It's my human right not to wear a bra, says B.C. woman fired for doing just that

A B.C. woman has filed a human rights complaint after she says she was fired from her job for refusing to wear a bra.

'I have nipples just like the men,' says Christina Schell

Christina Schell's employer required that she wear a bra or tanktop under this uniform shirt. She refused to comply. (submitted by Christina Schell)
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A B.C. woman who says her previous employer fired her for not wearing a bra has filed a human rights complaint, saying the requirement was unjust and discriminatory.

"I have nipples just like the men," Christina Schell told The Current's Anna Maria Tremonti.

"Who outlined what exactly is considered professional [and] why breasts sitting maybe a half an inch lower on my chest is unprofessional?"

Schell argues her termination from her job at the Osoyoos Golf Club is a human rights issue because male employees are not required to wear any specified underwear, yet women are.

"I found it difficult initially because I just felt like it was my right as a human being to decide the undergarments that nobody can see," she explained.

"It's one sex versus the other. If it did say all employees had to wear an undershirt, I couldn't qualify it as sexual discrimination. But I would definitely be fighting my right to choose my own undergarment."

A hearing date for Schell's human rights complaint, which was filed on June 21, has not been set.

Christina Schell believes it's a woman's right to choose to wear a bra or not. The B.C. woman says the undergarments make her feel miserable. (StockSnap/Pixabay)

The 25-year-old server started working at the club in May. Weeks later, a new dress code mandated she wear a bra or undershirt under her uniform shirt.

Schell refused, and said she was fired as a result.

"I've signed multiple uniform agreements and I've served at another establishment in the town of the Osoyoos. I've served the same men and women … without a bra," Schell told her then-general manager Doug Robb.

Schell said Robb told her that the rule was for her protection, saying: "I know what happens with alcohol and golf courses."

The Current asked the Osoyoos Golf Course for a comment but they declined, citing privacy issues.

Not wearing bra 'made me so much happier'

Since her preteen years, Schell never liked wearing a bra. They made her feel miserable and uncomfortable.

Since going braless more than two years ago, it's helped her health, too — she's had less trouble sleeping and has better posture.

"I feel like I breathe better. It's just overall made me so much happier," she said.

Fashion historian Alison Matthews David explains no bras were burned in the 60s Miss America protest.

A model wearing a Berlei bra, May 1969. (McKeown/Express/Getty Images)
Feminists in the 60s protested the Miss American pageant by throwing items that symbolized 'idealized femininity' into what was called the freedom trashcan. But fashion historian Alison Matthews David explains no bras were lit on fire. 1:01

Bras have always been political, says fashion historian Alison Matthews David.

"Women have always wanted to dispense with sometimes this somewhat uncomfortable undergarment," she said.

Matthews David, who is also an associate professor at Ryerson University's school of fashion, says we're in a time of extreme gender polarization — and the bra is part of that.

People are rightfully claiming they should not be forced to wear bras, Mathews David explained, at least partly because it can be hard to find a simple bra without underwire or extra padding.

"Not all women are comfortable wearing them. It should not be an obligation and yet it's this time where there's also so much pressure coming from the media for example, and from music ... popular culture, stressing the opposite that women should hyper-feminize themselves," she said.

Listen to the full conversation near the top of this page.


Produced by The Current's Danielle Carr and Liz Hoath.

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