Do The Natives
"If I don't wear a bra my breasts will look like those I saw in the National Geographic Magazine!"
By Ken L. Smith, Breast Health Facilitator for ACS
How many times have we heard a woman say this? How many times have we ourselves said it? So, is it true? Will breasts really look like those of the natives in Africa and the Pacific Islands and primitive Central America if we don't wear a bra?
Why don't we attempt to put this statement to some sort of a test with concrete results we can see, to see if it could possibly be true. The funds are not available to finance a fully scientific evaluation of this hypothesis, but perhaps we can do a little bit of logical reasoning. More than Sixteen Billion dollars are involved in the undergarment industry, and it seems as though we are seeing more and more examples of possible conflicts between the possible loss of that income and the discovery of the truth about bras and breasts that might jeopardize that income. But you and I need to find out the answer, because good breast health depends upon our knowing the truth.
I personally believe that there is enough evidence to show that wearing a bra for any length of time restricts lymphatic fluid from adequately flowing through the breasts, and I also believe that deserves serious study, or at least the encouragement of women to not wear the bra as much as they probably do now. I also believe that by reducing the use of a bra could reduce the incidence of breast cancer. But one major reason some women are hesitant about leaving their bra off is that they have been told by... their mother? the bra industry? the misinformed masses?... that the non-use of a bra over time will CAUSE their breasts to sag. That is called Breast Ptosis.
Let's see what we have to consider as "evidence" for our little study. First, we need to find some of those infamous images that we all remember seeing in the magazines back when we were in school. I recall my Latin teacher brought in her personal collection of National Geographics to her classroom. I don't have access to Miss Smith's magazines any more so I did the next best thing and purchased some CDs from National Geographic Magazine that have an image of every page (including the cover and the advertisements) of every issue they have published, beginning back in 1888. It was fun looking through the images, but many were poorly reproduced and pretty difficult to view. They are not as clear as the beautiful images they publish today. Any images we use here that have a publishing date came from them. I credited the source as much as I could read them, and I hope that the publishers and the National Geographic Society's magazine will grace us with permission to view them here.
Next, we need to have a better understanding of what "normal" women's breasts look like today. Do women's breasts in America look anything like the ones seen 80 years ago in the Pacific Islands? I have gathered a number of images that may help us to understand what "normal" women's breasts actually look like. Remember that models and movie stars do not have 'average' breasts in most cases. Sadly many do not even have 'natural' breasts any more.
The real question to which we seek an answer is: Does not wearing a bra cause our breasts to sag more than if we always wear a bra? Now, just how do we find that answer?
Because we are not doing a controlled scientific experiment here, and because we cannot wait fifty years to see the results of our little study, we may have to make some assumptions. One thing that we can assume seems rather obvious: Women living in a primitive society in Africa during the first part of the twentieth century did not wear bras. Ever! I say that is obvious because bras were not invented until 1917, and they certainly never went to the far corners of the primitive societies very quickly. Even modern medicines did not move that quickly. Also, when those women don't usually wear any apparel above the waist, they certainly wore no bras. Most never even knew what a bra was. If you list all of the reasons you or your lady wears a bra, not one of them will ever matter to a lady that lives in a grass hut on the Congo River.
When we observe images of women that we know or who live where we live, we can usually assume that they wear bras most of the day. Singer and Grismaijer found in their study of a random selection of women that those wearing bras usually had higher breast cancer rates, and that slightly more than five percent of their total subjects normally did not wear bras. So we can assume that the majority of the women whose images we see normally wear bras.
So what are we looking for? What will answer our question for us? I think that two observations could either answer our question or at least plant some concern in the readers' thoughts:
If the images have a date with them, that is the circulation date of the National Geographic Magazine that image came from.
<<< -- Published in 1911, Photo from "Women of All Nations," Cassell & Co., New York, by Nicholas & Co.
The caption on this image was: "Dravidian Namburi Brahman Lady of the West Coast of India in Full Dress. Her ornaments are of gold and form the only covering she is allowed to wear above the waist in public.
Published in 1911, Photo by Lehnert & Landrock -- >>>
"A Nomad Girl Of The South"
<<< -- Published in 1912, Photo from Dr. Alexander Graham Bell
"A Sinhalese Girl Of Ceylon"
Published in 1912 -- >>>
"Dontoc Igorots Bringing In Camotes. When laboring in mud and water, in planting time, both sexes frequently go about entirely nude, a condition not observed among any other tribe in the Philippines."
