Apparently it's time again for the "bra color" meme to make the rounds of Facebook. This chain-mail style game spreads through private messages among groups of ladyfriends. The idea is to post your bra color as your status, but sshhhhhhhh, don't tell the boys. Won't it be funny to keep them in the dark? Isn't it awesome to raise awareness of breast cancer?
Wait, what? How does posting your bra color (or fruit, or where you put your purse, or whatever) raise awareness of a disease? And even if it did raise awareness (what does that mean exactly? it's the ultimate in slactivism), how does that awareness translate into reduced risk or improved patient outcomes?
Titillation doesn't equal awareness. Even if it did, why would we want to keep men in the dark? Men need to know about breast cancer, too - their wives, girlfriends, mothers, daughters, sisters, friends might contract this disease. They might develop this disease. Which means their husbands, boyfriends, sons, fathers, brothers might get it. (Yes, men can get breast cancer, too.) Their teachers might. Their coworkers. Their employees. Their bosses. Men need to know about breast cancer just as much as women do. Nobody benefits from this tee-hee-hee slumber-party approach to "raising awareness". Posting where you "like it" (your purse...get your mind out of the gutter!) doesn't find lumps. Alluding to your lacy black balconette doesn't fund research. Giggling in the girls' room doesn't comfort the women and men experiencing a very real, very unfunny, life-altering, often disfiguring, and potentially fatal illness.
What's more, the chances are that a woman or man on your Facebook friend's list is currently going through or has personal experience with breast cancer, whether it be a friend or family member who has had the disease, her own disease experience, or a scare related to an irregular mammogram. You can bet that these people don't feel terribly supported by a flurry of underwear colors around them. Their biopsies were probably not nearly as hilarious as trying to lead clueless men to think "I like it in the foyer" means something other than where you stash your wallet and keys.
Please take a few moments to read over one of the many excellent feminist articles that has been written about this meme. Here are just a few:
Feministing: No, Posting a Fruit in Your Status Does Not Raise Awareness for Breast Cancer
Salon: The Complete Idiot's Guide to Breast Cancer Awareness
Feminist Looking Glass: Consumerism, Sexualization, and Breast Cancer
Instead of trying to mystify the boys and sexualize a serious illness, how about posting some actual facts about cancer, or reminding friends to check themselves? Donate to a charity, volunteer for an organization that provides support to people who have breast cancer, write an article about how breast cancer has impacted your family or friends...the opportunities to truly do something toward minimizing risk and bringing healing are endless. Heck, if you just call people on their "raising awareness" bra meme bullshit, you're doing something.
If you want to play a silly game, go for it. But please, please don't claim that it's in the name of "raising awareness". My grandmother died of breast cancer in 1967. My mother was 16 years old. I won't trivialize what they and other women and men have experienced by making it into , and I hope you won't, either.