Most women would agree that bras aren’t always the most comfortable of garments. So, sometimes, it’s better to do away with them entirely. However, when this student was called into the headteacher’s office and ordered to wear one to school, she had to stand up for her freedom.
Kaitlyn Juvik was a student at Helena High School in Montana’s state capital. Moreover, at 18 and in the midst of her graduation year she would spark protests at her school, becoming an internet superstar and a role model for personal freedom in the process.
On May 25, 2016, Juvik was summoned to see the vice principal in his office. Apparently, someone in the school had expressed discomfort with how Juvik was dressed that day. Furthermore, she was told to either “cover up” or wear a bra.
As Juvik later told People magazine, “I was told that a male teacher had complained he was uncomfortable because I wasn’t wearing a bra, and I was told to find something to cover up with. I most definitely wasn’t wearing anything against the dress code.”
An upset and confused Juvik couldn’t understand. As she was wearing a plain, off-shoulder black t-shirt with a high neckline, she felt she was being unnecessarily censured. She posted on Facebook, “If any of you are curious, this is the shirt I was wearing when I was called out.”
Steve Thennis, the principal who asked her to cover up, could not clarify exactly how Juvik had broken the rules. There is nothing in the school rulebook that says students must wear underwear, so she didn’t feel she had done anything wrong.
Juvik commented, “You definitely cannot tell I’m not wearing a bra unless you’re looking VERY hard!” And as word spread through the school about her predicament, other students started to rally around in support of her. “What I was confronted about was wrong,” she told local television channel KTVH.
So it was that, during their lunch break, students gathered in support of their classmate. They said that because there was no school ruling on underwear, the principal had no reason to ask her to cover up. For her part, Juvik said, “The fact that I was told it makes people uncomfortable offended me because it’s my body.”
Meanwhile, Brooke Lanier, a classmate of Juvik’s, started a Facebook group called “No Bra, No Problem.” She told People, “The problem here should not have been Kaityn’s attire, but the morality of the male teacher.” And support for Juvik didn’t end there.
Two days later, a protest was held at the school. On May 27, an estimated 300 female students showed up to school. However, all of them had chosen to leave their bras at home, and they weren’t alone in their protest. Some boys who were sympathetic to the cause joined in too.
Indeed, one such protester, Samuel Tinsley, told People, “I thought that the administration falsely dress-coding [Juvik] and telling her to cover up was an inappropriate and immature request because the outfit was no problem. When I heard they were trying to impose on Kaitlyn’s self-expression, it really irritated me.”
Meanwhile, Juvik’s mom Tami said that she felt her daughter was being “singled out.” She told People, “The school has bigger fish to fry than whether my daughter is wearing a bra. I’m proud of Kaitlyn for standing up for herself and opening the door to start a discussion about the body shaming and sexualizing of women.”
Furthermore, she added, “This movement is not just about wearing/not wearing a bra. Our daughters are body shamed and sexualized on a daily basis. We need to teach them to be comfortable in their own skin and not feel like they have to hide under their clothes.”
The protest gathered momentum. The noise the students were making – or rather the silent protest – made an impact on school authorities. Indeed, as students signed up to the Facebook page in their hundreds, principal Thennis described it as a “distraction” for school administrators.
Then, the following week, a further protest was arranged. And not only did the female students attend sans brasiers, but their male counterparts also showed up wearing bras over their regular clothes. For his part, though, the principal at the center of the fuss was apparently already over it.
Claiming Juvik had “created a manufactured crisis,” principal Thennis told People, “I’m done talking about it other than to say this wasn’t the mass protest everybody has made it out to be. Kaitlyn can tell her side of the story, but I’ve spent enough time on this.”
However, some people in Helena begged to differ. Partly inspired by Juvik’s experience, a topless picnic was arranged in town on July 15. Organizer Kelley Rose said, “We gathered a bunch of likeminded people who want to show Helena that your body is not anything to be ashamed of.”
Meanwhile, the Facebook group No Bra, No Problem now boasts more than 33,000 followers. Chantelle Marie Rollins from Bangor, Maine, posted, “If [someone’s] looking at a woman’s breast hard enough to notice [she isn’t] wearing a bra, maybe that person should be the one getting in trouble!”
Principal Thennis has insisted that it wasn’t the lack of bra that was the problem, though. He told KTVH News, “I’m not going to check students’ undergarments. We are going to ask them to dress appropriately, and if we feel it is inappropriate, male or female, we are going to ask them to cover up.”
Juvik, however, had ditched the bra a while ago with no prior complaints. She said, “I feel suffocated wearing a bra, so anybody who has a problem with that should just look the other way.” Now she has graduated high school – braless, of course – and plans to study cosmetology.