’s not up to me, a bra fitter, or doctor, or a scientist to tell a woman she does or doesn’t need a bra. It is up to the woman herself. Women ask me ALL the time about ptosis, and I tell them the same as what you have mentioned, the studies are not conclusive, but lifestyle, childbearing, fluctuations in weight, breast density and especially heredity all likely come into play. Breast placement also has to be considered in relation to the proportions of a woman’s entire body. Women with longer sternum bones often complain that their breasts do not sit as high as they could, while fuller busted, petite women with shorter sternum bones can often feel overwhelmed by their breasts.

    Back to the reasons for wearing bras…I often say that women don’t “need” bras for lift. Women, especially those like myself in the deeper cup sizes require them for support and comfort. That is completely different and separate from “lift”. Western culture has developed an extremely unhealthy obsession with lift, creating a near impossible standard. It is, as a fitter, one of the “big three” (along with “back fat” and “armpit fat”) concerns that women mention in my fitting room. Grownup, sensible, professional women come to me, literally pick up their breasts and shove them into their faces saying “give me this”. It’s…absurd.

    Regarding sampling bias, I mostly agree with you there. My issue with the French study which concluded that bras are not necessary is that indeed, that study took into account a small group of women…exclusively from France. This makes the data skewed and therefore, irrelevant right from the get-go. I recognize your point about women shopping in a boutique setting being a “self selected” group of volunteers, however I must respectfully disagree regarding homogeny on this point. Over the years, I haven’t seen dozens of breasts, I have seen thousands upon thousands upon thousands. I have also fit entire generations of mothers, sisters, daughters and grandmas, so I see how big of a factor heredity can be. My clientele is incredibly, incredibly diverse, from ages 12 to 97, representing a wide strata of socio-economic groups, all with different needs and expectations…and also from many, many different cultures. Working in Toronto, I have clients who hail from all over the world. The bra fitting boutique is no longer solely the domain of the “privileged white woman”. It is for ALL women. And thank goodness for that! I know it’s difficult to see this, given the very, very unfortunate lack of representation and diversity most Lingerie manufacturers and boutiques display in their advertisements. There is still much, much work to do. Things are far from perfect. That being said, even with my experience I would not presume to come to any scientific conclusions nor be willing to pass judgement across the board.

    I am aware of the ugly history you mention in regards to indigenous women being exploited and negatively objectified by Western culture. As for the practice of researchers and the bra industry using “Tribal African Women” to make a point about breasts…I have to admit, it has never crossed my mind to do so (my moral code of tolerance and acceptance simply wouldn’t allow it) and I have thankfully so far not come across it in a professional setting. I find it demeaning, absolutely shocking and utterly, completely unacceptable. Thank you so much for bringing this to light. I greatly appreciate your perspective, and your insight on this very, very important topic. You have given us much to think about. I sincerely hope the bra industry and scientific research communities hears your words.

    • Jon says:

      Babs,

      It is great to hear that you have a diverse clientele, I cannot help but wonder where you work given your claim that “the bra fitting boutique is no longer solely the domain of the ‘privileged white woman’. It is for ALL women.” My wife and I are planning a trip to Toronto probably next summer and we have certainly looked into the boutiques in Toronto. Now certainly we are interested in those that carry brands that we cannot readily find where we live in the U.S. As such we have looked a boutiques that carry more expensive European brands. However those are also the boutiques that are featured when searching for boutiques in Toronto. Given the price point of product lines they carry one would be hard pressed to claim that they are for all women.

      Now certainly you many not work at one of those higher end boutiques that cater to a particular clientele—fair enough. However there was a time in our lives when we low paid graduate students (yes a still a fair amount of privilege) with very little disposable cash. We could barely afford to purchase the occasional bra on sale at V.S. semi-annual sales.

      Point is there are large segments of women who shop for lingerie at places at Target and Wal-Mart. They shop for brands featured in those stores because they do not have the disposable cash to shop for anything else even if they wanted to. I have yet to see a “boutique” that carries these brands. If they exist that is great but based on my searching of the boutiques in Toronto and other places they are the exception. So while the average boutique may no longer be the domain of the “privileged white woman,” I would say it shopping in a boutique still reflects a great deal of privilege—privilege that many women do not have. And thus they are not open all women.

