Saturday, January 9, 2010

Post Your Bra Color As Your Status Update, Change Nothing

Like many Facebook users, I watched this week as my girlfriends' status updates were replaced with one word colors, like "black," "white," and the occasionally more descriptive "purple lace." Unlike many Facebook users, however, I didn't get the invitation -- a chain email from an unknown source -- to post my bra color as my status update. I figured out what was going on soon enough (I'm so web 2.0 savvy) and decided against participating in the meme; it's not that I was embarrassed to tell the world I was wearing a white bra (and still am -- oh Natori sports bra, you are like my second skin, I'm stuck with you and you with me 24/7, doctor's orders) it's that I didn't see the point.

Only today did I learn that the point of this viral experiment was to, in the inelegant words of the invitation, "spread the wings of cancer awareness." Exsqueeze me? Baking powder? How on earth will cryptic status updates, most of which, I'm guessing, said "beige," raise awareness of breast cancer? If the "campaign" did anything, it raised awareness of what color bras my girlfriends were wearing. But mostly, I'm guessing, it just caused confusion. After all, this was a wink-wink-nudge-nudge girls' thing, no boys allowed, and the idea was to get men all intrigued about the colors and then when they figure it out they'll all get tiny erections and it will be like a big internet slumber party where the girls laugh and exploit their sexuality to get guys' attention. And, oh yeah, something about raising breast cancer awareness.

Call me a wet blanket, call me a party pooper, get out your trombone and blow the Debbie Downer wah-wah.(Please note, though, I'm not the first person to ignite the flames of backlash. Lots of others have commented on the inanity of the meme.) But I think this is, as NPR calls it aptly, slacktivism at its most offensive. Because, I hate to be brutal, but I mean, women with breast cancer, especially those who undergo mastectomies and don't opt for reconstruction, don't even wear bras. Because they don't have breasts. And women who die from breast cancer don't wear bras either. Because they are dead. It's like saying, let's raise awareness of hunger by updating your status with what you ate for lunch.

Obviously, I'm particularly impatient with oafish attempts at cutifying breast cancer. I've written before about my hatred of the pink ribbon, and this seems like just another hamfisted attempt to make cancer sexy (pink lace! hot!) while allowing people to feel like they are participating in something while actually doing nothing. As a card-carrying member of the double mastectomy sewing circle, I find the whole charade particularly silly. If I had more guts (I'm not officially "out" on Facebook) I would have updated my status as follows: "White. I'm three-weeks post-mastectomy. TMI? I'd rather tell you about my surgery than hear about your purple lace bra. Which will do more to spread awareness?"

The truth is, no matter how many people are "aware" of breast cancer, it's still going to strike and kill. Awareness is not enough. We need a cure. And that's not going to happen by posting our bra color for all the world to see. I may be cynical, or maybe just cranky (this bra is really very tight... and I wish I could just let the girls have a breather), but I feel like I have a right to comment. After all, what my bra contains -- breasts remade of silicone, breasts sacrificed for health -- is so much more important that what color it is. Oh, I am aware of breast cancer. I may have escaped its specter, but I live everyday with the bargain I struck to avoid it. I don't need status updates to remind me of that.


  1. I 100% agree with you. I tried to start something & get it to spread like that did, but the color thing turned out to be a short-lived fad. My event invitation invited people to donate to breast cancer research and actually do some good. Hardly any of the girls who updated their status with their color joined the invitation to donate money to the cause they were supposedly raising awareness about.

    I also got shot down on Twitter when I scolded people for participating. Apparently they think that people with double mastectomies are already "aware" enough. I have never been so disgusted by some people before. People actually called me offensive because I said that people were distasteful when they updated their status with their color without thinking first.

    Half of them thought it was their underwear color, 1/4 knew it was their bra color, 1/8 had no clue what it was, and the final 1/8 actually knew the point was to spread "awareness." I agree that all people were aware of after that was what color the girl's bra was. I'm just glad my grandma, who doesn't wear a bra because of a double mastectomy, won't hear about it...she already feels left out of enough in life.

    Thanks for your rant :D

  2. While I appreciate your point of view, these people weren't posting bra colors to be offensive. I got the same message, and I did hesitate too, but finally gave in and posted mine, though I admit, I didn't keep it up for long. The point is, I truly think that they did it because it only took a moment for them to do something that they thought would show their support for breast cancer awareness. Back in October, when people's icons turned pink, same thing.. no, it probably doesn't help much in the way of finding a cure, but if it makes people feel good to think that they did at least some small thing to spread awareness, then I can't fault them for that. You know I have a lot of respect for you, and what you're going through, as I'm in the same boat as you. But I just hope you can try to see this from a different perspective.. it's just people, being people. The vast majority don't really know what to do to help put an end to breast cancer. Honestly, I have no idea either, though I wish I did. I do my part too, but in the end, I wonder if anything I'm doing is really going to change anything either. Doesn't mean that I'm going to stop trying though..


  3. Thanks for writing, Rachel. Our views are definitely those of the minority. But I think that thinking differently, or thinking critically, and not always following the herd is, while, at times difficult, very important. And thanks for your comments, Teri. I certainly agree that no one intended to be offensive (indeed, I would argue the status updates themselves were harmless), but I disagree that the trend had any quantifiable impact on awareness. I simply think there is too much disconnect between the information (bra color) and the intent (BC awareness); it just doesn't compute to me. It would be like asking people to post the color of their car to raise awareness of drunk driving; sure, you'll think about your car, for a moment, but how will that change your behavior the next time you drive? Sure, women thought for a moment about their bras, and perhaps their breasts, but how will it impact their behavior? I also think the cryptic nature of the campaign made it more an inside joke than anything else; I asked my husband what he thought of it all and he said he had no idea what the colors had meant. I'm sure he was not alone in his confusion. So, I'm afraid we'll have to agree to disagree. The world would be boring if we all agreed all the time any way; both sides have legitimate points, and as long as it engenders discussion, then maybe something positive and quantifiable will come from it after all.

  4. So true, it would be very boring if we all thought the same thing. The bra color on facebook thing actually made the news though, so as silly as it was, it really did do it's job and raise awareness. I actually tried to post a link here to show you but wasn't able to paste here (techinical difficulties). Anyway, a google search will turn it up. The Susan G. Komen Foundation has seen a surge in membership because of it too. Anyway as you said, at least it's got people talking about it, which in itself is a step in the right direction.

  5. Steph Darling,

    I've been out of the blogosphere for too long thanks to dreaded chemo...just started to feel okay enough to poke around today for a little bit and one of my first thoughts was to check on you -- I am SO, SO, SO glad your surgery went well!!!!!!! Truly relieved to read your post about it and can't tell you how thrilled I am that you did so great and it's OVER for you.

    Been thinking of you this holiday season and wishing you continued good health :)

  6. You basically took the words out of my mouth. I almost did something similar to the status that you were going to put but I held myself back but rather complained to my husband....I am 4 wks away from my pbm and I felt like bra colors actually is of NO help to cancer awareness but rather awareness to all of us BRCA positive/breast cancer survivors/families touched by breast cancer that breast cancer is so much more complicated!

  7. After millions of women posted their bra color on Facebook as a joke, White House | Black Market (WHBM) and Soma Intimates decided to use the craze to make a difference in the lives of women affected by breast cancer. Both companies encouraged fans of their Facebook pages to post their bra color to the page’s wall, promising to donate $1 for every post. In just two short days, WHBM and Soma had raised nearly $5,000 for LBBC.
    Just wanted to share the power of social media--hopefully you can feature this as a followup to your blog entry.

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