<<< -- Published in 1912, "Dontoc Igorot Woman In Working Dress. The women sometimes wear skirts of leaves when engaged in field work."
Published in 1913, an image of an Ilongot woman. -- >>>
<<< -- Published in 1914, Photo by Lehnert & Landrock
"An Arab Matron Of Mixed Blood"
Published in 1921, Photo from Mrs. Runummud Dodson Khuie -- >>>
<<< -- Published in 1924 "A Comely Furowiah"
Published in 1926 -- >>>
"A Maku Squaw: Parima River. There is little in their costume to distinguish the men from the women in this tribe. They even affect the same style of hair "bob". The Woman has decorated her shoulders with an old piece of cloth for the occasion of having her photograph taken.
<<< -- Published in 1929, Photo by R. K. Peck
"This robust young Melanesian woman from the village of Hula, with her huge mop of frizzly hair, is of the type found along the southeast coast of the island.
Published in 1932 -- >>>
"A Smile Constitutes Full Dress In Parts Of Tanganyika. Although clothes are not much worn, physical mutilation is practiced as an aid to beauty. Besides scarification, lips and ears are distended. Great rivalry exists as to who shall have the longest ear lobes."
<<< -- Published in 1939, Photo by Screen Traveler
Published in 1946, Photo from U. S. Marine Corps -- >>>
"Clothing Shortages Mean Nothing To Tenaku, A Yap Belle. She's fully dressed with skirt of shredded coconut leaves, hibiscus and lilies from the near-by jungle for her hair, and neck cord indicating marital status. Tenaku, 26, and the mother of two children, was shot in the left foot by a stray bullet from a plane strafing a Japanese headquarters.
<<< -- Published in 1948, Photo by W. Robert Misine
"Tattoos and Shells Deck a Truk Woman. Years ago Caroline natives covered their bodies with tattooing. Christian missionaries discouraged the practice, and later the Japanese prohibited it. Dressed for a dance, the woman wears a shell-decorated headband and a fringed necklace. She dwells on Ulalu, a Truk Island of volcanic origin.
Unknown date, this portrays three women from a primitive group and are considered to be fully dressed.
A friend that is an author, lecturer, writer and avid traveler has shared with us some current images of Embera native women in Central America, near the Panama Canal. They are still living as they have for centuries, and when he visited their tribes he saw no evidence of any bras or supportive garments being worn. He did notice that it appeared that "just for the visitors" some of the women dancers were wearing some apparel on their upper bodies that covered their breasts, but during the dancing if they had trouble keeping the garment on it just got tossed aside. His photos have been seriously cropped to show the detail that we are interested in, and they are current for the beginning of the second decade of 2000.
These are two views of the same lady. She and others were performing a dance for their visitors, so they are dressed up for the occasion. You can easily see that jewelry and body markings are important parts of the 'costume' and possibly signify certain things in their culture.
These are two views of a second lady, one that has at least one small child. Another assumption that we can make is that she is breastfeeding unless a rare circumstance is involved that prevents her from lactating. Breastfeeding is not considered to induce or aggravate breast ptosis, but the weight gain/loss of pregnancy can. We wonder if excessive numbers of pregnancies and extended breastfeeding years might not show some detrimental effects that "civilized" women do not experience.
And these two views are a third woman. The body "tattoos" are a chemical derived from plants that will come off after a period of a few weeks. It is not what we think of as a tattoo that requires opening of the skin surface or any other type of permanent scarification process.
In each of these three ladies we can see a slight occurrence of breast ptosis, but we do not know the ages of the ladies. We also do not know how many children they have had, or how much tobacco smoke they have been subjected to in the main hut. Tobacco usage is one cause of ptosis of the breast and many tribes smoke heavily, and those primitive items we think of as "peace pipes" do not carry filters... as if that would help.
All of the above images portray a far different image from the ones referred to by the opening question. We recall the images that were more like this one:
Published in 1929, Photo by R. K. Peck -- >>>
This woman lived near Port Moreshy, New Guinea.
Perhaps we just better remembered the images that portrayed "funny looking women with flat breasts", which we were not used to seeing if all we had seen in our young lives were our mothers and aunts and ladies in the grocery stores that had the usual "sticky-out" breasts. If you are of the earlier generations and grew up with Elvis and Pat Boone you especially remember the women seen in public as having breasts that looked like "the front bumper of a '55 Cadillac"... all pointy like Madonna spoofed in her song. I wonder what the women in the early part of the twentieth century on Truk Island might have thought had they seen a woman shaped like that? I'm thinking of Ann Margaret in the early Elvis movies.
