January 8, 2010

Colorful Tokens

So, those of you on facebook probably saw yesterday this little game going around where girls posted as their status the color of the bra they were currently wearing. So all day people's statuses read: "Blue" "Black" "White" "Black" "Black" "Black" "Red" etc. Then someone would comment and ask what they were doing. And they would respond with, "We're all supposed to post our bra color to raise awareness for breast cancer! You should too!" And they'd say, "Fun! Okay :)" And then their status would say "Black" And they'd have a nice little giggle.

If you were one of those girls, get ready, because I'm about to piss you off. I hope so, anyway.

Here's the thing: all day I saw this going on and it annoyed me. Firstly, because it's essentially just an exhibitionist tactic to get attention (and if you don't agree with me, just wait). I don't have any patience for exhibitionism; exhibitionism is more about drawing attention to the individual rather than the cause.

But also, and something that for a while I couldn't put my finger on, it just seemed...weak. Posting your bra color to "raise awareness" about breast cancer?

It didn't really gel for me until a woman a know - now facing her second round with breast cancer - put THIS as her facebook status:

OK all you people putting "colors" on FB..As a cancer patient facing surgery, I challenge you to get out there and DO something in addition to just posting a color. Visit an oncology doctor's office crowded with people..it will break your heart. There's no way to face this disease without the Lord and many don't know Him.

Ouch. Talk about a reality check.

And then I went back and looked over the statuses again. Not one person that I know who had personally been through the fire of breast cancer put a color in their status. Not one. What does that tell you?

I'll go even farther. Out of all the statuses with colors I saw posted yesterday, not ONE of them - and I checked - not ONE of them resulted in a serious exchange of information regarding breast cancer.

It was all tokenism, a gesture to make the individual feel better about themselves for doing "something" when in reality they were doing nothing.

Before you call me a heartless monster who doesn't care about breast cancer, let's ask?

What was the point of this exercise? Exhibit A: the chain facebook message I got promoting the activity:

Some fun is going on.... just write the color of your bra in your status. Just the color, nothing else. And send this on to ONLY girls no men .... It will be neat to see if this will spread the wings of cancer awareness. 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... Haha!

Yeah, that sounds like they really take this seriously. Not just trying to get attention at all.

What was accomplished by this exercise? I had several people tell me that this was about "raising awareness" and how important "raising awareness" is.

Okay, so riddle me this: How many people in your facebook network, prior to yesterday, were unaware of breast cancer? I have a feeling the number is closer to 0 than 1.

We have movies, tv shows and books where breast cancer is either a plot or subplot. Heck, we have a whole month where everything you can find in Target - from jewelry to stand mixers to scarves - is pink, in the name of breast cancer. Name for me one literate American over the age of 14 who is unaware of breast cancer. You can't.

Which is why I have a hard time taking efforts to "raise awareness" seriously. More often than not, people tend to try and "raise awareness" for things to which we are already aware.

But this is was really bugs me: I can guarantee you only a fractional amount of the girls posting colors yesterday did anything TODAY help fight breast cancer or serve a breast cancer patient.

Which brings me to my point. Posting a color in your status doesn't do anything to help anyone. All it does is make you feel like you've done your good deed for the day, get a giggle out of it, and get an ego boost from the attention you received as a result.

Just posting a status with no actionable information does nothing. Nothing. You did not help one person. If your status directly resulted in a substantive conversation concerning breast cancer statistics, treatments and cures, tell me. I'd lay good money that it didn't happen. Because this wasn't about raising awareness about breast cancer, not really. It was about getting attention and status comments.

Want to prove me wrong? Want to show that you did that because you really do care about breast cancer and breast cancer patients? Then do something. Raise funds, not awareness. Go clean a cancer patient's house. Be a "Big Sister" to a girl who lost her mother to breast cancer.

Put your money and your time where your facebook status is. I dare you.


