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Zhang Qi, a 28-year-old girl from Beijing, has gone braless for nearly a year. She said it is the first time she has felt this comfortable since she started wearing bras when she was 13.
"When I was a teenager, I couldn't wait to wear a bra because I thought they were so beautiful and a symbol of becoming a woman," Zhang said.
"But in recent years, I got sick of wearing bras because the underwire pinches me, the bra leaves mark on my skin and sometimes, especially during the summer, a bra makes it difficult to breathe," Zhang said.
So she decided to try not wearing a bra, wearing bras without underwire or wearing Nubra, a backless, strapless self-adhesive bra.
More young Chinese women have become aware of feminism and pursue gender equality, according to Chen Yaya, a feminist and sociologist from Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences. She said a small number of them are starting not to wear bras, and the number is growing.
"Not wearing bras is still progressive behavior among young women; only a small group of young would do so," Chen said. "It's a common behavior among feminists in China who want to take control of their own body and care about their breast health more than if they are big and perky."
"For myself, I don't wear a bra, mainly because I think it's uncomfortable and a bondage to women," she said.
Other signs of the development of feminism in China include more women choosing to get married later or not to get married at all.
They want to achieve themselves through career, school and other interests, and more women prefer boyish and gender-neutral looks now, according to Chen.
Some women choose to not wear a bra for comfort or health benefits. However, for some women, especially feminists, not wearing a bra is an advancement of feminism in China.
"Feminism advocates healthy beauty and women being in charge of their own body, free of influence from other people's opinions," Chen said.
"Bras and high-heeled shoes are bad for women's health. Besides, feminism advocates diversified beauty standards. Everyone has their own unique beauty, and they don't need to change their body to cater to mainstream and stereotyped beauty standards."
Zhang also experienced such a wakeup call. Surely not wearing a bra makes her more comfortable, but it is also her way to rebel against male-dominated beauty standards and express herself.
"Our society (mainly the male population) thinks the bigger the breasts are, the more beautiful or sexy a woman is," Zhang said.
"So women go out of their way to put pads in their bras to make their boobs look bigger and buy bras with underwire and push-up effects to have cleavage, although they are uncomfortable."
Zhang said that she had tried them all. In the summer, she would wear bras with thick pads in them to try to push up her boobs and have more obvious cleavage. Her breasts were covered with sweat and red marks from the underwire, and her chest felt stuffy.
"Sometimes, my skin even bruised because of it. All that pain just because my boyfriend formed his taste for big boobs from watching unrealistic women in Japanese pornographic films?" Zhang said. "I don't think so. I shouldn't sacrifice my health and comfort over other people's illusions."
A bra's usage in modern society is more for male's aesthetic taste than for the protection of boobs, said Li Tingting, a feminist activist in China who initiated many feminist campaigns, including "Occupy the men's room" in 2012.
"Bra's designs are getting tighter, focused on showing cleavage and more about entertaining," Li said. "It shows that women's bodies are products for males to watch and consume."
Zhang recalled that she and her friends have all purchased a wonder bra called "baoru shenqi," which is intended to give women maximum cleavage, and the lingerie vendor told Zhang that the wonder bra is their store's best seller.
According to a report in November 2015 by people.cn, Du Yan, the deputy secretary-general of China Association of Plastics and Aesthetics, said that China ranked No.1 in the world on the number of boob jobs in 2014.
Li said some Chinese women starting to not wear bras signify their rebellion against male-dominated aesthetic standards and consumerism's exploits on the female. These women are challenging the irrational rules set out by the male and stereotyped aesthetic standards.
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