Skepticism

Yellow! Do you feel more aware now?

As I’m sure all of you Facebook users noticed over the past couple days, a silly bra-color-themed status wildfire ignited annoyances all over the internet. Being more curmudgeonly than usual, this got on my nerves to no end. “Why,” you ask? Because it started as a chain letter and had a label slapped onto it when people questioned the motives. The men may not be particularly aware of it, since it was a “women only” thing, but it got started by way of mass Facebook messages like the following:

We’re playing a little game where every woman on Facebook will type the colour of the bra she is wearing today, (on your status) just the actual colour, nothing else. Forward this to women ONLY and let’s see if the men can work out what our game is.

How delightfully devious and titillating! Except that it’s stupid. And I received this same message multiple times from multiple sets of friends for multiple days. Take my pregnancy hormones and multiply them by that, and it turned into me getting yelled at by people who took it seriously because I voiced how lame and pointless I thought it was.

“Why? It’s a breast cancer awareness thing.” Is it? Because it doesn’t seem to actually have any affiliation at all. First of all, the mention of breast cancer awareness was not offered until the second day of messaging/posting. Secondly, nobody knows who started it or where, and nobody is taking credit. If you came up with a “brilliant” networking plan wouldn’t you want to say “hey, that was me”? Nobody is that big of an altruist.

Tracy said exactly what I’m trying to get at when I linked to this article (which I got from Heidi Anderson) on my profile, so I’ll let her do the talking: [emphases mine]

Tracy King With no link, website, campaign etc to back it up then it is pointless, but that is, as Elyse points out, because it wasn’t originally anything to do with breast cancer at all, it was a chain letter. Which raises questions:
1) How and why did it become associated with breast cancer? Chain letters are older than the hills, and often have a pretend altruistic cause attached in order to spread. Is this a case of the same thing?
2) How was this meant to help raise awareness of breast cancer? Are there any Facebook users anywhere in the world who aren’t aware that you can get cancer in your breasts? Assuming that the objective wasn’t just a chain letter, but a genuine attempt to do *something* for breast cancer, then what’s the *something*?
3) Where are the campaign spokespersons? If this was a genuine awareness campaign then those behind would/should have come forward by now to say “and here’s what we are getting at: breast cancer research needs money, go get screened, etc” or whatever the objective is.

In her first point she mentions how chain letters often have altruistic causes attached to them to help spread the letter further. Snopes has this to say about chain letters, including those with altruistic messages. In this case, the altruism approach wasn’t even to raise money – it was to cover up the stupidity of the action. Basically this started happening:

Sally: Hey guys! You should totally post your bra color as your Facebook status! It’ll be soooo funny to watch all the silly/dumb boys trying to figure out what we’re talking about!
Susie: That doesn’t sound like it’ll be funny at all. It sounds like it’ll be annoying for everybody.
Sally: But boys! They like boobs! And we have boobs! And if was discreetly talk about our boobs, it’ll drive them WILD and they’ll all sit in their offices with hardons all day!
Susie: You’re a moron.

Sally: But… what about breast cancer?

Far be it for me to ruin your idea of a good time, but if I say something about it, don’t throw a cause in my face when that wasn’t the original intention of the action. Now, the reverse effect isn’t possible… you can’t become UNaware of breast cancer. So had this actually been the initial intention of the activity, they would have had success. Whomever it was that labeled it as such might as well take the credit, because they got what they wanted: an excuse to annoy the piss out of everyone AND get attention.

Yes, breast cancer awareness is important. Yes, I would like to aid in spreading the word about regular breast self-exams, as well as exams performed by your doctor. No, posting your bra color and not telling anyone WHY is not a constructive means by which to spread a positive message. It would do more good to randomly ask, “Hey ladies, have you felt yourself up yet this month?”

In fact, have you felt yourself up yet? No? Go do that now. I’ll wait here.

In the meanwhile, here’s a picture of some boobies:

Back? All squared away? Good. I can’t emphasize enough how important it is to be aware of the look and feel of your boobs. And seriously, it’s an excuse to grab those lovely bits up front and remind yourself of what all the fuss is about. Boobs are awesome!

The moral of the story: chain letters are stupid and make me yell at people. Also, be aware of and friends with your boobs. Any woman who’s ever had breast cancer, known someone with breast cancer or had a breast cancer scare can tell you how earth shatteringly devastating that news is. Please please please grope yourself and, if you find a problem, make an appointment immediately for a screening. Whether you check yourself or not, see your doctor regularly for an exam. It makes a huge difference.

Anyone who’s interested in donating to Breast Cancer Awareness, here’s a link to a Facebook group supporting multiple donation sites. Please go visit them and help make a difference. I’ll thank you for that kind of awareness raising!

Chelsea

Chelsea is the proud mama of an amazing toddler-aged girl. She works in the retail industry while vehemently disliking mankind and, every once in a while, her bottled-up emotions explode into WordPress as a lengthy, ranty, almost violent blog. These will be your favorite Chelsea moments. Follow Chelsea on Twitter: chelseaepp.

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83 Comments

  1. Thank you! I have gotten into so many arguements over the last few days about how this meme doesn’t do a damned thing for breast cancer awareness. To me it’s the equivalent of saying you’ll pray for someone who is sick. It’s a way of feeling like you are doing something when you can’t/don’t want to do anything actually helpful.

  2. Sally: But… what about breast cancer?

    …too often strikes me as a variation on “But what about the children?”

    And I get into arguments about this too. Apparently I should just accept that it’s a good thing to raise awareness, no matter how or where or why.

  3. Hey guys! Check your prostate now! And then smell your finger and describe it in your facebook status! All those silly girls will have no idea what we’re talking about and will sit in their offices all day totally turned on. I’m deadly serious, it’s in aid of prostate cancer awareness. Do it. Do it now.

  4. I remember hearing once (many years ago from… who knows?) – anyway, I heard that sometimes a woman’s significant other will actually be the first to feel or see a lump in her breast. I found that kind of creepy to be honest.

    I mean, I want my husband to touch my boobies, but I’d like to know how they look and feel AT LEAST as well as he does.