  1. Hey, I appreciate your note, but it is as I said before; this was just in fun. I laughed out loud and it is something that I needed (to laugh) We are all touched by cancer, all kinds of cancer, not just breast cancer. My grandpa died of lung cancer, other grandma and great aunt fighting lung and esophageal cancer and numerous others. Yes, you are right, we need to do something. Many of us do, like sitting with a loved one as they die, or driving another to the doctor only to have them disown us when they feel better. Many of us just wanted a good laugh and to connect. I appreciate your blog and am glad you are so passionate about this, hope you continue to be. Hope you won't be angry, tho if some of us get a good silly chuckle. One of the black one's is facing their 4th deployment in 5 years. She is the one who sent it to me and she lost her grandma to breast cancer.
    Take care~ no hard feelings I hope! Paula Fuqua

  2. I am pretty much in agreement with you here.
    The message that I received was similar but with more of an emphasis on a it being a reminder to do a self exam and a prompt to prayer. Being as i am currently stuck at home with 4 kids under 3, and am barely making mortgage, one of the only truly helpful things i *can* do right now is pray. So I did. This is not to say that others did. I didn't post my bra color but lots of gals I know did, sweet genuine girls, who probably didn't think of it as egotistical move. But then of course *thinking* about it more deeply is kind of your point, and you are right-- actions speak louder than "light purple or electric blue".

    p.s. don't get peeved if you try to email a reply and my email isn't set up-- i haven't figure that out yet:O)

  3. Having said all of that, I think you'll really support this article about the whole thing:


  4. i agree with you.
    i got the same message as you and immediately thought "how is driving boys crazy raising awareness to breast cancer". but something else struck me. aside from cancer.
    when people figure out that it is a bra color, many many people automatically get a flash image in their mind about it. i do it. just like i imagine what someone may look like in a outfit or real life or how their voice sounds. and i know my husband does it too.
    so, he would be perusing FB and see girls from our church posting their bra colors.
    i even had a friend say "I don't think girls realize what kind of "visuals" they are giving us"
    and that's what annoyed me the most. i understand the "fun" behind it. but i don't think it was appropriate. my hubs can imagine what i look like in a bra all day long if he would like. but i don't want my friends, family, and church folk to even have the temptation of that visual.

  5. Thanks for posting what I have been thinking all day long!!!!

    We think we can change the world through Facebook, Twitter, our blogs or whatever other social media network is out there. However, it takes more than just posting statuses, twittering or responding to a message in a forum. While this might be true in some instances, a stupid "color" status on Facebook does absolutely nothing. When i got that message, I was thinking: How about donating a $1 (even if it's just one single dollar) instead? How about telling someone who know has/had breast cancer how amazing they are? How about doing a breast exam on yourself? That would be awareness. Not posting a stupid color!

  6. I totally agree with you. While they might have had fun doing it, it did nothing for the cause.

  7. I swear I had at least a dozen messages about this. I did not post my color. I just do not think it is anyone's business to know the color of my bra! Someone I know posted this as their status:

    Breastfeeding reduces your chances of getting breast cancer (and the longer you nurse, the lower your risk). AND it also helps your daughter reduces HER chances of getting breast cancer. So post THIS instead of the color of your bra today!

    If you want to post your color, then do so. But add someone's name that you know who lost the battle or who is fighting the battle. Add ways that you can help in your community to fight breast cancer or other cancers.

  8. well said! I totally agree with you.

  9. I was so annoyed by the multiple messages I got yesterday regarding it. Fortunately I was at work during the majority of the status updating, so I got to skip out on it(and opted out on "catching up" on status last night).

  10. Right on, Jaci...Right on.

  11. Amen sister! I did not know what it was all about at first and when I finally realized I thought it was RETARDED. All it did for me was made me think, "Who cares what color of bra you are wearing".

    Besides, last year the "Breat Cancer Foundation" came to the capitol to raise awareness and obviously SUPPORT. At the same time this was taking place there was a letter generating throughout the offices in the building with the number figures of the president, vice president, and so on... for the Breat Caner Foundation. All I can say is that it would make you think twice about giving them your money. Kind of turned me off to all of the "Causes" and "Awareness" especially generated by them. There are so many more things that we can do.

    But you are right... It might take a little more effort then just typing in a color.

    Granted, I am not currently doing anythig for that particular cause but I also did not pretend that I was by typing a color. So, I can say that! haha

  12. OMG I couldn't agree more! I have never been so annoyed with FB in my life. I swear people just jump on the bandwagon and it's not cool. Get out and do something about it. Don't just post something... do something damn it!


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