I think that we can all agree that the women portrayed above do not have breast shapes that are anything at all like the woman portrayed to the right. One thing for sure is that those in the first seven photos never wore a bra because it was not invented until 1917, and considering all of the others are pictured wearing either their daily apparel or their 'special' finery for celebrations or photo-taking, they likely never wore a bra either. More than likely the price of a bra is more than the value of native currency or other trade items these natives have/had to their name in a whole year. More than likely if they had any connection with the outside world, and they have something of value to exchange, they did not get something to wear, since their finest "apparel" seems to be beads, flowers, tattoos and body scarification. In many cases they accepted their own bodies as beauty enough.
I dare say most of these women look no different than many of the women we all know and live with. But it has been shown that not too many women see bare breasts in their daily routine, other than their own or those of the women in their families, and they usually have no concept of what other women's breasts actually look like. That can cause several problems, such as they may think that they alone have two breasts that are not "normal" breasts. But they place themselves in judgment before the breasts that are visible in our society. In reality, few women can "measure up to" breasts that they do see, but those breasts belong to movie stars, figure models, women portrayed in classical paintings or porn stars, and those women are carefully selected from "the best available". It is for this reason we offer here on http://BreastNotes.com several galleries that contain images of "normal" women's breasts.
But for this "study" I want to offer to you images of women of today that look very much like the native women that we remembered as having "flat, droopy" breasts. And as we surmised before, we have to assume that 95% of these women have always worn bras, and most likely they were started out with their "training bras" at the first signs of puberty.
These ladies grew up in the jungle also. The Asphalt Jungle. They are not victims of any type of breast disease. And more than likely, these nine women... or at least eight of them to be statistically correct... grew up wearing bras. Am I saying that wearing the bra caused their breasts to be come ptotic? Absolutely not. What I am saying is that wearing a bra DID NOT PREVENT these women from becoming ptotic.
Most women today would say that were they one of these ladies, they definitely would wear a bra, or their clothing would just absolutely not fit them. Or they would not feel that they are "acceptable" in their own society without breasts that look more like what their/our society expects breasts to look like. After all, a woman's breasts are a vital part of her femininity, and how they look... how she looks overall... is very important. Even in the native ladies' world their breasts were decorated with ornamentation or jewelry. And no one would blame them for wearing a bra in public to make her breasts conform to expectations. But the point we want to come away from this with is that these breasts in the second gallery did not do this because the women did not wear bras. They DID wear bras, and the bras did not prevent this from happening. And the native ladies at the top of the page do not look like these ladies, and they did NOT wear bras. This should make us think a little harder about what we expect the bra to do for us. Perhaps we should think more about what the bra does TO us, as well as for us.
And that is an important point. When we read about the many comments people (experts and laypersons) make about the use of a bra you have to segregate their comments into two categories. They describe what the bra does:
Each of these ladies most likely fall into one or more of several categories, each of which may cause ptosis of the breast:
Things that DID NOT cause breast ptosis include:
Something else to consider is whether breast ptosis is something that only older women are subjected to or if younger women face it too. Let's look at some more examples. The faces of the following young ladies are included to better determine the ages of these subjects:
Theoretically, if these ladies' images are posted on the open internet they are at least eighteen years of age, although some appear to be short of that age. It is a good bet that none are over their late twenties. I doubt that they have flushed too many tobacco products through their lungs yet, and although they are certainly capable of inducing lactation and are old enough to have conceived and delivered, it could not have happened too often at this stage of their lives. Again we have to assume that most have worn bras since they started to develop, especially since a common belief still holds that a "good bra" that is "well fit" should make these breasts develop more "normally" (a claim not held by most bra manufacturers we are told). So, what caused these cases of breast ptosis?
Three strong possibilities still loom:
Let's look at the other side of the argument: Are there real women who actually are older than a teen ager that do not wear a bra and do not have breasts that sag? Well, this young lady to the right has taken very good care of herself, and exercises properly and eats properly, and she wore a bra for about a year, back when her breasts got large enough that her mom bought her a bra. She thought better of wearing that bra and removed it that first year and never put it back on. In this image she has just celebrated her fifty-fifth year of life.