    So, ladies, feel yourselves up and check yourselves in the mirror. Men, too! Prostate cancer is no joke!

  5. @skepto bismol: HAHA ewww!

    @“Other” Amanda: That just reminded me of one of the opening scenes for Gummo, in which a guy and a girl are making out and he stops to tell her “you got a big ol’ lump in your titty.” I agree – I would like to think that I would notice such a thing in my own body before my husband did. Not that I wouldn’t be eternally grateful if he found something and it was early enough to treat.

  6. See, I got a different message the first time I got it. The message I got said basically take off your bra, post the color, give yourself a self exam (and it gave instructions for the proper way to give yourself one). It was supposed to remind you to do a self exam.

    When I got the message a few days later from another friend, the self exam part of was missing from the message, then it just turned into a stupid game.

  7. @Jane Grey: And that’s what drives me nuts about this whole thing… there were a few versions! I wish I had gotten that form of it – maybe I wouldn’t end up seething every time I get a new message in my inbox (which is still happening, by the way, because people are now having conversations by hitting “Reply All” and there’s no way to remove yourself from the list).

    Not even all of them were about boobs! Some were about the color of your underwear and some were the age you lost your virgnity. With all 3 of those going around at the same time and the one with the awareness link embedded in it not making as many rounds, it makes it difficult to believe that that was still the original intention.

  8. And who was the asshole on Twitter telling everyone to post a flavor to raise ice cream awareness for people with hypoicecreamia?

    Oh and also, I thought routine self-exams were no longer recommended.

  9. I had to have a dude explain this to me anyway. Fail.

    I won’t be participating unless I see it get people into donating money to those affected by breast cancer and go bankrupt paying for treatment because of inadequate or no health insurance.

  10. @Elyse: I went right out and got HagenDaazs chocolate peanut butter ice cream to prevent hypoicecreamia.

    I think the thing with self exams is a question of efficacy when you don’t do them in conjunction with routine doctor visits. Surely it can’t be a bad thing to handle your boobs, right? I just wouldn’t rely on only yourself to notice changes.

  11. YAH INORITE?

    I went on to like, facebook, and I saw someone post just “white” as her status and I was like SO pissed when she did that and I tried to forget about it by looking at someone else’s status and it just said “black” and I was just so damn angry you know? It was just the final straw and so now I’m really really angry at all these people posting colours on their facebook. Really, there is nothing in the world right now that annoys me more than that, not anything. God I am so pissed.

  12. I wish I knew who wrote this but it is my reply to all chain letters I receive:

    The Mother Of All Chain Letters

    Hello, my name is _____________ and I suffer from the guilt of not forwarding 50 billion fucking chain letters sent to me by people who actually believe that if you send them on, a poor 6-year-old girl in Arkansas with a breast on her forehead will be able to raise enough money to have it removed before her redneck parents sell her to a traveling freak show. Do you honestly believe that Bill Gates is going to give you, and everyone to whom you send “his” email, $1000? How stupid are we? “Ooooh, looky here! If I scroll down this page and make a wish, I’ll get laid by every good looking model in the magazine!” What a bunch of horseshit. Basically, this message is a big @!#$ YOU to all the people out there who have nothing better to do than to send me stupid chain mail forwards. Maybe the evil chain letter leprechauns will come into my house and sodomize me in my sleep for not continuing a chain that was started by Peter in 5 AD and brought to this country by midget pilgrims on the Mayflower. @!#$ them. If you’re going to forward something, at least send me something mildly amusing. I’ve seen all the “send this to 10 of your closest friends, and this poor, wretched excuse for a human being will somehow receive a nickel from some omniscient being” forwards about 90 times. I don’t fucking care. Show a little intelligence and think about what you’re actually contributing to by sending out these forwards. Chances are, it’s your own unpopularity. The point being? If you get some chain letter that’s threatening to leave you shagless or luckless for the rest of your life, delete it. If it’s funny, send it on. Don’t piss people off by making them feel guilty about a leper in Botswana with no teeth who has been tied to a dead elephant for 27 years and whose only salvation is the 5 cents per letter he’ll receive if you forward this email. Now forward this to everyone you know. Otherwise, tomorrow morning your underwear will turn carnivorous and will consume your genitals.
    Author Unknown

  13. Thank you for posting this, Chelsea! It’s was right up my angry, ranty alley.

    I wish I’d been that articulate when I told people in my friend’s list to stop sending chain-letter spam and posted a links to NBCF and the Susan G. Komen site if they were “actually interested in doing something useful,” about awareness.

    Perhaps it served a convoluted version of it’s purpose by getting me to think about breast cancer awareness and attempting to spread that concern with information about actually doing something. Many of my “friends” seemed more concerned about jumping on a popular bandwagon than the supposed intent of the wagon itself.

    It can be frustrating to hear/read people defending this particular chain-letter, when criticized, because it “worked” in getting people to think about breast cancer. However, I have very strong doubts about that actually being the brilliant plan all along.

    That being said, it has garnered quite a bit of publicity in places blogs like Skepchick, and other news-related sites like NPR, and The Washington Post. As much as it grates on my chain-letter hating, curmudgeonly views of hot new Facebook trends that need to get off my lawn, this one got people really talking about it.

  14. Edit: Sorry to double-post!
    @Elyse:

    It seems that the lines between the wording of phrases like “routine self-exams were no longer recommended” and ” Doctors are no longer recommending (routine self-exams)” were blurred by bad media coverage. Some info on this from Medscape here (I’m not familiar with the medical community, and thus not familiar with the credibility of Medscape, but they seem promising, so far).

    As Chelsea had mentioned, I think being familiar with the different, normal things that go on with your breast tissue on a regular basis is healthy so long as you’re attempting to take an educated approach to the wonderful world that is your boobies : )

  15. I think the whole thing is funny, but I probably have a perversely young sense of humor. I did it, and so did a lot of my friends. We also talked about self-exam, which is still recommended, by the way. Routine mammograms before the age of 50 – not anymore. We also talked about real ways to help prevent breast cancer, like breast feeding. I heard from a couple of women that it felt like a solidarity thing. I also found out that a friend had had a recent breast cancer scare.

