What would Amy Gardner do?

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Wearing a bra: You’re doing it wrong.

It would be really, really inappropriate for me to walk up to you on the street and start hoisting up your bra straps. But as someone who worked in a bra shop for two years and has a laser eye for bras and whether or not a lady is wearing one that fits properly, I just can’t hold it in any longer. As my extensive research has shown me (i.e. mornings in the gym change room spent biting my tongue because you’re ALL wearing the WRONG SIZE – LET ME FIX IT FOR YOU), a lot of women are doing it wrong. If you’re not – well done! Carry on.

A well-fitting bra is important. It helps your posture, it affects your silhouette and, for bustier ladies, it’s important for your back. Do not underestimate the power of a good, well-fitting bra.

So here’s my basic how-to guide on bra-fitting. It’s not fool-proof, of course (if you want fool-proof, take me shopping with you as your personal fitter – I am basically a bra genius and will Change Your Life) but it will give you the ins and outs, and to be honest I really just need to get this off my chest. (Ha!)


Cup: the part of the bra your boobs sit in.

Back: bras are sized in the cup, and in the back. So, a 10C means you are a size C in the cup and a size 10 around your back.

Underwire: metal wire giving shape to your bra cups

Moulded cup bra: you wear these under T-shirts. Or, like, anything really. These are not – I repeat, NOT! – padded or push-up bras. They do not add to your cup size; the moulding simply smoothes the silhouette and basically prevents nipple sightings. They are not padded. Calm down.

Soft cup bras: do not have moulded cups. Generally they’re lacy and not great under T-shirts.

Balconette bras: kind of like half cup bras that get cut off straight across the top of the cup. Good for women who are well-rounded or top-heavy.

Plunge bras: more of a V-neck style bra. They suit ladies who are bottom- or side-heavy.

Push-up bras: These ARE padded.

Sports bra: don’t even think about doing anything sporty without wearing one, or don’t come crying to me when you’re 70 and droopy.

Stick a pole in between your boobs

The way a bra sits on you has everything to do with its effectiveness as a bra. The rule of thumb is, once the bra is on, imagine you are stabbing a pole in between your boobs – where the pole exits your back should be where the hooks of the bra are. Got it? So, the back of the bra should sit parallel to the front of the bra. If the back is riding up, then the bra is too big in the back. Try a size down. (This is the most common thing I see in gym change rooms and now you know so go to a mirror and check for goodness sake!)

NOTE! This is very important – if you go a size down in the back, you need to go up in the cup (only if the cup fits you, that is). For example, if a 14B seems to fit fine in the cup, but is too stretchy in the back, you could try a 12C. Up in the cup, down in the back. Or, down in the cup, up in the back.

Wire sits flush

Figuring out if the cup fits is predominantly related to comfort. Ideally, the wires should be sitting flush against your skin all around. If you press the wires in your side, they shouldn’t budge – it should sit well behind the breast tissue. It’s also about aesthetics – if you’re wearing the right size and style bra, it should give you a nice smooth silhouette, and not look (or feel) too squeezy.

Adjust the straps

Loosen your bra’s shoulder straps so that you feel comfortable – again, check that the front and back of the bra are parallel. The bra should be giving you a slight lift, holding you up and in place. You should be able to snugly fit your left index and middle finger (making a kind of finger gun pointing behind you) under the right strap (and then the other way around).

Make it last

Ideally when buying bras, you want to wear them on the last hook – that way, as they stretch over time, you can move into the tighter hooks. But this might not work for everyone, and you might be in between sizes. Try for the loosest hook you can (but still supportive), so you can leave room to move in when needed.

Get fitted by a bra fitter

For the love of all that is French and lacy, get fitted by a bra fitter! At least once a year, please – or in cases of major weight fluctuation. Apparently bra fitters exist at Myer and DJs. Or at least go with a friend armed with this collection of information. No, you don’t need tape measure. In fact, I’d be pretty suspicious of any bra fitter with a tape measure, because all bras are different, and all boobs are different. Bras sit differently on different bodies. They are sized differently. For example, Fine Lines tend to size smaller, while Pleasure State are quite generous around the back and fairly standard in the cup (not that Pleasure State is for general everyday use, right ladies?). You just have to try them on. All of them.

It’s all in the seams

Hot tip: the seams on the cups will give you an indication of how the bra will work for you. Plunge-y bras tend to have diagonal or vertical seams – these bras will push your boobs in towards each other. Balconette bras generally have horizontal seams across the cup – these usually push up vertically. Neat, huh?

