Does Sharing Your Bra Color Equal Breast Cancer Awareness?

By Riley Karbon, Field Intern

Earlier last week, a flood of colorful status updates swept women’s profiles on the social networking site Facebook. In response to a forwarded message, women were supposed to post the color of their bra in order to raise awareness about breast cancer. The message I received from a female friend said:

“We are playing a game…… silly, but fun! Write the color of your bra as your status, just the color, nothing else!! Copy this and pass it on to women you know. This will be fun to see how it spreads, and we are leaving the men wondering why all females just have a color as their status!! Let’s have fun!! Be breast cancer aware!!!”

Reading this message with another friend of mine, we decided to play along by posting the colors of our bras. Not the ones we were wearing that day (both tan), but the decidedly sexier ones that we weren’t. I posted “blue” and she, “leopard print.” Why did we feel the pressure to lie and write something supposedly more racy? Even though men, the presumed recipients of our aesthetically pleasing lingerie vibes, were clueless to the real meaning behind the colorful status updates? We all know that the most comfy or supportive, and therefore most likely to be worn bras, tend to fall in the white to boring category. It’s true. And yet the majority of statuses I read were elaborate descriptions of undergarments I couldn’t even imagine, and frankly some sounded a little painful. Perhaps my comrade and I knew that when the men eventually found out about the “game” we wanted to make sure we had societal and patriarchy-approved answers.

Besides putting perhaps unintended pressure on women to lie about their lingerie, the message did not achieve its goal of breast cancer awareness. I’m betting most women, like myself, forgot about the reason for the “game” as soon as they “liked” another woman’s bra status. Reducing women to their body parts is not new to breast cancer awareness campaigns, but this message went a step further by excluding men. Men can get breast cancer and/or support its research as much as women can support research for testicular cancer. Why would we want to exclude half the world’s population in the fight against this terrible disease? This doesn’t make any sense. And raising awareness is good to begin with, but why didn’t we take the message a step further by promoting actions that individuals could take to monitor their own breast health and support advocacy work. This would have been much more effective.

Unfortunately the origin of the message cannot be traced, but it doesn’t seem to have come from any established breast cancer organization. I now regret the quick decision to lie about my bra status, but in the future I’ll either post more informative awareness statuses or just stick to what I ate that morning.

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