Yesterday morning I started to notice people updating their facebook statuses with a colour. I tried to find out why on yahoo answers – which is just about my least favourite place to find anything out – and eventually concluded that there was some sort of joke going on in which women were posting the colour of the bra they were wearing. This seemed odd, but it kind of made sense. A quick check on facebook told me that it was indeed only women who were posting colour updates and that all the colours seemed suitably bra-ish.
A few hours later, I got a copy-and-paste message from a friend telling me that women were being urged to update their statuses with their bra colour to raise awareness for breast cancer… only we weren’t supposed to be telling the men-folk what we were doing. This definitely made more sense. I ummed and ahhed about it for a while, then decided it couldn’t be a bad thing and posted my own colour update, dutifully forwarding the message to as many women as I could fit into one facebook message.
The umming and ahhing was mostly to do with the question of what good it would actually do. Do we really need to raise awareness of breast cancer over any other cause? And does raising awareness of something like cancer, an illness most of us are familiar with, actually do all that much good? I suppose it could raise money for research in a round-about kind of way, but it was hard to believe that girls declaring the colour of their bras was going to raise much money. Don’t misinterpret me here: cancer is a very nasty disease and I do think cancer research is important. In terms of breast cancer in particular, screening can really help people to find out that they have it in time to stop it spreading… but was everyone advertising the colour of their underwear on facebook really going to see an increase in the number of people going for breast screening? Particularly when breast screening is only widely available to women over fifty.
In the end, I decided that all awareness is good awareness, but it did leave me feeling a little hollow. Why is it that whole-world issues don’t get the same kind of viral support as these very-close-to-home issues that can’t actually be solved by people standing up and doing something? Shouldn’t we be trying to raise awareness about human rights infringements or rainforest protection, things that mass protest really can make a difference to, things that really don’t receive as much support as they should?
As far as raising awareness goes, this system did it pretty effectively. Many of my female friends posted their bra colour yesterday, and it really was intriguing before you knew what was going on. That men weren’t supposed to be told what it meant only added to the intrigue in the hours before they worked it out. Initially I thought that it was a bit of a flaw in the raising awareness argument if men didn’t know what was going on, but actually I think that making it an enigma probably made everyone take a bit more notice of it.
And from my own perspective, it created a unifying kind of effect which I would not have anticipated. By the time I had sent my message and received a few thumbs up from women on my own status, each new colour that arrived on my homepage felt like a new recruit. It felt like this band of women united by secretly shouting their bra colours across facebook was growing into a powerful force. Which was a pleasant, almost euphoric feeling… it just feels a little sad that we didn’t do something with it that could truly make a difference to the world.
Image from Vineyard