Please hand wash – do not tumble dry

One time I read about someone who tumble-dried their lingerie and just massively lost my shit. DON’T DO THAT. DON’T TUMBLE DRY YOUR LINGERIE. First of all, you know there’s METAL in your bras, right? (The underwire, doofus!) Second, are you INSANE?! Lingerie is called ‘delicates’ for a reason! I always hand wash my bras, always. If you’re lazy (and I’m judging you) then use a wash bag, I guess.

Now you know enough to go bra shopping without failing completely. Good one! Go forth and stock that lingerie drawer! Call me if you need a shopping buddy.

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I don’t know a whole lot about sport, except one time I lost my voice from screaming at the SuperBowl (Giants v. Patriots, 2011; it was amazing). But I’ve written a little thing about Night Games, one of the most extraordinary books about sport and gender I have ever read. It is an important book and you definitely need to read it.

NB: Ladies Who League is the brainchild of my clever friend Mary - it’s a space for women’s voices and all things football and I think it is pretty excellent.

I don’t know a whole lot about sport, except one time I lost my voice from screaming at the SuperBowl (Giants v. Patriots, 2011; it was amazing). But I’ve written a little thing about Night Games, one of the most extraordinary books about sport and gender I have ever read. It is an important book and you definitely need to read it.

NB: Ladies Who League is the brainchild of my clever friend Mary - it’s a space for women’s voices and all things football and I think it is pretty excellent.

Filed under books reading football nrl afl annakrien nightgames Masculinities

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So you want to write a PhD?

This year I was asked to speak at an induction for new higher degree research students. My friend and I joked that it was quite an oversight to ask students who were several months shy of being finished to speak to wide-eyed newbies about PhDs – we HATE our theses and want to die.

But I suppose we managed to eke out some advice – at the very least, we were able to tell them what to expect. These are some things I have learnt about Doing a PhD:

You will actually have no clue what you’re doing until approximately 5-6 months before submission. Oh, you THINK you’re all over it, but you’re not. It will take YEARS of work: researching, writing, deleting tens of thousands of words that don’t serve you anymore (keep them in an ‘outtakes’ folder for potential ‘articles’ and ‘conference papers’). Today I had a moment when I could see all of my ideas come together, neatly clicking into each other, culminating in an overall narrative of the thesis. This has happened three separate times, BUT it is reassuring to know that your ideas DO make sense and CAN make sense. Like, six months before you’re supposed to hand it in.

You will probably lose friends; all relationships will suffer. I have always scoffed at the “I’m just not in the right head space for a relationship” line, but I’m here to tell you - IT’S A THING. Consumed by my thesis and the stress of not knowing what I’m doing/ trying to make sense of difficult ideas/ working to pay the bills/ feeding myself/ various other labours to survive life as a human, being a good friend is a whole other layer of existence (I am a huge jerk, sorry). There are maybe three or four people from my inner circle I still see on a regular basis. I barely ever see my parents. My supervisor warned me about this – she said I would likely disappear off the radar and I dismissed the idea – I’m a GREAT friend. But she was right of course, and these days I conduct most of my relationships via text message and Twitter. Thank golly for Twitter! Of course, the people who really matter will still be there After Thesis. Right, guys?

Clearing your mind of thesis once in a while is so helpful – for your friends’ sanity and for your own (I think my pupils start to dilate whenever I talk about it). Honestly, if it weren’t for teaching, I don’t know what I would do. Teaching saved me. My students are great fun, and it is so necessary to use your brain to think about things other than the thing you’ve been thinking about for three years. Exercise is a good way to clear your head as well. Endorphins! It is excellent me-time: when I do Yoga/Pilates I am thinking of nothing except for how I can manage my breathing to hold the pose I’m in. I’m a recent hot yoga convert and I am convinced that my thesis/mental health is better for it.

Writing is hard. SO HARD. I feel I really need to emphasise this, because in year 4 my teacher took me aside and told me I was going to be A Writer, so since then I thought it was basically my destiny and that I could definitely handle it. But yes. Writing a thesis is really fucking hard. My thesis has made me cry; I have read over old work with jaw dropped open in horror at the mediocrity more than once. My writing has made me feel ill with incompetence. But I am always learning new things. After eight years (!!!!) at university I am only just beginning to appreciate the nuances of non-fiction/research writing. As my supervisor always reminds me, it is a very specific genre. You need to stick to the genre while still doing what you need to do in order to make your writing engaging, but don’t get too creative! Maintain a scholarly voice! This isn’t a feature article! etc. I’m told the awfulness never really goes away, but at least you know it is to be expected. WRITING IS HARD.

