It wasn’t out of rebellion that I snubbed straps and cups
and clasps and lace and it had nothing to do with women’s rights:
I just never wore a bra.
It had something to do with whispers and flutters and freedom
and knowing that I was naked underneath,
feeling a weight that only I owned, that bounced
and made me proud,
loving the cold or a shot of tequila and feeling the shiver
end in my nipples, seeing its shape through my shirt,
catching contours through sunlit dresses,
see-through thin as cooing words.
Now I’m walking through racks of padded, underwire and sports,
sipping on a smoothie, filling my womb with berries and yoghurt
and remembering the sunflower seeds in my purse
and I’m thinking my god! it’s the size of an orange,
it’s got tear ducts, a heartbeat, fingernails and toes!
What do I know except for this:
my breasts are heavy and hard with growth
and soon they’ll squirt forth milk
and later like honey coloured pure lily
they’ll sweeten his tummy and tighten our grip
and what once was mine will now be ours
and this time I’ll really understand what it means to be proud,
no shivers or alcohol involved.
I’ll be a mother with breasts,
weighty with mornings, drooping with days, sagging with night-time feeds
and from this day forth, for the rest of my life,
I’ll need a little support.


© Heather Taylor Johnson
Reprinted with permission, from Exit Wounds, published by Picaro Press

“A gender-equal society would be one where the word ‘gender’ does not exist: where everyone can be themselves.”*

I’ve always been aware of gender conditioning and actively tried to combat any lingering prejudices or stereotypes in my own parenting, even down to encouraging dolls with my boys when they were little. It’s great to read people writing about gender issues they’re experiencing with their kids. For too long these subjects have been discouraged or silenced. I’d love to publish some more creative writing on this topic, especially if you are struggling with a child who actively tries to move away from gender normative preferences. A society where everyone can be themselves thanks Gloria for those aspirational words.

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* Gloria Steinem