The Great Facebook Bra Debate

Broadcasting the color of your bra to your friends and colleagues is not typical or even acceptable behavior for most women, yet that’s precisely what thousands of female Facebook users were doing this week, ostensibly to raise awareness of breast cancer.

Logging on to the world’s most popular social network beginning midweek, it was common to see status updates from women users that read a variety of colors, from black to white, pink, red, nude or, more cryptically, “none.” What could the girls be up to this time? male users collectively wondered. That’s because, as is often the case with women’s wares in real life, they simply weren’t in the loop.

A widely circulated Facebook message played the part of the chain letters and chain e-mails of yore, presenting female recipients the following instructions:

    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!

Web journalists have speculated that the message and the associated campaign began somewhere in the Detroit area, since writers there were among the first to notice and comment on the trend.

Despite apparent good intentions, the lighthearted tone of the message and the resulting ambiguity of the viral campaign rubbed some the wrong way.

“I’m vomitously sick of a serious illness like breast cancer being reduced to twee pink ribbons and strollathons,” said Lisa Takeuchi Cullen at True/Slant. Pressing further, she advised her readers to “boycott the Facebook color viral trendlet.”

Cullen’s suggestion was echoed by a small but growing contingent of Facebook groups and pages similarly titled “I Don’t Care What Color Your Bra Is … But I Still Support the Cause.”

Other journalists attempted to analyze what the trend said about the evolving world of social media and its role in promoting specific causes and advancing real goals.

“Here’s the thing,” wrote NPR’s Shereen Meraji, “I changed my status, but I don’t know anything more about breast cancer or how to protect myself against it. Is this another example of ‘slacktivism,’ virtual activism with no real results?” she asked.

Not everyone was unreceptive to the viral campaign’s methods.

“For those of us who actually took the time to look up this phenomenon, it did the work of spreading an important but relatively unknown variety of cancer,” argued Kaushik Narasimhan at Techie Buzz. “Throughout the world, breast cancer is responsible for 10.4% of cancer incidence in women and is thus the second most common type of cancer (the first being lung cancer). This type of cancer is responsible for 1% of all female deaths in the entire world! So the next time you see your female friend update their status update with a mysterious color, suppress those dirty thoughts and focus on the issue at hand!”

Similarly All Facebook blogger Bilial Hameed observed: “The campaign has marked the first successful use of Facebook status updates with very few words to send a powerful message across. If this becomes the norm, and other facebook users started to use short status updates to convey informational, marketing or news worthy messages (which is exactly what Twitter was supposed to do) – well then Twitter would surely have to run for its money.”

Recognizing that the great, safe-for-work virtual flashing campaign was something wholly unseen until now, some writers still said they would have preferred a more comprehensive, concrete approach toward tackling the problem of breast cancer.

“A much better campaign would keep the whole bra color thing, but then instruct women to also leave a link to a breast cancer-related site, or a splash page or similar teaser that will eventually have breast cancer information,” offered Frau Sally Benz at Feministe.

“I wish that during breast cancer awareness month, trained professionals were out in public places showing women how to examine themselves properly,” lamented Jessica Wakeman at the blog The Frisky. “And of course, I wish we, as a society, could get over a lot of the shame we feel about women’s bodies and discuss useful details about breasts for our own health. I guess it’s just less embarrassing, and easier, to say what color bra we are wearing on Facebook.”

So whether the meme was largely just a cheap thrill or an earnest, effective method of spreading breast cancer awareness remains largely a matter of interpretation. In either case, Facebook users sure got an eyeful this week.

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About Chase Morgan
Chase Morgan is just your average, ordinary All-American writer. Chase began writing several years ago, but never published anything until the "Are You Friggen' Kidding Me?" blog launched in August of 2009. Chase simply got tired of standing around and just observing all of the craziness in the world, so this anxious writer sat down and wrote the first "Are YOu Friggen' Kidding Me?" article on August 19th, 2009. Now, any time something makes Chase say, "Are You Friggen' Kidding Me?", the issue get's transformed into an article. Chase is currently single, homeless and living under a bridge in South Florida.

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