This is the kind of stuff you’re always told about writing PhDs, though – they tell you before you start, when you start, and while you’re doing it. But I feel like because it’s such a unique and privileged thing to be able to conceive and write your own research project while being nurtured by a clever, committed supervisor and supported by your university/department the whole way through (I love you forever, Usyd!), you are more unwilling – hesitant, at least – to share that sometimes it’s a bit shit. But the whole process has also changed me profoundly as a human – not something I had expected to happen, but for which I am grateful. It is a big adventure and the highlights outnumber the low.

If you ever decide to embark on higher degree research, I will defs be around with tea and a sympathetic ear. There’ll be days when you dance triumphantly around to Taylor Swift because you just nailed that chapter/paragraph/sentence, and others when you need to play Survivor by Destiny’s Child really loud and on a constant loop (NB: I have done this all week). But in the end you will have approximately 100 000 meticulously researched words and a special big floppy hat when you graduate. You’ll have the honorific of ‘doctor’ which will probably feel way too wanky to ever use in real life. You will have new friends and a new appreciation for your own fortitude. In the end (because there will be an end!), it will all be totally worth it. Probably.

Filed under thesis writing PhD

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Girls: On my undying love for Lena Dunham

UPDATE: A revamped version of this post was published on Cosmopolitan Australia - FUN! Read it here.


Last year I gave a paper at a feminist conference on the much acclaimed HBO series, Girls. I was terrified, mostly because I am a feminist scholar, not a scholar OF feminism. To be perfectly honest, my admiration for Lena Dunham was one of the key things that stopped me from vomiting with nerves that day; I just replayed her voice in my head to keep calm (creepy, but true).

During question time, one of the women who listened to my paper despaired over how feminism is being “undone”, and she didn’t think the silliness of Girls was helping. She said that feminism needed a good kick up the bum and reinvigoration. You know what? I think Girls is one of the few things out there bringing women (and men) together and reinvigorating the ways in which we understand feminism. And I don’t mean like Ryan Gosling, who bands us all together in a swooning heap.

I mean like through Lena Dunham, who inspires groups of young women to gush over how clever she is, how funny she is, how sharply she mirrors our own insecurities and awkwardness.  Dunham’s success inspires in us the motivation to replicate it for ourselves, in whatever aspect of our lives.

I mean like the character of Shoshanna – to my mind, the most vividly-drawn and bravest of all the Girls – because we all wish we could have a little bit of her honesty and her crazy. I can’t count the number of times I have mentioned Girls and for it to elicit gasps of enthusiasm and long drawn-out discussions of our favourite scene/episode/character (dancing on my own/The Crackcident/Shoshanna, in case you were wondering) and our undying love for Dunham. It’s not the same as having Sex and the City debates about whether Carrie should have been with Aidan or with Big (Big, OBVIOUSLY) or which pair of Carrie’s shoes were the most fabulous (I actually don’t think anyone has that conversation, do they?). I spent a good ten minutes defending the feminist credentials of Sex and the City during a lecture once, so please do not doubt my respect for Carrie and co. But Dunham taps into something a little different; you can see it in the fevered online news, Twitter, and Instagram posts from the first episode up until the lead-up to season two.

I find that discussions about Girls are usually of how wonderfully talented Lena Dunham is, or how Shoshanna made you snort-laugh food up your nose during The Crackcident. I spend more time talking to friends on the other side of the world about our mutual love for the program than I probably would if Girls wasn’t around. Of course, this then leads to a more sustained friendship, and we can talk about other things, like Downton Abbey. I find that I like people more based on the fact that they appreciate the brilliance of Girls – if you GET Girls, then you’ll probably GET me, too.

Dunham took some gender studies at the libreal arts college Oberlin but Girls isn’t a stuffy manifesto on feminism and gender roles. It doesn’t need to be. As a program created and written by a woman, featuring a principle cast of women, what Girls has done in a small, quiet way is highlight the incredible things women are capable of and our potential to do incredible things (yes, being commissioned to write a TV show for HBO counts as incredible in my books). Because Girls is ACTUALLY hilarious, nuanced, and cleverly self-aware. The appreciation of this is how it brings the sisterhood together. That’s not to say it is a perfectly conceived television show – I had problems with Marnie and Jessa making out seemingly for the sake of it, for example, – but on the whole its popularity speaks to some kind of universal truth Dunham manages to articulate. It’s also a well-observed commentary on how feminist ideals have leaked into the everyday life of modern women and our fumbling negotiation of these ideals, but that’s a discussion for another time.

Watching Girls is pure joy and its accolades and acclaim are well-deserved. For this, some would say Dunham should thank feminism - certainly, the work of feminists before her enabled her to use the opportunities she was given. But I think feminists can give thanks, too: for a new voice, of a new generation of feminists.

Filed under GIRLS HBO feminism pop culture TV GIRLS