    So yeah, in and of itself, bra color didn’t do anything. But it got the ball rolling, and I think it was worth whatever annoyance it caused others.

  16. It seems to have sparked a lot of discussion in posts like this one and many many others. Some talking about the whole Pink Phenom, some talking about the titillation factor, some talking about other cancers being not as sexy and not getting found as soon (colorectal being high on this list) and other things.

    But really this whole thing just turned me into a sobbing mess because the day after I found out my aunt has breast cancer a bunch of girls on my facebook were posting things like teehee black, hahaha nothing!!, omg it’s purple lacey. I refrained from saying anything because I knew everything I’d have to say would be emotion laden and just piss people off.

  17. @Amoebic: Right. In an accidental way it got people talking, but only once the “purpose” (which I still don’t buy) was outed for discussion. And even then people reacted with more of a “oh…” than “yes! Let’s do something about it!” Blargh!!

    @loudlyquiet: I am so sorry to hear about your aunt’s news. The way this stupid game effected you is one of the things I was worried about. Giggling over something as sensitive as this and trying to make it sexy does nothing but make it seem like a laughing matter, which it very much is not. *hugs* to you and your aunt.

  18. Curmudgeonly? You bet. But absolutely right on the money. Mind you, it was amusing – for a while. I even got taken in, and tried to warn a friend in India that her FB account may have been hacked when the word ‘NUDE’ appeared on her status message. We had a LOL session over it – at my expense, of course.

    But this idea per se is essentially ridiculous. Did it really promote any breast cancer awareness? After the hullabaloo about posting bra colors dies down, what next? Post cup sizes? Perhaps we men should start posting underwear colors to draw attention to the problem of testicular cancer?

    Loved the final bit of admonition in your post.

  19. I know this is my first time posting, but apparently, it’s inches now. It took some digging but it seems like it’s post your shoe size followed by inches and a frown. This whole thing is just stupid.

  20. If even one person found a lump during the course of all this, it must have been worth it.

    Complaining that something more constructive should have been done makes me think that the complainers should have to do something constructive too.

    As I’m bordering on complaining – in order to not get sucked into a self referential loop – I’ve just made a donation.

    Looking back, as my donation was (indirectly) as a result of the campaign, it was still worth it, in a small way.

    Going commando

  21. @William Satire:

    One lump (that likely would have been found anyway) and a donation are great, but you’re sort of forgetting the utter insensitive assholiness of teasing the boys by making them think about bras and boobies to raise awareness for a bunch of women who just lost their breasts. You actually survived breast cancer? Sorry, you can’t participate, this is for the sexy girls who still have hot tatas!

    And don’t forget all the pro-colorposting messages that essentially say to those pateints, “Quit bitching about how this isn’t doing any good but totally rubs it into the faces of the suffering cancer patients. It’s fun, okay? Why don’t you go get some chemo or something and stop harshing facebook’s hilarious titillation! Get it? Like tits? Hahahaha I’m going to change my bra again so I can keep playing. This is the greatest! So seriously, stop complaining. This is for you okay? Be grateful! Just try and get over that weird sense of having totally lost your femininity because you no longer have boobs and just be happy for those of us who still have them to flaunt. After all, the boys won’t be sitting around with hard-ons if they’re not thinking about our boobs… then you’re going to die of cancer. How does that feel? Yeah. So shut up. Red lace push up with adorable crystal butterflies on the straps!”

    It’s almost like people are still… oh, what’s the word?… completely unaware of the plight of the breast cancer patient.

  22. I have to confess to being a bit dim and getting taken in by it. I had loads of status updates from friends that were just random colours. Then someone a bit futher up the chain said, “I hear we’re just saying the colour of our pants.” (ie: the british meaning of the word).

    Being a naturally insecure idiot with very few friends I thought I’d be “in” with the group and posted the colour black, only to then be bombarded with tons of responses saying what an idiot I am. Which is true, I suppose.

    The thing is, in amongst all the patronising responses to my post, not one person said it was “bra colours”.

    There was a rather cruel British playground game in the 70s wher kids would go round other kids holding out a clenched fist and saying, “smell my cheese”. A gullible child, not in on the joke, would smell the fist and get promptly smacked in the face. Ha, ha. This reminded me of that, but then I’m one of the stupid numpties who got sucked in by it, so fair enough, the joke’s on me.

    (I’m a bloke, by the way.)

  23. One of my friends thinks it was thought up by (and this is her quote) “some pervy guy”, which made me laugh.

    Another one of my friends posted that she “refused to play the color game”, which then had many of the men on her friend list goading her into revealing her bra color. I finally shut the thread down for her when I posted:

    “I’m sure ‘Jane’ will be happy to reveal her bra color, if the men on this thread will support prostate cancer awareness and tell us if they are wearing boxers, briefs, boxer-briefs or a man-thong. Furthermore, I will also reveal my bra color if the men on this thread support colon cancer awareness by telling us whether or not they have skidmarks in said underwear.”

    The subsequent silence of the thread was deafening.

  24. Hi @Elyse –

    My point was simply that a simple ‘fun’ (eye of beholder) activity had a good effect. If you disagree and think a lump would have been found anyway, them I’m sure that you can’t refute that the fad led to this very article. Which in turn helped raise awareness, and prompted at least 2 donations.

    If someone is offended can they not speak up against it themselves? I’m reminded of how (usually in religion) people are offended on behalf of another group, and call for a ban something or other.

    I called my mum (She survived breast cancer when I was a kid. She still suffers really bad side effects of the radiotherapy today. She didn’t lose one – not everyone does.) and asked her what she thought – her response was “What’s Facebook?”

    @JS Darwen – You seem to have joined in with one group of peers, only to be since swayed by another group of peers. I don’t think that you got taken in by anything. Your initial reaction was this it was a bit of harmless fun. You were probably correct.

    Blue stripes

  25. Pardon me while I show my maleness, but, what’s with all the breast cancer awareness? Isn’t just about EVERYONE aware of breast cancer? About how it kils mothers, sisters, and daughters? About how many women will be diagnosed with breast cancer this year? And how many of them will die from it?