      • @ Jon. Full disclosure: I have worked at three boutiques in Toronto. Secrets From Your Sister, Change of Scandinavia and Melmira respectively. I wish to make it clear that I no longer work at those stores, and now offer my services as an independent fitter and consultant. Both Melmira and Secrets do have the reputation of being “higher end” boutiques. The service and expertise offered by the fitters at boutiques such as these is included in the price of your bra, which usually starts at around $65 and goes upward from there. Please keep in mind there may be limitations depending on the style, country of origin as well as the size. It is important to note that European bras will almost always cost more, due to import fees and duty. Even though Melmira has the reputation of being exclusively a shop for a moneyed clientele, it was there that I actually witnessed the most diversity. It is not my favorite boutique, but there I helped people on social assistance, women who were mentally ill, and many young women who were students, or economically challenged, just like you and your wife.
        Victoria’s Secret product can be rather pricy, in fact there are some brands, one of my favorite being Passionata which offer a better quality product at a comparable price point. Boutiques do not carry the lines offered at Target or Wal Mart for several reasons, the boutique niche is exactly that..fitting and harder to find product, and also because lower priced product is readily available at the stores you mention. It would be redundant to do so.
        It is also at this point that I often talk to women who balk at spending on their lingerie…about priorities. Women spend money on handbags, shoes, jeans, hairstyles, makeup every other part of their appearance, with the exception of their foundation garments, which are arguably the most important. Balking at spending $80 on a quality bra needs to be put into perspective. Many people spend as much on dinner and a movie on a regular basis. Forgoing a daily Starbucks coffee adds up to a very, very fine lingerie collection. If it is that important to you and your wife, I’d suggest making a new bra a special Christmas or Birthday gift. One does not “need” ten cheap bras, when three basic, better quality bras can last up to two years, with proper care and cost less over the long term. If boutique prices are too high, much of the same product can be found on the internet for at least 15% less.
        Again, full disclosure. There is the misconception that boutique bra fitters are extremely well paid, and make bundles of commission and showered in free product. From my experience, I can assure you this is not always the case. I will be brutally honest. As a boutique fitter, my yearly earnings, after taxes actually were comparable to just several thousand dollars above the poverty line. Coming back to priorities, because I am a size 36G, there is no shopping for bras at Wal Mart for me. Therefore, I make hard choices when it comes to both my lifestyle AND my wardrobe. I have a low maintenance hairstyle and do not visit expensive salons. I wear $10 shoes. If I shop for new clothing, it is usually at H&M, where no item is over $40. I wear a LOT of vintage and thrift store items. The good news is, my $120 bra makes my $6 blouse look like a million bucks.
        That being said, at my blog I have written an article outlining why it is good to invest in fewer pieces of better quality.
        http://www.babsthebrafitter.com/why-buy-good-bras/
        Based on what you have told me, I would advise that you and your wife visit Change of Scandinavia on Queen Street W during your visit to Toronto. They offer a wide size range and very pretty bras for around $30 on average, with prices as low at $10, if you catch the right sale. Keep in mind, however that the quality and life span of those bras will be much, much lower than those at the mid to higher price point. If you are looking at investing in mid price point European product, I recommend Chantelle and Panache products, which are likely available at the boutiques you have probably researched.
        I apologize to Cora, I sincerely do not want to derail the conversation or detract from the very important issue she has raised. I would prefer and encourage anyone else with a non related question to email me privately at babsthebrafitter@gmail.com

        • Cora says:

          “It is also at this point that I often talk to women who balk at spending on their lingerie…about priorities. Women spend money on handbags, shoes, jeans, hairstyles, makeup every other part of their appearance, with the exception of their foundation garments, which are arguably the most important. Balking at spending $80 on a quality bra needs to be put into perspective. Many people spend as much on dinner and a movie on a regular basis. Forgoing a daily Starbucks coffee adds up to a very, very fine lingerie collection.”

          You may not realize this, Babs, but for women who are living at or near the poverty line (or making at or near a living wage), the kind of reasoning you’ve displayed here is incredibly offensive. The inability to afford a $65 bra is not an issue of “misplaced priorities” for many women, because other, actual priorities – like food, clothing, shelter, childcare, and regular employment – have to come first. We’re not talking about saving the cost of a few lattes in order to afford a bra; many women don’t even have the budget for the one Starbucks latte.

