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Is Bra-Burning a Myth?
Bra-burning came to symbolize the feminist movement, but according to this article at pressofAtlanticCity.com, the original 1968 bra-burning protest, that first associated bra-burning with feminism, never actually happened.

Members of New York Radical Women, upset by the Miss America Pageant's focus on women's physique and seeing an opportunity to publicize their cause, traveled to Atlantic City by bus. They wanted to burn things, as was in vogue then (people mad about other topics - such as the war in Vietnam - burned draft cards and flags), but city officials worried about the safety of the wooden Boardwalk asked the organizers not to burn anything, so they didn't.

Instead, the feminists dumped items like high-heeled shoes, bras, false eyelashes and issues of Ladies' Home Journal into a "Freedom Trash Can." They paraded a lamb outside Convention Hall and held up signs with such things as "Welcome to the Miss America Cattle Auction" written on them. Inside Convention Hall, demonstrators set off stink bombs during the pageant and unfurled a sign reading "WOMEN'S LIBERATION."

Newspapers helped fuel the fire. On Sept. 4, three days before the event, Lindsy Van Gelder of the New York Post wrote an article titled "Bra burners plan protest." In the Sept. 8 issue of the New York Times, protest organizer and former child actor Robin Morgan is quoted as saying the women would hold a "symbolic bra-burning." Open the next day's Atlantic City Sunday Press, and the headline jumps from page four: "Bra-Burners Blitz Boardwalk."

And so the bra-burning myth was born. Though I'm sure protesters must have burned their bras at some later point in time.
Categories: FashionHistory
Posted by The Curator on Fri Sep 12, 2008
Somebody may have burned a bra somewhere, but as this article says, the most famous bra-burning (the one that gave feminists their bra-burning reputation) never happened, although the demonstrators did put a bra and a lot of other things in a trash barrel.

Several years later, I knew a lot of women who had been activists in the women's liberation movement circa 1968, and none of them reported ever having burned a bra, or ever having seen a bra burned. They were more concerned with things like equal job opportunities and reproductive rights. If it matters, most of them wore bras, too.

There weren't actually very many burnings of draft cards and flags in the Vietnam war protests, either, although a few of them were burned on a very few occasions.

So you can file "burning bras" along with "spitting on soldiers at airports" as icons of the "turbulent sixties" that never really happened.

This is a bit beside the point, but since bras are made of stuff like rubber and nylon, I would think that burning a few would smell horrible and make a nasty mess. It would be a sure way to keep people away from your demonstration.
Posted by Big Gary  in  Medicine Mounds, Texas  on  Fri Sep 12, 2008  at  06:15 PM
And don't forget... If the Womens Liberation had actually been burning bras, they would have lost a lot of support!
(Hmm, that wasn't very PC, was it?) LOL
Posted by Captain DaFt  on  Fri Sep 12, 2008  at  10:29 PM
THANK YOU! Burning (or trashing, as it actually happened) push-'em-ups and any other beauty contest props for one single protest is quite different from all sane femnist people suddenly igniting their underwear.
Yay, and yes, to Big Gary: They were more concerned with things like equal job opportunities and reproductive rights. If it matters, most of them wore bras, too.
Posted by SallyMutant  on  Sat Sep 13, 2008  at  03:33 AM
So you can file "burning bras" along with "spitting on soldiers at airports" as icons of the "turbulent sixties" that never really happened.

They did happen, just not commonly. There are contemporary reports of spitting on soldiers and I distinctly recall a picture of a woman holding a burning bra over a trash can.

(Ironically, though, people may have done these things because of the stories they heard. Thus myth triggered reality.)
Posted by Joe  on  Sat Sep 13, 2008  at  02:37 PM
I've never really understood how burning a bra is feminist. I'd consider myself a feminist, but I love and need bras, cos otherwise life is very uncomfortable and restricted! Maybe I'm thinking more along the lines of sports bras than pretty lacy things...
Posted by kat  in  perth, australia  on  Sun Sep 14, 2008  at  12:30 AM
"There are contemporary reports of spitting on soldiers and I distinctly recall a picture of a woman holding a burning bra over a trash can."

Can you give us a link to a contemporary report of someone spitting on a soldier coming home Vietnam, please?
Posted by Cranky Media Guy  on  Sun Sep 14, 2008  at  04:40 AM
A pretty good roundup is here:

http://volokh.com/archives/archive_2007_02_04-2007_02_10.shtml#1170928927
Posted by Joe  on  Sun Sep 14, 2008  at  03:54 PM
Joe, did you actually read the material at that link?

The author does NOT link to ANY contemporary press reports of soldiers returning from Vietnam being spat on. He links to a few other people talking about how they heard it happened, but that's second-hand at best.

He admits that he can't find any press accounts of it happening prior to 1981, years after the Vietnam war was over. That is NOT contemporary.

One of his links leads back to his own website.

If in fact American soldiers returning from Vietnam were spat on, it completely avoided any notice by the press at the time. Suspicious at best.
Posted by Cranky Media Guy  on  Mon Sep 15, 2008  at  03:59 AM
As I said, it didn't really happen.
Posted by Gary Cooper  in  Fort Hood, Texas  on  Thu Sep 18, 2008  at  10:03 AM
Cranky,

Did you read the article? He did link to contemporary reports of spitting events that did happen, albeit not at airports, disputing the original claim was that NO spitting events happened anywhere.

To assert that something like this NEVER happened is absurd since a single event, however minor, makes that assertion wrong.

My father-in-law, a [Navy] Vietnam vet, asserts quite strongly that it happened. I believe him.
Posted by Joe  on  Thu Sep 18, 2008  at  11:24 PM
All when that happens for the first time. LOL
Posted by dimol  on  Sat Oct 04, 2008  at  03:21 PM
Feminists in '68 didn't actually burn their bras. They simply fill barrels with things that categorized the discrimination against women (ie: bras, girdles, high heels, etc.)and protested. They never actually burned anything. (At least in the '60s)
Posted by Morgan  on  Mon Feb 16, 2009  at  09:45 PM
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