There is one more thing that we need to consider when we wonder about our friends that live in the primitive world. See if it is obvious to you in the image below:
Those are not bikinis that they are wearing. Those have to be fairly snug around their chest to stay up, especially on the two younger ones, who are only just now experiencing the beginning of the development of their breast buds, and anything that grows by cell division, whether it be plant or animal, will yield to pressure if it cannot force itself through any restrictive pressure. Roots of plants find tiny holes in brick walls and crumble the wall. But when the ancient Chinese constricted young girl's feet their feet could not develop, so they grew grossly distorted and they were maimed for life.
Young breasts will develop nicely on their own without any help, in most cases, but if they are restricted then they will still grow, but they may have to grow in an unnatural direction and in a malformed manner. The older of the three girls in the image is developing much more and it appears that her left breast is headed 'south'.
Referred to as "Breast Binding" it is a process that could be referred to as another type of "scarification" which causes scars and changes to the anatomy for reasons of beauty. We are familiar with tattoos and piercings, but it goes much deeper, even to the point of making new or modified body openings. Primitive tribes may consider ear lobes pierced enough to put their arms through them or disks placed in their extended lips that hold a small saucer plate as being the epitome of beauty. So rather than assigning something that we commonly do in our society as causing conditions in another society, we need to know that those pendulous, flattened breasts just may be the real "cat's meow" in a foreign society and it is achieved by using bazaar tactics.
There is scant information available, but periodic reports from travelers that visited remote villages described young women attaching weights to their breasts to force them to develop in a downward direction. Isn't it strange that whatever is "in Vogue" with us someone else is trying to get rid of it.
We see extremes in our own society of piercings and tattoos. Breasts can become parts that can be modified and not affect the woman's ability to have a normal life, especially if they do not hinder their ability to lactate. In the Roaring Twenties we saw American girls binding their chests tightly so that they could be "in style" as a youngish, boyish lady, or be a "flapper" with a virtually flat breast. The ladies in the galleries above could have been "right in style" then.
So, we have to add this process (breast binding) as one more possible reason for seeing so many examples of breast ptosis in primitive societies.
And I want to add one more possible reason for having flat, pendulous breasts. I have only recently learned about it, and it appears that not too many people are aware of it. It is referred to in society as "Breast Ironing". Let's look at how the breast develops so we understand what breast ironing actually accomplishes.
When a young girl starts to develop breasts, there is some new tissue that starts to develop right behind her nipple that will eventually make up 1/3 of the average breast (2/3 of the average breast is fatty tissue). That new, concentrated development is referred to as the "breast bud". When the young girl in any of many parts of the more primitive world starts to show a breast bud, someone... in most cases her mother... will use a flat-sided rock that she holds in the fire and with family members holding the girl down the mom presses the hot rock firmly against the budding breast, causing some destruction with the heat. She then moves it around and across the breast buds under heavy pressure, basically breaking down the structure of the newly developing tissues, until the rock becomes only warm, and it goes back to the fire. Both breasts are done, and maybe fifteen or twenty minutes is spent doing this every morning and every night for a month or two, until the girl feels no pain from the pressure and the mother is sure the young breasts will not be developing anytime soon. Sometimes a large, heavy wooden stirring stick is made warm enough to start to smoke and then it is rubbed roughly across the young breasts, or rolled like a baker's rolling pin, again under heavy pressure, crushing the immature tissues.
Now, this is not done for decoration or for any beauty points later on. Because many males in their society consider any female with developing breasts old enough to be sexually active, they will take sexual liberties with her and a young girl will become pregnant, which in itself can be perilous to a very young mother but the girl will never be able to raise the child, so it is the mother (or aunt, grandmother, sibling or fellow native) that decides to make the girls' sexual status less obvious. Researchers are assured that it is NOT an initiation process or a "fashion" statement... it is to protect the girls from early sexual advances, similar in a way to Female Genital Mutilation
The young woman will eventually grow breasts, but they are usually seriously misshapen, distorted, different sizes, often unable to lactate, and the girl suffers from an inflated rate of breast problems, diseases, and cancer and emotional and psychological turmoils.
This is being done still today, and it is unknown how long ago it started. There is a very strong reason to attribute a grown woman's flattened breasts to the horrors of Breast Ironing.
Here are a couple of items from which we can pull some comments:
"Wearing a bra does more harm than good - it does nothing to reduce back pain and weakens the muscles that hold up the breasts, resulting in greater breast sagging" ... Stated by Jean-Denis Rouillon, a sports science expert from the University of Besancon, France, after they did a fifteen-year study.