    So, again, what’s the point of awareness?

    I’d like to direct your attention to the male reproductive area. When was the last time you heard about raising AWARENESS of testicular and prostate cancer? Prostate cancer is the breast cancer of men. It effects similar numbers of men. Why isn’t there a media storm around prostate cancer? What fundraisers/activities are there for fight prostate cancer? Is it because its gender exclusive that it gets left off the radar? I’d also like to mention that uteran and ovarian cancer aren’t talked about much also, to be fair. Why does breast cancer get all the attention?

  26. @infinitemonkey – probably because men are happy to ignore it until 3 months after the first sign of blood. It offsets the imbalance caused by thinking we’ve had, and demanding sympathy for, swine flu three times last year and malaria twice after a trip to Northern France.

  27. Sadly, many times the illusion of making a difference prevents people from doing things that actually DO make a difference.

    Read Ben Radford’s book “Media Mythmakers”. It has a lot to say on this issue.

  28. @infinitemonkey:

    You might want to see my rant starting here from last week.

    There is PLENTY of breast cancer awareness out there. As someone else pointed out, the Lance Armstrong Foundation is the only really high-profile awareness campaign battling all forms of cancer. Because ALL cancers suck, and many have a much lower survival rate than breast cancer.

    You can’t walk through a grocery store and not be bombarded with pink branding for breast cancer awareness and research funding. This always bothered me, now it pisses me off because…

    * my mother has advanced metastatic colon cancer
    * my father in law had prostate cancer this year
    * my nephew’s fiancee has aggressive malignant melanoma
    * my best friend’s father had metastatic bladder cancer removed in October

    NONE of these people engaged in the traditional high-risk factors that cause these types of cancer – the only thing we can think are environmental factors caused them all (especially my nephew’s fiancee – she’s a pale-skinned red-head who even before her diagnosis always looked for the shade and sported SPF-Nuclear Blast sunscreen).

    Not that breast cancer doesn’t suck, but it doesn’t need any help. And if it was truly about breast cancer awareness, it wouldn’t have been so obtuse.

    Okay, must go take my car to the shop…

  29. @infinitemonkey: There was a prostate cancer awareness campaign over here in England in November, where men were supposed to grow moustaches – they called it Movember. Not entirely sure just how growing a tache helps raise awareness of said cancer mind.

    You are right though, one rarely gets through a month without hearing some campaign about breast cancer awareness, but rarely do we hear any campaigns for raising awareness of male cancers (and let’s not forget that men get breast cancer too). I’m not saying breast cancer isn’t important, but like you said, aren’t we all aware of it now?

  30. @infinitemonkey: Want to know why? It’s because boobs are sexy.

    This “breast cancer awareness” stuff isn’t really about cancer so much as it’s about tits.

    It’s about SAVING THE BREASTS! As apposed to, you know, saving the people affected by it.

    And men can get breast cancer too, but that’s generally ignored.

    Because a woman’s body – her tits – are tantalizing and titillating.

    This is a really good example of how sexism hurts men.

  31. @infinitemonkey: Prostate cancer is the breast cancer of men. It effects similar numbers of men. Why isn’t there a media storm around prostate cancer?

    One of the problems with prostate cancer is it is almost inevitable. Most men will die with prostate cancer, but not of prostate cancer. Plus the median age of prostate cancer deaths is 78. It’s hard to generate a media blitz over something that tends to kill very old people.

    In a way it’s rather refreshing to have our disease overlooked. I’m not sure I’d want to wear a piece of plastic to raise prostate cancer awareness largely out of fear of the most obvious places to wear it.

    Doesn’t anyone else get a sense of whack-a-mole with these diseases of aging? Everyone is going to die of something and it most cases it is going to be a disease. We can shift numbers from the cancer column to the heart disease column, but until we cure death the totals are going to be the same. If we get the average life-span up to 90+ years can we trash these ugly, useless bits of plastic forever?

  32. One of my friends tried to redirect the color trend towards talking about breastfeeding rather than breast cancer, but I don’t think it caught on.

    @JS Darwen: After I figured it out I posted a random color too just to confuse things. In hindsight “boxers” or “briefs” would actually have been more amusing, but would have distracted from what minimal message there was so I’m glad I didn’t do it.

    @marilove: I’ve seen that sort of thing done very, very explicitly. The video showed a … curvy, shall we say… young lady in a bikini walking around a pool while various people gawked and cheered. Text-overs read “We know… you like them… now it’s time… to save the boobs”. At least it showed the entire woman instead of disembodied breasts, but that’s still not great.

  33. @Ricochet: I haven’t seen that one yet, but this whole thing did cause me to block 9/10 of my friend-list from my newsfeed. *grumble*

    @William Satire: I’m sorry that you feel I should be doing something more constructive. You see, I’ve spent the last 9 months growing a human in my body and, being a little bit exhausted physically, my world until she arrives in it exists on my couch where I don’t have to worry about falling over from contraction pains. But I don’t want to make excuses. As someone mentioned in a comment above yours, it did work in a sort of convoluted way, and I fully admit that in my post (did you read that part? I could highlight it for you). What I’m “complaining” about is the fact that this chain-letter is going around (still) and when someone said “Hey, this is stupid,” the response was to attach a cause to it without any way to take action. The Facebook group I linked to, which directs people to places which accept donation, is a group which was started as a means to correct the inaction of the arbitrarily chosen cause. Thanks for donating! I guess my post worked, too, didn’t it?

    @Chasmosaur: See, and it’s interesting to me that when breast cancer awareness is mentioned everyone gasps and thinks “HOW COULD YOU DENY ATTENTION TO SUCH A THING?!” but when testicular, colorectal or prostate cancers are mentioned, everyone seems to shut the hell up. Why is that? Sure, balls and rectums aren’t as nice to look at as boobs (depending on your interests), but it has comparable survival rates to certain stages of breast cancer. I think the thing is that with breast cancer awareness you can say “Hey, go give yourself a breast exam” (or go get a breast exam) and then picture a lady fondling her bewbs… but if you say “Go examine yourself for testicular cancer,” it’s some dude jiggling his balls. Again though, it depends on your interests.

