I was leaving my fourth period class at Helena high school in Montana, getting ready to go to lunch with a friend when one of my vice-principals stopped me in the hallway.
“Did you forget something today?” she said. “I need to talk to you about your inappropriate attire.”
It was 25 May. At the time, I was wearing a black T-shirt that was off the shoulder, which is not against the school’s dress code. So I was surprised when the vice-principal asked me if I had forgotten an article of clothing.
“No,” I responded, confused.
“Are you wearing a bra?” she continued.
“No,” I replied.
“Well, you need to either cover up or put one on, because there are a lot of male teachers and male students here, and that makes them uncomfortable. They don’t want to see that.”
I felt embarrassed. I felt almost violated. You couldn’t even really tell I wasn’t wearing a bra. Even if I bent over, you couldn’t see anything. I would not have worn the shirt if you could. I’m not about showing everything off – that’s just not me.
I choose not to wear a bra very often, because I find it more comfortable. Most of my friends never wear bras, either. I was really thrown off by the vice-principal’s comments, so I told her I would put something different on and left.
But later, I looked in the handbook, and I saw there was nothing in there about bras, except that your bra strap can’t be showing. That obviously wasn’t a problem for me.
I posted about it on my Snapchat, and a ton of people contacted me. Everyone was mad. One of my friends texted me suggesting we organize a “no bra day” as soon as possible.
A lot of people supported us, and it was simple. All we planned to do was go to school bra-less. We didn’t want to harm anybody. We didn’t want to make the administration upset. It was for us.
It was about gender equality and teaching people not to sexualize women’s bodies. We’re always asked to do things to make guys more comfortable. If my boobs make you uncomfortable, then why are you looking at me in that way?
This was to show girls that they can be comfortable with their bodies without worrying about making someone else uncomfortable.
I wasn’t doing it for attention, and I did not expect that it would get so big.
On 27 May, we went to school without our bras, and a lot of teachers and students were talking about it.
I got pulled into the principal’s office four times that day. In one of the meetings, the principal asked me to take down our Facebook page, telling me it was a distraction to people’s learning, and it was getting out of hand.
I was super frustrated, because he was the one distracting from my learning by making me meet with him during class – all because we weren’t wearing bras. He wasn’t understanding the point of what we were doing. I tried to explain that we were standing up for ourselves and that I have freedom of speech and expression.
I walked out crying, because I was just so mad.
My friend told me that a local news station had showed up and wanted to talk, and I was so upset at the time, I thought: why not?
Should you stop wearing a bra?
Once it was on the news in Helena, it spread on Facebook and other news stations and just blew up.
I had people from as far as the UK, France and India contact me. And I’ve had a lot of awful comments. I’ve been called every name in the book. People have sent me messages saying “kill yourself”, “you’re a huge whore”, “no one wants to see your boobs”. Some said I’m just an “attention seeker”.
I have a pretty thick skin, but I don’t look at the comments any more.
It’s gotten huge, and I’m extremely thankful that the word has gotten out. But I don’t want the focus to be on the bra any more.
This is about ending body shaming. This is about ending double standards for girls.
It started with me, but it’s not about me. It’s about women everywhere being able to be comfortable in their own bodies.