The phenomenon of bra-burning protests in the 1960s was long ago discredited as one of those convenient-but-false media myths that probably did more damage to the women’s rights movement than otherwise.
It never really happened, at least not the way they said it did, but bra-burning served the purpose of reducing feminism to a comical stereotype and talk-show punchline.
Now, a Canadian lingerie company has resurrected that early women’s lib stereotype, while offering a very 21st Century spin on a timeless message.
Fortnight Lingerie of Toronto kicked off its latest marketing project today with the release of a video, called Burn The Padded Push-Up, showing a diverse assortment of models torching their bras.
It’s part of the company’s #BUSTOUT hashtag campaign, which encourages women to resist fake beauty standards that are often perpetuated by the fashion industry itself.
And its target? The padded push-up bra, that ubiquitous reminder that a women’s physical attributes can be modified, enhanced and, well, improved.
The video “encourages women to #BUSTOUT of the mold, be it from society or bra cups,” Fortnight says in a press release. The video “reclaim[s] the idea that lingerie should be worn for your own pleasure and that beauty has a variety of interpretations.”
Fortnight isn’t known for promoting a political agenda, although it has produced thought-provoking campaigns in the past. But while its #BUSTOUT project is being pitched as a “fun and creative” project, it’s also a shot across the bow of the entire bra industry, which has spent several decades (and earned billions) trying to convince women that their busts need to be bigger.
“We believe that the most compelling women are distinctive with their own vision and style,” Fortnight founder and designer Christina Remenyi said.
Fortnight‘s campaign dovetails with efforts by numerous other lingerie brands to fight back against unrealistic and superficial beauty standards that are unrepresentative of typical women.
And, fittingly, that message isn’t very different from the original episode that gave rise to the cartoonish feminist symbol of bra-burning. In 1968, protesters outside the Miss America pageant in Atlantic City threw bras, curlers, Playboy magazines and other symbols of patriarchy and domestic servitude into “freedom trash cans”. The objective at the time was to protest the conformist beauty standards represented by pageant queens, but no bras were burned — despite subsequent media reports.
(Ironically, after that episode gave rise to the stereotype of bra-burning ‘women’s libbers’, opportunistic lingerie retailer Frederick’s of Hollywood used the story to host a bra-burning sale at its flagship store.)
Claire Edmondson, the Toronto-based director of ‘Burn the Padded Push-Up’, says she wanted to correct public perception of the role of bra-burning in feminist history, and to show why it’s still relevant.
“A reporter drew a comparison between women throwing away their bras and [Vietnam War] protesters who burned their draft cards and the story morphed from there,” she said.
“What struck me is that as these stories have been retold over time the draft dodgers are seen as ‘brave revolutionaries’ while the women were ‘angry feminists’. The retelling of what should be a historic moment for women in the civil rights movement was reduced to a bra-burning trope.
“I see this film as a fun, cheeky reclamation of that myth.”
Fortnight, which specializes in soft lingerie pieces with tailor-like craftsmanship, echoes a number of contemporary trends in lingerie marketing with this campaign: it includes models with different shapes and ethnic backgrounds and some obvious blemishes are left unretouched.
Fortnight‘s model squad includes tall South Sudan-born Aluad Anei (above) and curvy redhead Meaghan Conroy (main photo).
“Fortnight embraces every curve on my body by making undergarments that hold true to a real women’s unique physique,” Conroy said.
Below are some more images from the #BUSTOUT campaign and video, which are sure to make waves — and perhaps trigger a real bra-burning trend this time.