    The point of the matter is that all cancer sucks and that all cancer should be screened for in the effort to prevent its advancement. The fact that I wrote specifically about breast cancer doesn’t mean that I don’t support screening and research for every other type of cancer, it was just specific to what I was talking about. I have been affected by cancer in loved ones, as most people have, and wouldn’t wish that on anybody. Please get screened and suggest that your loved ones do as well.

  34. @William Satire:

    My point is that the FUN activity actually mocks many of the women that it was “intended” to help… without actually having a plan to help or promote anything.

    Generally awareness campaigns are not asking “Hey can you think about this for one second today?” They’re meant to raise money, awareness of treatments, awareness of prevention. This campaign did none of that… and I suspect never intended to. It was just another excuse to get people to play an annoying game (meant to get men to jerk off at work… literally.)

    And if a woman is doing a single self-exam and finds a lump, it’s pretty untelling. Every breast has lumps. It’s one of the reasons that self-exams are now optional and not recommended. If you’re not doing them every month, at the same time of the month, you don’t know what you’re feeling for.

    And, BTW, there is a page now where you can become a fan of “not posting your bra color” where you can go to NOT mock women without breasts (and yeah, most don’t lose them, but it’s still a pretty devastating loss for the MANY who do) by bragging about how adorable your tits are and you can actually get tips on how to raise real awareness.

    It’s like randomly kicking dudes in the nuts all day to raise transgender awareness. Totally misses the point, probably offends a lot of the people affected, definitely offends a lot of the people who are not affected and only raises awareness in the fact that you mentioned the word “transgender”.

  35. Hi @Chelsea. I think that’s what I said – that is your post worked. …and as a direct result of that Facebook campaign (even if it was tagged on later on). Maybe people don’t need a direct link, because brevity is sometimes more catchy (it was definately catchy.) You were able to quickly do a bit of research and find a link, so maybe other people can too. “Awareness” always needs new ways to keep fresh, and just because most people are already aware, it doesn’t mean that all people are (e.g. a younger person who this kind of childish exercise appeals to), or that they have thought about it recently (maybe it caused someone who was already ‘aware’ to check because they haven’t checked for a couple of years now.)

    I re-read my comment and it comes across as more confrontational than I meant it to be (as does every bloody thing on the internet). I wasn’t having a go, so much as trying to make people think that a childish campaign may have been successful – chain-letteryness and all.

    Congrats on the imminent mini-Chelsea – I hope all goes well for you both!

  36. Hi @Elyse – If this whole thread didn’t exist, I’d have to agree with you. But look at all that’s happened as a result of the childish campaign on here… and that’s just this thread. I’d imagine there are a fair amount of similarly outraged people out there, and they may have caused a similar knock on effect. Some people may feel “mocked” – I can’t see that there was any intent – but donations have been made to cancer.org that otherwise would not have happened.

  37. @William Satire: You know, I don’t care what “good” came out of this — there are still better ways to bring about cancer awareness that do not involve objectifying women in this way.

    I hate this argument: “Well, some good came of it, it’s not all bad!”

    That doesn’t change the fact that this shit has nothing to do with breast cancer, but with boobs, and that it takes the focus off of SAVING WOMEN (and people) with breast cancer, and puts the focus on the tantalizing nature of boobs. It DOES mock women who no longer have breasts, or who are more concerned with finding a cure or better treatments for cancer, than with “saving breasts.”

    I’m tired of this “save the tatas” bullshit. The focus needs to be on women – and PEOPLE – not breasts!

    Essentially, we do Not need to use sexism to bring awareness, and we do Not need to be encouraging sexism to bring awareness.

    This is just like PETA constantly objectifying women for the “good of the cause.”

    Seriously, it needs to stop.

  38. @William Satire: Not a problem, the internet is rife with miscommunications. My response certainly came off as horrifyingly hormonal. And thanks for the well-wishes. :)

    @marilove: The whole “well some good came of it” makes me think of things like racial segregation. It got so bad that they did something about it and earned equal rights, so some good came of it, right? I hate that. Not the equal rights thing, the justification of something negative because there was a positive spin on it at one point or another. Just because “some good came of it” doesn’t mean that the action itself was good.

  39. Wow – this has consumed a lot of my time today.

    @marilove – of course there are better ways. It’s not either/or though. YOU “do not care…” but other people may.

    As for “some good came of it” – I still can’t see what was actually “bad” about it. A lot of people had a small amount of fun. If anyone can point out what was actually bad about it, I’ll “spin on a dime” and be right behind you – offense doesn’t count. Everything causes offense to someone.

  40. The mutation rate of the meme in question is interesting. What if this was actually intended as an experiment in memetic evolution? It seems from reading the thread above that by the end there were at least four distinct strains of the meme going around.

  41. Late to the discussion and most salient points have already been addressed, but I’d like to note that as a man, who thus did not get the email in any form, I saw a bunch of people posting random colors. Which strangely enough did not make me think of breast cancer OR breasts. It made me think of colors. Nothing wrong with that I suppose, but it failed in either of the claimed purposes of the exercise for the core reason that it was stupid.

    I did join in the fun by posting my favorite colors, however: ultraviolet and infrared.

  42. @William Satire: You can’t see what bad comes out of constantly objectifying women and using them as sex objects to push an agenda or cause? Really? Have you considered the fact that women are treated in this manner all the time? In this campaign, we’re not women — we’re breasts. Saving breasts has become more important than saving woman. Because breasts are sexy and far more interesting than women alone.

    It’s not about “offense” — it’s about objectifying women in the name of a cause. This isn’t progress!

    It should be save the women (or rather, people since, guess what? men can get breast cancer, too!), instead of save the tatas.

    No, most women who get breast cancer aren’t so much concerned about saving their tatas than they are about living.