          I think it’s important to remember that many people, myself included, are talking about lingerie from the perspective of someone who’s in a middle-class socioeconomic bracket or higher. I am also a former grad student and I’ve had jobs which barely made a living wage. In my previous employment, I worked with women who, even after holding down 1 or 2 full-time jobs, were still below the poverty level. The issue of affordability when it comes to high-end lingerie isn’t about “choice” for every woman. When I started blogging, a $65 bra was far, far out of my budget; my entire graduate student stipend was spent on essentials (rent, food, books, and gas). If someone had told me my priorities were out of order because I didn’t want to spend upwards of $65 on a bra, I’d have laughed in their face because we were obviously approaching this “priority” question from two completely different perspectives.

          No one is saying bra fitters are well-paid, at least no one in this particular comment thread. The amount of money bra fitters make is completely unrelated to this discussion. However, if you are able to afford a $65 bra, you are in a better position than many other women. While some women choose to buy cheap bras simply because they don’t know any better, many other women are purchasing their bras from Wal-mart and Target because that’s all they can afford. And we haven’t even started talking about women who only buy their clothes from Goodwill and Value Village because that’s all they can afford. And regardless of where a woman can or cannot afford to shop, she’s entitled to place her priorities wherever she wants to place them.

          When it comes to conversations like this, about affordability and choice and priorities, it’s worth remembering that, once again, your experience is not generalizable. Women of all socioeconomic statuses visit the blog, and were I still a woman who could not afford a more high-end bra, the mindset you’ve displayed here would not feel the least bit welcoming to me.

        • Jon says:

          @Babs

          I am not going to speak for Cora but based on a number of her subjects I would be shocked if she would object to someone addressing the importance of class in discussions race—particularly when a claim that may overlook a question of privilege is introduced into the conversation. Indeed one of the most significant criticisms of feminist theory and politics is that it often overlooks the ways in which race, class, and sexuality means that all women’s experiences are not the same. The same objection can be made of those that assume race is not impacted by gender, sexuality and class or class is not impact by race, gender and sexuality. Complicating a discussion of race is not on my view a hijacking or derailing of a thread. So I do not think you or I have anything to apologize for (I will happily refrain from this in the future if Cora deems it to be derailing the discussion).

          I do thank you for your recommendations of where to shop but your emphasis on what my wife and I would do, I think, misses the point. We are quite comfortable now but that is besides the point. There are many who are not. And they certainly do not need to be told they need to get their priorities in order. I am not here to judge your choices–or theirs. That you make trade-offs so that you can buy more expensive bras highlights my point: you still have the privilege of making those trade-offs. There are many women who make similar choices and do not have the extra cash to spend. They are not spending on handbags, lattes from Starbucks or getting their hair done. They are working multiple jobs and are barely able to make ends meet. There is simply no reason to assume their decision to purchase a few bras at Wal-Mart means they do not have the right priorities or that they are failing to make the tough choices enabling them to shop in boutique.

          To suggest that means that the boutique experience is not open to all women is not indict you. It is to suggest that privilege still matters, no matter how welcoming, when considering who can partake of the boutique experience. That working class women or women on public assistance are not unwelcome in the boutiques you worked is great but that is not the point. It still takes a particular kind of privilege to make the choices they (and you make) to shop at them. And to suggest all women have this privilege overlooks the ways in which socio-economic conditions for many women prevent them from being able to have the same experience (no matter what their size).

    • Cora says:

      Babs,

      The biggest issue with the French study is that it’s not been peer-reviewed and has not appeared in any scientific journals. Peer review is an essential part of the vetting process for research; without it, it’s hard for academics to take your findings with more than a grain of salt. While the size of the sample is definitely a problem (as was the sample’s homogeneity), I’ve seen bra experts quote research with far smaller sample sizes…the only difference is that they agreed with the findings of that research and disagreed with the findings of the French study. I’d also point out that most research of this nature is only done on the inhabitants of a single country. It has to do with where research is conducted (usually universities), and where the test subjects usually come from (university students). That’s also a valid complaint, but very different from a statement which implies that because this study only used French participants, it’s automatically invalid.

