No Bras Were Actually Harmed During The Womens’ Lib Movement

Have you ever entertained the idea of ripping off your bra in a moment of feminist passion? I know I have. What better way to express female rebellion against oppressive ideologies? What better way to salute our bra-burning foremothers in a proud act of solidarity and continuity? But then I think to myself, “It’s too cliché. Feminists have been there and done that.” That’s why I was pretty shocked to discover that this particularly irreverent act of bra-burning never actually happened. Huh? Feministing founder and editor Jessica Valenti recently outed the feminists of yore in the New York Times Magazine. “Bra-burning never happened. It was completely made up by the media,” she said. “A couple of women protesting a Miss America pageant threw some bras into a garbage can, and somehow that became this longstanding idea of feminists as bra-burners.” [Tressugar]

When I read this, I didn’t possibly think Valenti could be right. But after doing some research, I see that she is. According to an NPR story from a year ago, a group of women got together on the boardwalk in front of where the Miss America Pageant 1968 was being held in Atlantic City. They had every intention of burning their bras, but the police wouldn’t let them because it was a fire hazard. So instead, they threw them—along with girdles and Playboy magazines—into a garbage can. The next day, the New York Post inaccurately called the protesters bra burners. “The media picked up on the bra part,” said one of the leaders of the event. “I often say that if they had called us ‘girdle burners,’ every woman in America would have run to join us.” [NPR]

So does that mean bra-burning is back on the table for us? If so, I’ve got some old ones that I can torch. But not my good lingerie. And I demand to Tweet about it while it’s happening. Who’s with me?