Perspectives: Bra-fitting in Schools
Last week, this article came out. According to the piece, there’s a school that’s trying to integrate bra-fitting/buying into its curriculum.
Considering the source (Daily Mail)… well, take the actual article with the same mindset you’d have towards this publication in general, whatever that mindset may be. (Can you feel me trying to be both diplomatic and evangelically skeptical here?)
However, the article does address a valid concern. Is it “appropriate”, or ideal, or useful, or effective to start teaching about bras, how they fit, how to buy them, etc, in schools? Who would do the teaching? How would it work? Would it be offensive to conservative, religious, or disadvantaged families? (And just to make the discussion more complicated: should it be tied to gender identity education, which I have no background in and thusly have no knowledge of whether or not schools typically tackle it?)
Lots of comments have been posted, many of which are your typical spammy substanceless word salad. Some of the commenters actually provide support for their opinions (whether it’s valid or not is not a call I’ll make for you) but here’s a breakdown of a few of the more notable comments.
Objection, basis: Students today don’t have enough time to learn to read, write and do simple math as it is.
Objection, basis: Parents can/should just get them fitted at a department store.
(Me: Because that’ll help! /sarcasm)
Assent, basis: Families/parents are clueless in the first place and cannot be depended on to educate their children about bras.
Assent, basis: Schools are safe places to learn life skills, not simply academics. It would be a good addition to physical education (gym) classes.
Assent, basis: It’s just like that lesson on tying shoelaces when [commenter] was four. In 1974.
(Me: I must have missed school that day. I rocked Velcro sneakers for a long, long time. Also, I wasn’t born then.)
Objection, basis: The state is eroding the fun out of motherhood.
(Me: I swear I didn’t make this up.)
Unclear: Boys should be taught how to use condoms.
(Me: Aren’t they already? And why only boys? And why is teen pregnancy being discussed here? Well, I understand why but I disagree that this train of thought should be connected here.)
Objection, basis: Psychologically unhealthy for late bloomers.
Objection, basis: It’s an embarrassing topic. Furthermore, it’s the job of the school nurse to “catch” anyone who needs help in this regard.
(Me: Wow, so much to say on these two points. First: embarrassing? Yeah, only because society’s an immature bitch. [See what I did there? Being mature? =P] Really, though, one of the things to be taught, wherever this teaching is being done, is that it’s NOT embarrassing! It’s not a discussion that has to be whispered in code behind double-locked doors. Now, the school nurse? As far as I can recall, the school nurse is a single person who addresses the minor physical injuries of the entire student body, and who cooperates with outside professional medical departments when handling major physical injuries of, again, the entire student body. How do you expect a single school nurse to educate every girl on a one-on-one basis? How do you know for sure they’re qualified to do so? Are you comfortable with a male nurse going up to your school-age daughter and saying, “I noticed you have breasts. Do you need help getting fitted for a bra? I can help you with that.”? Furthermore, they’re not out on campus wandering around looking for people with broken wrists; they’re stationed at their office so that people who break their wrist or skin their elbow know where they’ll be able to find medical attention. How are they going to “catch” girls with developing breasts? Are the girls who get nosebleeds and fall from the monkey bars and intercept footballs with their spine the only girls to receive this education? Gah. Supernurse… only too much more super than usual. Count me out.)
And now, me. I get a special section because I’m the ruler and dictator and center of this blog =D I don’t know this school, or their faculty, or if this is even a true story, and I don’t have much background in education or curriculum development. All I have behind me is personal experience in a great public education system.
Not to equate bras and sexuality, but the latter is something that my public school(s) addressed somewhat adequately. In fifth grade, we had a special module called Human Growth and Development. Classes were gender-segregated, and we learned about reproductive organs. The girls got the basic 411 about menstruation and body hair. I think that was it.
In middle school, there was a very short special unit on sex that focused mainly on STDs. I’m very sure we also covered something in high school too, but I don’t remember much about either of these.
My point isn’t what was retained (because then it would be really short and not much in the way of evidence) but that my (admittedly more-liberal-than-most) public schools were able to realistically address these sensitive topics. We were always given the opportunity to opt out (well, our families/guardians were always given the opportunity to opt us out) and the education itself was very straightforward, true to fact and clinically carried out. If breast health, bras and bra culture were to be seriously introduced to schools, I think that it could be done really appropriately. Effective, honest, helpful? That depends on the teacher, the school and their resources. But it’s possible to do well.
Should it be done in schools? I think so. Where in schools? Certainly not the school nurse’s office! It could be a special module, like sexual health units. However, I definitely think that it should be distinguished from sex education, and that this distinction should be explicitly pointed out. There is enough unnecessary mental affiliation between breasts and sex in current generations. I don’t think it should be promoted in the next, much less in schools.
I see a few possible places to do this. One is in whatever class sex ed is being taught. I know that I just said that they shouldn’t be connected but it is definitely a convenient set-up. Another place is, as suggested by a commenter in the article, PE. It would certainly be immediately relevant as developing girls start to need support when they run (like I would have appreciated…) but my PE classes certainly had regular physical health/well-being components, and general outward breast health would fit right in.
Who would teach? One comment suggested bringing in retailers or other experts. Our (collective bloggership’s) problem with this is that retailers often get their shit wrong too. Teachers? Potentially even more disastrous. I can’t think of an absolute population that would be sure to help students the most, so my vote simply goes to whoever’s most qualified.
What about gender? I see upsides and downsides to both co-ed-ing and segregating gender for these units. Keeping classes whole is ideal for trickle-down/up/out education. If we have everyone in the class educated, then they can (potentially) spread what they learn in school to their family and friends. I personally don’t see the problem with boys learning about bras, but I know there would be plenty of people objecting to that. (I can’t give an objective two-sided debate on this topic, so if anyone wants to write that up, consider this an engraved invitation.) However, I would definitely disagree with segregating gender in addressing breasts and bras in a cultural, or societal context. Maybe this is critical-thinking approach more appropriate in high school, but I think it would be a valuable experience to discuss, with teachers and peers in school, the social perspectives of bras in their and other generations. When is it appropriate, for example, for a bra, or a bra strap, or the cups of a bra, to show, and why do they think so? When and where are conversations about bras and breasts appropriate, or necessary, and why do they think so? How does what they’ve just learned work with the dress code, and what they think of their school’s dress code? Insert here also discussions about slut-shaming, body-shaming, and connect these to topics like eating disorders (bulimia, anorexia, etc). I definitely had education about eating disorders and I think it would be a great way to demonstrate relevance and importance.
I don’t think being offensive towards late developers or small busted girls is a problem. It should be a part of this unit to teach that small busts also need the support of a good bra, and that breasts of any size shouldn’t be shamed by others (or themselves). When it comes to disadvantaged families, the education is still valuable. I don’t know how to address these situations in particular, or if they should be addressed in detail at all, but it might be a point to make about bra-recycling and alternative resources. I can’t say for sure. As for conservative and religious families… well, I have to say that bras technically have nothing to do with that, but as with sexual health units, families could be given the opportunity to opt out. If they really have to. I guess.
Sadly, with the teach-to-the-test trends going way up, I don’t see any of this, whether done poorly or done well, happening at all.
What do you think about bras in school? Is it something you think should or shouldn’t be done? Is it possible? Something that will definitely happen, or that definitely won’t?
(I forgot to tackle the complication of gender identity! All I would have had to say is that my high school had an LGBTQ panel. I think it was an assembly, but the panel spoke in the auditorium, which would fit only a very small fraction of our student population. I guess we went in groups? Or maybe it was a club thing rather than a school thing. Anyways, bras! Wouldn’t hurt with this.)