Academic journal article Ethnologies

"The Harsh Reality of Being a Woman": First Bra Experiences (1)

Academic journal article Ethnologies

"The Harsh Reality of Being a Woman": First Bra Experiences (1)

Article excerpt

L'achat du premier soutien-gorge, qui implique le port du premier soutien-gorge ou du moins le premier soutien-gorge achete specifiquement pour une jeune femme, introduit deux phases allant au-dela de l'idee de la fille se demarquant en tant que femme : une vie entiere a porter des soutiens-gorges et une vie entiere a en acheter. Afin d'explorer quelques-unes des consequences qu'implique le fait d'utiliser l'expression << rites de passage >> dans des contextes contemporains, cet article cherche a identifier les elements relevant du << rite >> dans l'achat du premier soutien-gorge. Il s'agit d'une activite plus ou moins inevitable dans la culture feminine nord-americaine ; c'est une transaction commerciale, qui peut donc etre soumise a des questions de statut socio-economique ; et elle est inherente aux transformations de la puberte, tant physiologique que sociale (au sens que lui donne van Gennep). Enfin, bien qu'elle soit distincte de la sexualite adolescente, elle en est neanmoins virtuellement indissociable et reste donc une activite sexuee, de celles dont le chercheur de terrain de sexe masculin est exclu, pour des raisons qui vont bien au-dela de la simple indecence.

The first bra purchase, which implies the first bra wearing or at least the first bra specifically purchased for the young woman, introduces two phases beyond the demarcation of girl as woman: a lifetime of wearing bras and a lifetime of shopping for bras. In an effort to explore some of the consequences of using the term "rites of passage" in contemporary contexts, this article sets out to identify the elements common to the "rite" of the first bra purchase. It is an activity more or less inevitable in North American women's culture; it is a commercial transaction, and thus can be affected by socioeconomic class status; and it is inherently associated with the transformations of puberty, both physiological and social (in van Gennep's sense). Finally, although it is distinct from adolescent sexuality, it is nevertheless virtually inextricable therefrom and thus a gendered activity, one from which the male fieldworker is excluded for reasons that extend far beyond mere impropriety.

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It's like the harsh reality of being a woman, really.... I would have liked it if there had been some kind of celebration or some kind of, like, "Isn't this great!" sort of thing. But really it was more a harsh introduction of wanting something, i.e. a bra, not being able to get it, cause your parents are like, "You're not ready yet," or "Wait 'til next pay-day," whatever the fuck they said, and then kind of having it and being like, "Wow. This is painful and I've got to have this for the rest of my life." I mean that was always the realisation about a thing like getting your period. Girls would always say like "I'm going to have to have this for the rest of my life now." It wasn't a picnic (Emily 25; 0: 01). (2)

One of the thrills of studying the exotic is having one's exoteric assumptions tested and round incorrect. Both as an adolescent boy and continuing through the delayed adolescence that has been my adulthood to this point in time, the cultural myths of a cult of womanhood, wherein initiate met elder and the changes from girlhood to womanhood were met, explained, and celebrated, had been perpetuated by the popular culture and the disinformation of the schoolyards I had come to trust. Caring mothers on situation comedies which dared to hint at, although not linger on, the embodiment of young women--Clare Huxtable, Elyse Keaton--were held up as paragons of motherhood. Winnie Cooper arrived at the bus stop on the first day of junior high transformed overnight from Kevin's non-gendered friend to an object of desire. (3) The all-boys school I attended during those crucial years from age nine to thirteen and its proximity to an all-girls school further entrenched my etic presuppositions about what that other gender was up to. …

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