Malaysian student Syarifah Amin was carrying law books weighing almost 4kg when she arrived bright and early at the Kuala Lumpur Library on August 12. She was eager to start studying – but hit an obstacle before she could get started. Amin was refused entry to the state-run public facility because her bra lines were visible through her long-sleeved white blouse, a breach of the library’s dress code . Cover them with a jumper, the library’s female receptionist and a female security guard told her. Angry and frustrated, she took to Twitter. “If I don’t wear a bra, my nipples could be seen. Anyways, I told the guard and the receptionist. I came here to study,” tweeted Amin, the co-founder of advocacy group Malaysian Youth Advocates for Gender Equality, that same morning. “I’m wearing long sleeves and long pants. I’m not going to wear a sweater to cover my ‘bra lines’. I literally just want to study.” Got denied entry into Perpustakaan Kuala Lumpur this morning because of pakaian “menjolok mata” sebab “nampak bra”. This was what I was wearing. pic.twitter.com/yugY9GZN1c — Miss Atomic Bomb (@SyarifahAmin) August 12, 2020 Fila Magnus, the Malaysian member of the Commonwealth Youth Gender Equality Network (CYGEN), a youth-led network promoting gender equality , says the incident was disheartening. “As the world learns to live with a new normal, it’s disheartening how Malaysia continues to find itself stuck with a ‘norm’ it refuses to move on from,” says Magnus. “Preventing a young woman from having access to a public facility, all in the name of visible bra lines, shows us very clearly that it is more important to regulate what a woman chooses to wear, than to allow her, her rights as a citizen to utilise the public space to study, as she ought to be able to,” says Magnus. When did big breasts become unpopular? Rise of breast reductions The library defended its action, saying visitors must comply with its dress code. Other prohibited clothing include singlets, shorts, skirts above the knee and tight clothes. Many on social media showed support for Amin. “Utterly absurd that you had to endure this. Creepy obsession with policing women’s bodies, the way we dress. Glad you pushed back (but frustrating that you had to in the first place),” tweeted one. “Ugh people so love to shame women publicly in this country, protecting so-called modesty over basic decency and respect,” wrote another. “I wish people would keep their judgments to themselves and instead focus on real issues in this country,” another tweeted. “In cases like these, i can’t help but feel like the ppl [sic] who overpolice women’s bodies are also the ppl hypersexualizing femininity – not everything that a woman wears is meant to be attractive or sexy to others!!!! ppl gotta stop projecting!!!,” another tweet read. A few sided with the library. “Nothing wrong with that actually but you have to remember Malaysia Culture … for Westerners should be no problem. I can see the Perpustakaan [Malay for library] point. Hope u understand more,” wrote one. “Rules are rules,” tweeted another. The divisive nature of the comments is not surprising. The bra – an abbreviation of the French word brassiere, literally “bodice, child’s vest” – arguably stirs more controversy than any other piece of clothing. View this post on Instagram Without getting into the details of the incident, what happened to us was wrong. It is high time that society stops harassing women for what we wear, where we go and what we do. We see it happen everyday and we are told to move on. It is disturbing to be continuously subject to such harassment and I do not want any other woman to go through this trauma. We cannot be intimidated in this manner. I have filed an FIR with the police and I have full faith that a fair investigation will be carried out. I hope that this incident makes us all reflect on how women are treated and the consequences of moral policing. I hope that there is a better future for us and a safe space for us to just be ourselves and continue doing what we love PS: I express myself best with art #thisiswrong #myartoftheday #womenempowerwomen A post shared by Samyuktha Hegde (@samyuktha_hegde) on Sep 6, 2020 at 12:37am PDT Last month, Indian actress Samyuktha Hegde was ridiculed for working out in a sports bra at a public park in Bangalore, the capital of India’s southern Karnataka state. The 22-year-old shared a video on Instagram that shows her being yelled at for her outfit and an attempted attack on one of her friends. “Without getting into the details of the incident, what happened to us was wrong. It is high time that society stops harassing women for what we wear, where we go and what we do. We see it happen every day and we are told to move on. It is disturbing to be continuously subject to such harassment and I do not want any other woman to go through this trauma. We cannot be intimidated in this manner … “I hope that this incident makes us all reflect on how women are treated and the consequences of moral policing. I hope that there is a better future for us and a safe space for us to just be ourselves and continue doing what we love,” the IG post continued. Most women wear bras for fashion or cultural reasons, although a growing number have ditched them as they work from home during the Covid-19 outbreak . But feminists have long questioned society’s obsession with bras, just like its obsession with breasts . They see the bra as a symbol of repression, triggering body-positive movements such as the “Free The Nipple” and the “No Bra, No Problem” social media campaigns that not only stand up to society’s expectations, but aim to diminish the sexualisation of the female body by encouraging women to ditch bras. For International Women’s Day on March 8, 2017, Canadian YouTuber Lilly Singh (she has almost 15 million subscribers) kicked off the #BraToss Challenge, encouraging women to toss their bras in the name of girl power. The bra played a cultural role that transcended function and form long before the hashtag was used in social media. As early as 1873, the early feminist US author Elizabeth Stuart Phelps called on women to burn their corsets in the name of women’s rights. The sexual revolution that swept through the West in the 1960s and ’70s provided fertile ground for the movement to grow, the braless wave infiltrating various facets of pop culture, from Austrian-born American designer Rudi Gernreich, who used fashion to make statements on gender and sexuality (check out his mesh “no-bra” released in 1967), to Australian-born English writer and feminist Germaine Greer , who called the bra “a ludicrous invention” in her 1970 book, The Female Eunuch .