  43. @William Satire:

    Again, let’s go back to kicking dudes in the nuts for transgender awareness. If enough guys complain to the cops, and it makes headlines and people actually start talking about transgender issues, then it’s totally worth it, right? It’s a good thing and everyone benefits… I mean, sure some guys got kicked in the nuts, but no permanent damage was done. And sure, it totally missed the point that transgender has nothing to do with actually having or not having nuts, but it wasn’t intentionally meant to mock anyone or belittle the plight of transgender people. But if even ONE person was more accepted from it, and one more person had their mind changed and became more accepting, it was all worth it. Totally worth it.

  44. @marilove – Yes I CAN see “what bad comes out of constantly objectifying women and using them as sex objects to push an agenda or cause”. What I can’t see is that that is what happened in this case. That’s how you saw it – other people saw it differently.

    I’m guessing that a young woman was just having a bit of fun and it caught on. A lot of other young women enjoyed it. As the idea was meant to be that men were actually meant to be kept in the dark, I can’t see that sexism / objectifying was the intent.

  45. @Elyse – But I wasn’t talking about physical violence. Just a childish Facebook campaign that was fun for most of the people that took part. I promised myself that I’d never say “Straw Man”, but I’ll have to break that promise (and a part of me has just died inside).

  46. @William Satire: How can you not see it in this case?! The focus was BREASTS — not women, breasts. Because breasts are sexy. That is classic objectifying.

    Just because a woman starts it doesn’t mean it’s not objectifying, nor does it mean it’s not sexist. Women can be just as sexist and objectifying as men. Also, you don’t have to intend to objectify women for something to be objectifying. This was clearly objectifying, even if it wasn’t the originator’s intentions. More than likely, they just didn’t see it as objectifying — but just because someone doesn’t see something, doesn’t mean it’s not so. Just like you can be racist without intending to be racist, you can be sexist without intending to be sexist.

    The idea wasn’t meant that men were to be kept in the dark — did you read the text? It was “teehee, I wonder if the men will be able to figure it out, teehee!” It wasn’t keeping them in the dark – it was to tantalize and titillate them once they did figure it out, because teehee breasts are sexy. And what’s the point of awareness if half the population isn’t aware?! Again, men can get breast cancer, too, but they are generally ignored because breasts are sexy.

    “Just a childish Facebook campaign”…

    Way to brush off our concerns of sexism!

    This is yet another example of, “Oh, what’s the big deal! It’s harmless! Why are you so concerned? Calm down, don’t take it so seriously!”

    I’m tired of women being told to “calm down” or “not take it so seriously” or being told “it was just a silly game!” when we bring up concerns of sexism.

    I’m also tired of women being objectified and used as nothing more than sexual objects for a cause or an agenda.

    Just look at PETA and their campaigns for some great examples of how awful it can really get.

  47. For more information why “save the tatas” is sexist and objectifying, read this:

    http://jwablog.jwa.org/save-the-ta-tas

    I’m going to copypasta the bullet-point list, but read the entire linked post, because it does a better job at explaining than I’m doing, I think.

    It reduces women to boobs. Breast Cancer research is not, and should not be, an effort to save boobs, but an effort to save lifes.

    Slogans that refer to breasts using sexual terms like “tits,” or refer to a sexual act like “second base,” imply that the reason we should save women’s breasts (the woman’s life is an afterhought) is so they can continue to provide sexual pleasure for others, particularly heterosexual men. (Nowhere does this campaign mention another fairly important function of breasts: “Save breastfeeding” anyone?)

    It implies that a woman without breasts is worthless.

    Again, it puts the focus on breasts and not women — and yes, that is classic objectifying.

  48. How about this:

    Let’s all talk about our hair texture to support people on chemo!

    Let’s all put on black face and shine shoes at the bus station or eat tacos all day to raise racial awareness!

    Have your grandma write you a letter about her favorite memories about you for Alzheimer’s awareness!

    Eat a box of Oreo’s for diabetes awareness!

    Post your ultrasounds for infertility and pregnancy loss awareness!

  49. I dunno @marilove – maybe it is sexist. I just don’t see it. I’ll accept that I could be wrong. I’ll refer this page to my wife and female friends and ask them if they think I’m in the wrong. I wasn’t brushing @Elyse off, but trying to engage in reasoned debate.

    I like your profile pic – I saw E.I. at the O2 last month. Brilliant.

  50. @William Satire: Did you not read the article I linked to?

    It takes the focus off of women and instead focuses on breasts. That is sexist and objectifying.

    The focus should be on SAVING LIVES, not just saving breasts.

    Women are more than just place-holders for breasts!

  51. @Elyse – but your witty examples are not isomorphic. They don’t map onto the controversial campaign in question.

    E.g. “Let’s all put on black face and shine shoes at the bus station or eat tacos all day to raise racial awareness!”

    – Please, please think about that illustration – do you really think it’s analagous? Honestly?

    I want to be educated. I really do. I just have a gut feeling that when you think of X-ism all the time, you tend to see it where it doesn’t exist.

    I thought a straw man was “to create the illusion of having refuted a proposition by substituting a superficially similar proposition (the “straw man”), and refuting it, without ever having actually refuted the original position” – I percieved the “kicking dudes in the nuts” as something that was obviously bad being used to refute something else. I stand corrected.

    @marilove – I read the article, and agree with most of it. But, again, I still don’t see how it applies to this case.

    Finally, I apologise if I’m infuryating you all on here (and subjecting you to my notoriously bad spelling) with my possible ignorance. It is not my intention.

  52. @William Satire:

    @marilove – I read the article, and agree with most of it. But, again, I still don’t see how it applies to this case.

    …How can you agree with it and yet not see how it doesn’t apply in this case? This “case” is a classic example of putting the focus on boobs instead of women! It’s the exact.same.thing – it’s yet another “save the boobs!” campaign — not save the women, but save the boobs.

    I can’t make it any more blatantly clear: When breast cancer awareness campaigns stop focusing on women and only focus on breasts and therefore sex, it’s objectifying and sexist, and does more harm than good.

    Once again, women are more than just mere place-holders for breasts. Not all women have breasts. Some women have their breasts removed because having their life saved is more important than saving their breasts.