      In addition, my critique of small, self-selected, group of volunteers was not necessarily a criticism of homogeneity (though the two often wind up happening at the same time). To illustrate, the readership of my blog is very heterogeneous; it’s extremely diverse on the axes of race, gender, socioeconomic status, location, and age. However, my blog readership is not a representative sample of anything. In the same way, no matter how many women you’ve personally bra fit in Toronto, those women are not a representative sample of any other group besides “women you’ve personally bra fit in Toronto.” Sampling and research methodology isn’t a matter of “feelings” or “perspective.” There are actual scientific definitions behind these terms, and they have actual scientific processes. No matter how much you feel that your clients are representative of Toronto, without any actual empirical data to back up those claims, they are nothing more than feelings. This is especially true considering what we know about where boutiques tend to be located (affluent areas), the price point of products they carry (which tend to exclude the working poor and others of a lower socioeconomic status), as well as the biases some shop owners and staff exhibit (I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been ignored or mistreated for having what I presume is the “wrong look” when I enter a bra boutique). All these factors are relevant and salient and cannot be dismissed on a whim.

      The good news though, is that you don’t need any scientific validity to be an excellent bra fitter. The fact that your client sample is not representative of a given population should not be an insult or a deterrent. It’s simply a fact which has no significant bearing on any real part of your job.

      Thanks for stopping by,
      Cora

  23. Abena says:

    Asante Sana! This eloquently written article provided both knowledge and a sense of relief. Matters such as those mentioned in this work are imperative to all women. I am so moved that you deemed these issues important, and not “too controversial.” Please continue to deliver your honest and insightful opinions via this blog.

  24. Carey Pumo says:

    Amen! I don’t make health related claims about the custom garments that I make. Everyone can dig up some kind of article that will “support” their position. There is no need to even go in that direction. If they like the garment, they will buy it for their own reasons.

    • Cora says:

      Exactly. There are plenty of reasons to buy whatever kind of lingerie you want; there’s no need to resort to pseudoscience to support your position.

  25. Faye says:

    This is such a thoughtful read. Thank you for writing so eloquently about this.

  26. EEE says:

    I love this! Also, not only are national geographic photos a poor sample, so are western images of breasts. I’m a bisexual woman whose friends are all very casual about changing in front of each other, and I’ve only seen maybe 8 sets of breasts that aren’t my own on a real person in front of me in my lifetime. Most breasts you see are either 1) in bras 2) in the media. Most bras would conceal any sag that’s present, and advertisements are photoshopped to hell.

    • Missy M. says:

      Yes! I often wonder how the perception of “western breasts” would be affected if more people just plain saw more normal, real-life breasts. I can count on one hand the number of women who’s breasts I have seen in my adult life, and they always look weird to me. Not because they are weird (usually look pretty much like mine), but because they don’t look like media boobs.

      • Cora says:

        I had the same realization. I mean, I’ve never really disliked my body, but I often wondered why my breasts didn’t look the way they do in catalogs and magazines. It’s a shame that I was a grown woman before I saw a variety of images of breasts, and though I don’t think my self-esteem was adversely affected, I can certainly understand how the self-image of a young woman might be.

    • Cora says:

      This was something else I was thinking about when I wrote this piece, but I didn’t include it due to space constraints. I’m glad you made that point in the comments.

    • Collins says:

      That’s true…but also, my Mom is actually from West Africa…my grandma’s boobs are totally flat and long because she’s had like 14 kids, lol. That’ll do it to you. A lot of those women in national geographics have probably breast fed at least one kid, especially since people have children younger in Africa generally, and a lot more kids than in America. I don’t think it’s a matter of men selecting longer breasts because they indicate fertility. Rather, often the longer shape and lost elasticity are proof of motherhood. My young female cousins have really perky breasts because they haven’t had children yet and they’re buff and have young skin. There it’s common to walk around your compound/house area without a shirt in just a skirt, kinda like men do when they lounge.
      But also, black women are often a little more narrow than white women up top. I’m like an extreme example even being biracial, but my hips go the other way in actual bone structure. If your ancestors evolved in a cold area, the goal was to maximize your torso size without losing too much heat, because your torso produces a lot of heat. Arms and legs were shorter relative to Africans, because heat would be lost with no benefit, etc…most differences in physical characteristics you can see can be attributed to the adaptations ancestors made to their different environments, so most visual racial differences are environmental adaptations. Necessarily if one thing changes another might to reach a preferred balance. It would make sense (to me, but I haven’t read anything on this last part, the following is my own hypothesis) that to have about the same breast volume in the case of having a narrower torso, might mean having a higher cup size and thus slightly longer breasts, aspect ratio wise. This is not across the board. But, my friend Asha first pointed out to me that she though white women tended to have wider, slightly less pendulous breasts, and then I started noticing it, and it comes up years later…This does not explain anomalies in the population, mostly just applies to the median

  27. Rachel says:

    Great article, thank you for writing it.

