Dismissed ... Shea Allen on 'Inside Edition'. Photo: via Youtube
When US local TV reporter, Shea Allen, posted on her personal blog an entry titled ‘Confessions of a red-headed reporter’, she probably didn’t expect it would end with her unemployed and at the centre of a media firestorm. In the post Allen listed a lot of rather disturbing revelations such as “I'm frightened of old people and I refuse to do stories involving them or the places they reside” and “If you ramble and I deem you unnecessary for my story, I'll stop recording but let you think otherwise”, but far and away the ‘confession’ that garnered the most column inches was “I've gone braless during a live broadcast and no one was the wiser”.
This one admission means she’ll probably be nicknamed ‘The Braless Reporter’ for the rest of her days and has led to salacious media headlines like Glamorous TV reporter Shea Allen fired after posting ‘tell-all’ blog about going braless on air, TV reporter goes braless, gets fired, and Fired braless reporter Shea Allen: She was ‘a ticking time bomb’. (And just to be clear it’s not yet been confirmed by Allen’s employer, WAAY-TV in Alabama, as to what the exact reason for the dismissal was – Gawker has reported there were other issues during her employment, though on Twitter Allen stated she had been “‘terminated without cause’ for said post”.)
I’d like to believe that people would be more upset by Allen’s statements about not wanting to report on anything to do with ‘old people’ and the stale air of ‘Gross, oldies!’ pervading that comment. But sadly I’m not really surprised that all the focus is on her breasts and the shockingly controversial news that women sometimes don’t wear bras. Imagine it, the women around you could be beneath their clothes parading the bothersome jiggliness of their unbound bosoms – clutch those pearls with the horror of it all!
So is going to work without a bra unprofessional? This seems to me to be the sartorial equivalent of the ongoing discussion over whether going to work without make-up is not professional or if curly hair is a corporate no-no. Allen’s bralessness wasn’t unprofessional because it wasn’t even noticed, so how could it have made her colleagues or viewers uncomfortable? I’ve had co-workers in the past mention to me that they often go bra-free to work or on weekends and I was always surprised because I’d never even noticed it.
At its core it’s a question of, “Are women’s bodies, faces and hair as they are when unadorned intrinsically unprofessional?” These sorts of corporate rules are just a way of forcing women to walk an extremely thin line between being conventionally feminine (wear skirts and dresses, not pants!) but without doing anything that could be construed as sexual (but don’t even allow a hint of nipple to be visible!) Basically if you can achieve a sexless Barbie doll femininity, then according to corporate work wear guidelines you’re doing it right. It’s somewhat annoying that men don’t seem to be bound by anywhere near the same level of scrutiny on the job as to what they are doing underneath their clothes or to their hair and face.
I dislike bras for a lot of reasons. I hate how I feel like I’m in a Hong Kong action film all bound up for a wire scene. I hate how all strapless bras come with copious amounts of padding as they just assume of course you are aspiring to buxomness. I hate how you practically have to take out a personal loan to afford even a mid-range brassiere. I hate how you need to have eight different ones – Racerback! Strapless! Push-up! Halter! – just to put on a poorly designed singlet come summertime. But mainly I simply hate how uncomfortable they are. (And before you spout some oft-repeated quote from a study probably paid for by a bra company about how 85 per cent of women are wearing ill-fitting bras, I’d ask you why if I was comfortable without it I should go hunting for this supposed holy grail of bra-dom that I’ve never found in all my years of lingerie wearing. Oh, that’s right, because the sight of nipples under clothes is considered socially unacceptable.) Many women do find bras more comfortable, but many women find them to be the undergarments of the devil – so why is it such a big deal if they cast them aside if that is the case?
The saddest part of it all is that Allen has felt the need to issue a public explanation for her heinous crime of bralessness, justifying it with the Janet Jackson endorsed excuse of wardrobe malfunction. And much like with Jackson’s Nipplegate it seems we are no closer to an era where women’s bodies are allowed to just be without being critiqued, censored or sensationalised.