    It shouldn’t be about saving tatas; it should be about saving women. And more than that, it should be about saving people.

  53. I really do. I just have a gut feeling that when you think of X-ism all the time, you tend to see it where it doesn’t exist.

    There it is again! “Calm down!” “Are you sure it’s sexist?” “You’re just being too sensitive!” Also, “gut feeling”?! Really?!

    Stop brushing our concerns of sexism off. Stop implying that we are being too sensitive. STOP brushing women off! It’s condescending and sexist as hell.

  54. And really, I’m so, so, SO glad your “gut feeling” is telling you the sexism doesn’t exist.

    I guess my experiences as a woman, is not important. Your gut feeling, as a man who doesn’t experience sexsm, is totally what’s important, right? I should just stop being so senstive! I should just chill out, man, why am I taking things so seriously?

    Your intention was probably not the above, but that’s how you’re coming across right now.

  55. @William Satire:

    Ok. You’re right. You donated. This was clearly worthwhile and awesome.

    Me, I’m just walking around putting sexism stickers on everything…. wait, when did I mention sexism? Not at all? Never? Not once in this thread? That’s odd. I must have run out of stickers.

    My point was that these are STUPID campaigns that are INSENSITIVE and only superficially related to the so called cause they’re supposed to be promoting.

    But I’m wrong. Because any example of a stupid and insensitive campaign is not the same as the very important real-life activism of updating your Facebook status to something intended to confuse half the Facebook population.

    But since this awareness campaign still includes the belief that a woman checking her boobs for the first time and finding a lump = saving lives (totally false), that self-exams = saving lives (still false), and that women who have lost their breasts to a horrible disease will appreciate what you’re doing, I’m calling this campaign a pretty huge failure…. regardless of the fact that you donated money.

  56. @marilove – I deliberatly say things like “gut feeling” to highlight myself when I’m not 100% sure, and am open to debate. Jumping on it like that seems a bit off to me.

    I’ve not experienced sexism (apart from when I waitered at a pub ladies night – jeez, that was an eye opener), but I’ve experienced racism. A lot, and quite badly. But, I know for a fact there are people who percieve racism where there is none. So I was using this wealth of bad experience, and assumed that the same could be said of sexism.

    Just to be clear, when I say “when you think of”, I don’t mean “you”, but “one” – I’m not posh enough for that phrasing to come naturally.

    I clearly don’t get your finer points, I’m sorry. But you attribute “Calm down!” to me, I mean, I don’t know where to begin…

  57. @Elyse – yes I confused you and @marilove with the sexism thing. Sorry. Easily done when trying to debate several people whilst working. I didn’t realise that looking for lumps yourself didn’t work. My mum must’ve been really lucky with that co-incidence, of finding a lump herself and just happening to having breast cancer.

    @both of you. Anyway – I’m going to have to disengage. Abort. Abort. As I’ve seen other threads on this board where meaning/intent has been misconstrued/misapplied. So I don’t think it’s constructive anymore. Agree to disagree etc. Pitch is out, I can’t hold altitude. Flightcom, I can’t hold her, she’s breaking up, she’s breaking up… … ….

  58. Goodness. I log off the site for a while and return to WWIII.

    On Sexism: Yes, the Save the Tatas campaign is kind of a marketing ploy to simply be allowed to discuss, or at least consider, boobs. The reverse is that, as a few people mentioned, breast cancer gets all of the attention while prostate cancer and testicular cancer are more likely to just fall in the “ewwy” category. Also, you’re very unlikely to consider that men can get breast cancer as well because, granted it’s less common, but also men don’t have funbags to gawk at. There are lots of different kinds of cancer and they all destroy the lives of the people who have it and the people who love them. Really there shouldn’t be any one getting more attention than the others.

    So really, which is more the case regarding cancer and sexism? Women are being exploited while men are being ignored. It seems, then, to be a moot point. What matters now is that an appropriate level of awareness is raised to ALL kinds of cancer and ALL kinds of patients, regardless of anatomy. Let’s drop the sex talk. I don’t feel I have the right to be as insulted as a cancer patient over whether breast cancer awareness is encouraged, whether the campaign revolves around boobs or cancer cells. Yes, sexualizing (Did I just make a word? My computer refuses to recognize it as correct) something like cancer is wrong… but I think more from the standpoint of it being insulting to cancer patients than to women in general.

    Basically, there’s no point in arguing or throwing temper tantrums over sexism because there is no right way to look at it. It’s fucked up for everyone, end of story.

    On Sensitivity: If you read the comment posted by @loudlyquiet, you’ll see that we have proof of the mere existence of the campaign as a game negatively impacting someone who is dealing with breast cancer in a loved one right now. I understand, @William Satire, that your mother is a survivor and that is wonderful and I’m very happy for your family that it was overcome. However, for someone who has this as a very fresh wound (they found out the day before all of this started that their aunt has it), it’s not such a “whatever” kind of attitude that this game brought about. There does need to be some sensitivity on the issue. While yes, someone may have gone and checked themselves and found something in time, someone else is already dealing with the negative effect this illness has, and it is a sensitive topic. Now, I’m not saying that everyone needs to pussyfoot around, but the way that this “campaign” was presented was, as we’ve all (mostly) come to agree on, insulting. Kind of a “heehee, I wear a BRA in honor of people who CAN’T!” That’s not helpful. And in the article I linked to, was found to be in bad taste by a breast cancer survivor.

    So again, there isn’t much argument here anymore. It’s insulting to enough people that “Oh, what’s the harm?” doesn’t count as a response anymore.

  59. @Chelsea – I just don’t understand how one person in a group can speak for all of the people in a group. Is EVERY patient/survivor pissed off with the campaign? If not, do they outweigh the ones who thought it was positive. I don’t know. Do you? If I thought they did, I’d say “blog against the campaign!”. If I thought the opposite, I’d say “more childish Facebook campaigns!”. As I don’t know either way, I just pointed out that something good came of it.

    I think maybe one reason why I don’t get it, is that ‘awareness’ isn’t necessarily about the survivors, but about prevention. So it’s really sad reading the toddlerplanet posting, but it’s partly about preventing people getting into that situation at all.