  28. Megan says:

    Great article! I agree wholeheartedly with your points. I also wanted to add that, having spent several years in Africa, I don’t actually they have saggier breasts than anyone else (those iconic natgeo photos notwithstanding). My great grandma, a white American, on the other hand had boobs so big and saggy that she tucked them in her waistband!

    • Cora says:

      Hi Megan,
      Thanks for stopping by! You’ve really summed up the whole point. Women’s breasts are women’s breasts, and they sag to varying degrees, no matter where they live.

  29. Amber says:

    Thank you for writing this! Such a great read, especially for me as I have ptosis myself, as do many women today of all ages and skin colors, and breast shape/sizes. I find it ignorant and repetitive to constantly hear/see “proof” that sagging breasts are the “un”-ideal. Or that there is one cause or effect to ptosis. Your post was refreshing and absolutely spot on. I feel like culture-shaming is prevalent when statements are made about breasts of tribal women. As you so wisely said it’s not right to use one culture as an example/consequence of what not to do for another culture. I love all of the wonderful research that you included along with the post, as well. Well done Cora!

    • Cora says:

      I was hoping you’d stop by, Amber! I was thinking about you as a I wrote this piece. I completely agree that misinformation like “bras prevent breast sagging” does a disservice to women everywhere, but especially to women who have always had ptosis. Women are already guilt-tripped so much about our appearance, we don’t need anything extra on the list.

  30. Ridiculous says:

    The so called “Western Beauty Standards” is really just something made up by women who feel like they can’t attain those standards. I used to believe it was some kind of Western media bias, but then I realized standards in my native country was more or less the same, except maybe the women looked thinner.

    Western beauty standards = Human beauty standards. Fact is, men all over the world find roughly the same type of women attractive. Fit, secondary sexual characteristics, not too old/young, etc. That there are fetishes and preferences for fuller or thinner women across the world doesn’t really change the core standard.

    • Cora says:

      As I mentioned in the blog post, there are some consistencies in what we call beauty worldwide. Youth, symmetry, proportionality, etc. However, the details of what’s beautiful (shape, size, hair texture, hair color, skin color, etc.) vary wildly between cultures, and that’s what’s important to keep in mind.

    • ...so there says:

      @ridiculous your comment also completely ignores how the west basically force feeds this euro centric idea of beauty throughout the world. In Brunei I would walk through the mall and see pictures of hijabs being advertised by obviously western women (blonde, blue-eyed). Nowadays you cannot escape whatever the west deems perfect and you cannot ignore how this goes on to shape what you’ve naively called the human beauty standard.

      If you looked at Vogue you would assume everyone’s ideal of beauty is tall, skinny with hardly any curves (most designer clothes really hang great on a body like this) but if you head to Nigeria a person like that wouldn’t get a second look. The fact that you think that western beauty is considered the ‘ideal’ just BECAUSE of human nature shows you probably need to read up on these kinds of things a little bit more.

      • Favour Odoemena says:

        Exactly! The west colonized and imposed themselves on the people they colonized from religion to standards of beauty

  31. Becca says:

    Thank you, Cora. I initially started reading TLA simply for the beautiful lingerie, but insightful, important pieces like this are the reason I keep reading (and reading and reading).

  32. Leanna says:

    What a well-written, well-referenced and clearly point-by-point broken down article on a concept with so many intertwining ugly threads. Thank you for writing it, and giving such a thorough analysis on the failings of so many research methods also.

  33. Gena says:

    I just had to comment on this article because it’s SO well written and perfectly on point! It’s refreshing to see someone speak the truth about a subject without concern for damaging sales or ruffling feathers. So well done!

    • Cora says:

      Thank you, Gena! There’s a definite tendency to just go along with the status quo in the lingerie industry. I’m glad you appreciate when we go “against the grain” a bit. :-)

  34. SophieHMS says:

    Fantastic article, thank you! This needed to be written. You did it amazingly.

    • Cora says:

      Thanks for being our first commenter! I’m glad you liked the post. :-)

      • Collins says:

        You must be interested in sociology. I had to reread several parts because I had never heard of some of the word/concepts you attributed to social behaviors I had observed, like confirmation bias. I think you really hit the nail on the head when you analyze the specific type of objectification/racial superiority tactic that goes into using African women as a bad example without having actual research that bras do anything to maintain shape…

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