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Do Bra Colors on Facebook Serve a Purpose?

5 years ago
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Black. Beige. Pink. Leopard. Throughout the day on Thursday, my Facebook feed was sprinkled with such single-word status updates from many of my female friends. I knew another Facebook meme had made its presence known, and I'd be lying if I said I wasn't a bit crabby that no one had let me in on the details -- so much so that I even refused to do a simple Google search to find out.

It wasn't until around 5:30 p.m. that I received a message:

". . . Help spread the wings of breast cancer awareness by putting the color of your bra as your status. Just the color, nothing else. Send this on to ONLY gals, no men. It will be fun to see how long it takes before the men will wonder why all the girls have a color in their status."

Not to sound like a killjoy, but I couldn't help but roll my eyes a bit.

Of course I consider myself an ally of the breast cancer fight; I have seen its toll on some close friends and acquaintances. I've organized and participated in charity benefits for breast cancer and I will never forget the incredible feeling of collaboration and solidarity that those experiences instilled in me.

But not all awareness efforts are created equal.

I'm reminded of a Newsweek blog post from last year that addressed Breast Cancer Awareness Month ads thought to be more concerned with pushing the envelope than promoting the cause. In her post "Sexy Breast-Cancer Ads: Provocative or Patronizing?" blogger Kate Dailey noted that "Ad campaigns like 'Save Second Base' and 'Save the Ta Ta's' are an increasingly popular way to draw attention to breast-cancer charities; both organizations feature T shirts that call attention to the wearer's breasts. (Save Second Base, for instance, features two prominently placed baseballs.)"

Says Dailey:

"While breasts can be sexy, breast cancer is a serious, sometimes deadly disease. And younger activists hoping to draw attention to the issue and recruit younger donors are not above using sex, along with viral video, catchy slogans, and stylish T shirts-to promote breast-cancer awareness. But are ads that play up the desirability of full breasts in a string bikini sensitive to cancer patients with mastectomy scars? And will messages based on objectifying women do more good than harm in the long run?"

To be sure, it's been fun to share a cyber-laugh with girlfriends; after a day or so of the Facebook bra color campaign, it started to get silly: One of my favorite status updates was "commando," and my aunt told me a friend of hers who recently had a baby updated her status with the quip "soaked in milk." But because of the lack of context, this latest awareness effort is nothing more than innocuous titillation. Were Facebookers thinking more about breasts or the cancer that plagues them?

Though moments of levity are important, breast cancer is still a serious disease, says Dailey. An effective awareness ad campaign recognizes this. She quotes Kairol Rosenthal, author of "Everything Changes: The Insider Guide to Cancer in Your 20s": "You can be fun, creative, and a little bit sexy, but it has to involve the impact of the disease so that there's a call to action." Otherwise, says Dailey, "it's all sex and no substance."

Filed Under: Woman Up

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