The Tale of the Burnt Bra



Barbara “mystery solved: we’ve found the smoking 38D”



Bra-Burning, a phenomena which has been taking place since the beginning of the Women’s Right’s movement, is an event  where women rally on the streets to strip themselves of these shells and to burn them to bits… oh wait I’m sorry, I forgot to mention that this is an Urban Folklore. An Urban Folklore is a type of story that is so believable, it is widely thought to be true.  It is typically told in a way that frames it as being a story that happened to a friend of a friend.  This makes it seem localized and real, when in fact there is little truth behind it.  We often see Urban Folklores being used to teach members of society a moral lesson, or code which to live by. The folklore of bra-burning rallies held by feminists has been framed by media in a negative light, discouraging future rebellions. Feminists are portrayed as un-lady-like extremists.

Teachers and writers alike have been talking about the bra-burnings and the impact it had on the feminist movement since this idea was first published in Ms. (the September issue) by Lindsy Van Gelder.  According to, “…contributing editor Lindsy Van Gelder confessed that she herself, as a young reporter for the New York Post, had given the false tale its start. Sent to do a humor piece on the demonstration, she attempted to turn her assignment into a vehicle for showcasing the validity of the movement by linking it to the Vietnam War protests which, unlike the women’s liberation protests, were at least being taken seriously by the press”  ( tried to change the media’s frame around the act to be beneficial to the movement.  It is possible she was instructed to write a humor piece because of being a female so when she instead tried to write a serious and informative article, it was not looked at with as much respect as she deserved.  At the time, as still today, women were making less then men.  They were also newly in the workplace compared to their male co-workers and were paving the roads for females in the marketplace making it difficult for women to be taken seriously.  Gelder was attempting to change America’s views on feminist through the use of her words in print.

Gelder did not make up her story out of thin air.  Bra-burning was born when women threw their hosiery and undergarments into Freedom Trash Cans at a rally.   Women felt restricted while they worked between pantyhose and girdles, not to mention the lack of female presence in management.  According to, there was indeed plans to burn the bras, but the city officials would not permit it. The concept of bra burning is justified in its existence, but not an event that actually occurred.  Maybe women rebelled against the bra for a while, but we have yet to find the picture of a bra on fire.

Human beings are storytelling creatures.  It is in our nature and often we just call it communicating.  Feminists, being humans, used the power of story to make people aware of an issue in the world.  Many people do not know that the burning of the bras never happened so the story is told today, as if the event took place, just like an Urban Folklore.  As the myth snowballed with media and the rise and fall of feminism, bra-burning has become a symbol of feminism, and we never even had to light a match.






A. (2007, September 27). Red Hot Mamas. Retrieved February 04, 2016, from

Mirk, S. (2014, April 16). Once and For All: No Bras Were Burned in the Making of Feminism | Bitch Media. Retrieved February 04, 2016, from