So today I braved the bra shop. Thank goodness I took my girlfriend because the bra-shop women jumped on me as soon as I walked through the door and insisted I need a new fitting in case my boobs have changed in size (which I was told me they do on a regular basis?!). I don’t blame the shop assistants, since they’ve obviously been trained to offer fittings because it massively increases the chances of making a sale. Being in a cubicle half-naked with a complete stranger puts you in a vulnerable position and, quite frankly, I’ll buy a bra just to get out of the situation!
My girlfriend could tell that I was about to bolt at the prospect of such torture, so she got me to refuse the fitting and assert my right just to try on some bras. I think I’ve figured out how to survive the experience: get my girlfriend to dress as dykey as possible and take her along because the bra shop women (who are trained to deal with feminine, heterosexual women) just could not cope with her and backed off fast once she took over the proceedings. In the end we did quite well and I got some bras I’m fairly happy with, even if I don’t even want to think about the price tags attached to them. It was good for me to have my girlfriend see the experience of bra shopping for herself (she doesn’t wear a bra very often) and confirm that I’m not overreacting.
She was struck by how overwhelmingly heteronormative the shop is – everything’s pink and you’re surrounded by “testimonies” from customers going on and on and on about their “assets” (I so hate that term). She also saw how subtly coercive it all is. There’s less privacy than in most clothes shops; you’re herded around and subjected to the suggestion that you don’t know what’s best for you. They claim to be looking after you personally, but they’re not really. They never have all the sizes in the shop, so you still end up feeling like a freak. They imply that you should have one bra size, but this is crap because the brands are all slightly different so you need different sizes depending on the brand. The marketing makes huge assumptions about the women who come into the store and basically, the entire presentation seems designed to make anyone other than a white, heterosexual, feminine, non-disabled woman feel incredibly uncomfortable.