Strolling through Walmart one night I caught a glimpse of the pink cardboard with the words “Sweet Nothings.” I backed up to take a second look and make sure I was really seeing what I thought I was seeing. No, I really saw it. A rack of bras for pre-teens called “Sweet Nothings” by Maidenform.
What the . . . ? I just had to investigate this. As it turns out, I saw the pre-teen line but Sweet Nothings is actually a line of bras for the entire age and size spectrum. Sweet Nothings must be about the fabric or fit then? I can’t really tell from the company website.
But still, what the . . . ? When exactly did women’s boobs become “sweet nothings” in our culture? Who at Maidenform thought this was an effective way to brand a line of bras, bras that, you know, hold up and cover what most of our society consider a whole lot of sweet somethings?
My first reaction is to think that it must be men doing the marketing of women’s foundation garments. But really, how many men would call women’s boobs or the vessels that carry them “nothings”? If it’s not men, then it must be women, right? But no, women know better. Women with big boobs know they have somethings. They’ve had conversations with men who were having conversations with the tatas. They’ve had men stand strategically over them looking down their shirts. These boobs have been brushed up against, ogled, nursed, mocked, imitated, pushed up, squeezed, felt up, strapped down, reduced, implanted, examined, politicized, mammogrammed, researched, photographed, and contained in contraptions as varied as coconut shells, corsets, metal-tipped torpedo shapes, and air-pumped slings.
Women with less abundant bosoms feel the sting of their “nothings” in other ways and are often made to feel that their nothings aren’t so sweet. Junior high and high school girls hear things like, “I’ve seen better figures on a calculator” or worse. They supplement their sweet nothings with socks or tissues or just hunch over and hope they go unnoticed, making themselves invisible. When they come of age, the healthy ones either learn to accept and love their bodies or voluntarily go under the knife to have implants or just continue hunching and hiding to go unnoticed. (In the interest of full disclosure I’ve been both: I was painfully flat-chested until my mid 20’s and now these DD’s won’t stop growing.)
So what the . . . ? A girl’s first bra is typically an important milestone in her life, and the shopping trip with the adult is the essence of the female coming-of-age story. Women who have to undergo mastectomies often suffer through significant emotional trauma and have to make devastating decisions about whether to undergo reconstructive surgery. Our boobs are the subject of FCC rulings when our wardrobes malfunction on television and profit drivers for men like Hugh Hefner and Larry Flynt. Hell, Pamela Anderson wouldn’t have had a career if it hadn’t been for the slow motion swinging of her boobs across the beach in Baywatch. They even currently rate discussion in the highest levels of government where mostly men debate the merits or demerits of health care plans.
Maidenform, seriously, what the . . . ? I cannot begin to comprehend what they were thinking in branding anything they make as “sweet nothings” when all of our society knows very well that women’s breasts are a whole lot of something.
Angie Albright, author of A Growing Season