Stephanie Middleberg, RD, a New York City nutritionist says "...you'll stretch out the collagen and elastin even more by constantly dieting. In fact, cycling back and forth between the same 10 pounds in your 20s, for example, can lead to premature sag by the time you hit 30. If you keep stretching and shrinking something, it will wear out, like a sweater."
Christie Aphrodite , a 40 year-old woman who breastfed both her children, has been bra-free for a full year. She was wearing a 38-DD bra before, and she states in one of her many videos that being bra-free has caused her stretch marks on her breasts to go away and the pain in her shoulders has subsided. "The whole myth of needing a bra is totally bogus... is a total lie. My boobs have only gotten higher, not bigger or anything. The little concave action that was going on... they're now more full and zero... you hear that?... zero breast tenderness during my period or right before my period. I have zero breast tenderness now, before and during my period."
A Japanese study done in 1991 suggested that a bra can actually increase breast sagging rather than the opposite as would be expected by the user. For the technical person reading this... "Eleven adult female subjects aged 22-39 years wore a certain brassiere for 3 months while anthropometry and moire fringe photographs on the anterior trunk were taken regularly once a week. After the 3 months, the brassiere was not worn for another 3 months. Then the measurements and photogrammetry were repeated for comparison using superimposed moire configurations. The results are summarized as follows. Regardless of slim or obese trunk, subjects with pendent breasts showed the highest degree of breast form "correction" from wearing the brassiere. In all subjects, after 3 months of brassiere constraint, the underbust circumference was smaller but the chest circumference became enlarged, the distance between the right and left nipples became wider, and the breasts tended to hang down. This change was more marked in obese subjects with pendent breasts. And when this type of subject wore a "well-fitted" brassiere for a long time, her breast form became developed, that is, her breasts hung down more" Japan 1991 Study
And a study by the French in 2003 followed 250 women that played sports and had them remove the bra for a full year. At the six-week evaluation results of regular questionnaires and biometric evaluations showed that while they experienced "some discomfort" it later disappeared, and at the end of the year eighty-eight percent of the women reported improved comfort over the previous year. The technical measurements showed firmer, more elevated breasts. They also noted existing stretch marks on the breasts had become less visible.
You can do as much research as you wish to do. Read what the experts tell us. A hint here... try to read material from people that know breast structure and anatomy and people that make references to the source of their information. Try not to read information from someone just expressing their opinion, or from those that make their income from the sale of bras.
The question that we need to ask is: "Do we still believe not wearing a bra will cause our breasts to drop to our waists?" A whole bunch of ladies at the top of this page have illustrated clearly to us that their breasts have faired admirably without any assistance from any bra. And without said bra their breasts did not suffer from ptosis. Too many women have reported their satisfaction with their decision to eliminate a bra from their wardrobe to lead me to believe "no bra" prescribes breasts sagging. They all tell how their breasts literally regain some of their lost stature over the first few months of going without their bra.
So if we accept that by removing the bra our breasts will not immediately head South, and may actually become a little more shapely and a little more up-lifted, then maybe we can address the real concerns that prevent us from removing the bra... and concentrate on the serious benefits of doing so.
Ptosis (breasts) From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Singer and Grismaijer
Sydney Singer and Soma Grismaijer, Medical Anthropologists and authors of "DRESSED TO KILL - The Link Between Breast Cancer and Bras", 1995, and "GET IT OFF - Understanding The Cause Of..... BREAST PAIN, CYSTS, and CANCER", 2000, as well as other good books. They also are the creators and operators of http://www.killerculture.com
If you still have any question about this subject, please read this article from the real expert: http://www.killerculture.com/droop-phobia-the-bra-and-breast-cancer/
Christie's quote came from her
video that can be found here:
You can read more about what Christie has to say about
her being bra-free here.
Japan 1991 Study
Ashizawa K, Sugane A, Gunji T Institute of Human Living Sciences, Otsuma Women's University, Tokyo, Japan: Breast Form Changes Resulting From A Certain Brassiere Journal of Hum. Ergol.(Tokyo) 1990 Jun; 19(1):53-62.<RETURN>
the Sustained Use
of Public Health,
Venezuela - March to June 2010
BBC News, "Cameroon
girls battle 'breast ironing' ",
Friday, 23 June 2006
RebeccaTapscott, "UNDERSTANDING BREAST “IRONING”: A
STUDY OF THE METHODS, MOTIVATIONS, AND OUTCOMES OF
BREAST FLATTENING PRACTICES IN CAMEROON", Feinstein
International Center, May 14, 2012