    Finally, I only bought up my mum last time, not for protective armour, or to give me a right to chime in, but because someone said first time self checking doesn’t work, and if my mum had gone along with that, she’d be long gone.

  60. @William Satire: I never said that one person can or should speak for everyone. I’m simply saying more sensitivity about the issue wouldn’t be a bad thing. No, not every patient/survivor is angry over the campaign. But the fact that some are should be considered when coming up with these silly things to begin with. Is playing a stupid game and then labeling it something else after the fact really worth insulting someone who’s going through something like that? Even if it does raise awareness, which honestly this did not as much as supporters of it are giving it credit, it seems like an unfair tactic to cover one’s ass when caught being childish.

    It succeeded in some ways and failed in others. I am still seeing people ask what the hell the point of the colors is, which proves to me that the game factor of the whole thing is being upheld more than the awareness campaign.

  61. @William Satire:

    Back in 2003, breast self-exams were no longer recommended as routine and are now considered optional (I thought they were outright discouraged, but I was wrong). The reason is that self-exams do not reduce the number of women who die from breast cancer. And, much like the old mammography guidelines, self-exams resulted in false positives resulting in unnecessary medical procedures and hardships because of them.

    But like I mentioned before, if you don’t do them routinely, you’re not going to know what you’re looking for. Breasts are lumpy. Some breasts are naturally lumpier than others. And their lumpiness changes with a woman’s cycle (thus the same time of the month preferably the week after your period rule.) So finding a single lump on a single breast exam is useless. You’re feeling for NEW lumps. If you don’t do them every month, they’re ALL new.

    Combined with the fact that it’s unlikely to save your life anyway, the recommendation was changed to “if you want to”.

    It feels wrong to do nothing, but sometimes doing something isn’t worth the pain and suffering that it could cause.

    Does that make sense?

    http://www.cancer.org/docroot/NWS/content/NWS_1_1x_Role_Of_Breast_Self-Examination_Changes_In_Guidelines.asp

    Also, while I don’t pretend to speak on behalf of all breast cancer patients, I don’t think that ignoring the very real pain that many of them feel on a daily basis is something to ignore. While “awareness” should include prevention, turning a blind eye to one of the most effective treatments is just ignorant… especially when that treatment is a difficult one for many women to undergo not only because it’s physically invasive, but emotionally and socially invasive as well.

    You cannot pretend that breasts are one of the most celebrated symbols of femininity. Can anyone pretend to understand what it would be like to lose that? Can you pretend to know what it’s like to lose both testicles to testicular cancer? And pretend to know what it would be like if your testicles were an always visible part of masculinity? And pretend to know how to come to terms with your loss of that in a way that is visibly obvious to pretty much everyone you come into contact with? There is no male equivalent, but that’s as close as you’re going to get.

    Cancer awareness cannot sideline and shame the victims of cancer. It cannot brush aside the realities of treatment. If you want to say that I cannot speak on behalf of all breast cancer patients and survivors, fine. But to build a campaign that specifically excludes participation from the victims of the very disease you are trying to make people aware of because they underwent treatment for that disease is ignorant and cruel. It doesn’t become adorable and fun with red lace padded demi cups to drive the boys wild… it becomes worse.

    Trust me, I’m all for tit flashing for a cause… Chelsea is selling topless pics of me to raise funds for Skepchicamp. And I’ve appeared topless in the Skepchick calendar. At SkepchickCon2009, people had the option to pay to do shots out of my cleavage. I’m a show-em-if-you-got-em girl. Hell, at TAM, Masala Skeptic actually had to tell me she was “so sick of [my] boobs”. But this…. this isn’t right.

  62. Thanks, I won’t be feeling my boobs. I haven’t had medical coverage for years. Almost everyone in my family has died from cancer, my mother a few months ago. If I find a lump, there’s nothing I can do. I’m going to die. So I’d rather have a extra year or two of being able to sleep at night than find something suspicious that makes me sob myself to sleep feeling hopeless. I’ll be just as dead when it’s over, at least let me have a little longer fear free.

  63. @Marilove: I’m really glad to move from thinking about breasts to thinking about the people. For me, it happened quickly amidst the humor and the non-humor of this FB mess. It most certainly is about people even in a stupid package.

    I have to disagree about the objectification issue, though. Sorry, but breasts are indeed sexy and that’s just a fact.

    @gwenny: I don’t know where to start with your comments, but surely there has got to be a different path than giving up on the whole situation.

  64. On a lighter note, there’s a bit of a paradox now…

    “Yellow! Do you feel more aware now?”

    If after the post and all the comments, I say “yes” – then it worked, indirectly (I don’t think anyone expected it to work directly.)

    I now accept that the campaign was insensitive. I don’t think I ever didn’t. I was just trying to say it worked. I’d not heard of it until Twitter tweeted “Skepchick take on the Facebook bra colour thing: RT @ChelSeizetheDay: http://bit.ly/4V5dkR“. After everything, I now feel a bit more aware, especially sensitivity issues.

    The paradox is that if I ignored anything to do with the campaign, I’d be less aware.

    @gwenny – seriously, please talk to someone, or ask on here if anyone will privately talk to you.

  65. Back to sexism – it’s everywhere. If there are a couple of “trendy” ad campaigns that mention ta-tas, tits or boobies (my least fave of all), in a sea of dozens, it wouldn’t be such a big deal.

    One thing I have learned in this discussion is that the tit-based campaigns are now waaaay too prominent. They’ve taken over the breast cancer conversation!

    It’s sexism about men, too, if you ask me. Can’t get their attention with concern for the lives of their loved ones? Dangle the word tits out there, and the money will roll in. Maybe people got bored or calloused about saving lives and we all need a little titillation to reign us back into the cause. I don’t know.

    Last time I bothered to look at ads and messages overall was a critical look at the pink ribbon campaign and how lame it is. So, it came as a bit of surprise that bra color was now a torchable subject.

    I’m not being sarcastic at all. I understand that bringing up the subject of bras is touchy for many, but I had no clue that it could be considered sexist at all.

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