Monday, January 11, 2010

I Don't Care What Color Your Bra Is

Thanks to the wide reach of Facebook, I know what color bra a lot of my female friends were wearing late last week. It was one of these viral crazes that pop up on social media fairly regularly. Women were supposed to post a Facebook status update with the color of their bra, under the guise of “raising awareness of breast cancer”.

I’m not amused. And I AM aware.

My wife had a breast cancer scare a couple summers ago that was not one bit amusing for several stressful weeks. My sister is a breast cancer survivor, who spent the greater part of two years undergoing a number of very uncomfortable drug regimens and surgical procedures. And I have a friend and former colleague who spent her late summer and fall driving from the Fox Valley to the UW Carbone Cancer Center, undergoing chemo and radiation, to beat breast cancer.

She bravely underwent the rigorous treatment and courageously posted some pictures on her Facebook page showing what chemo does to you. You have to be very centered, grounded, confident, intrepid, and undaunted to show the whole world what you look like without hair.

That’s breast-cancer awareness. Posting what color your bra is: not so much.
As so many women have written in blogs and other online publications this past weekend, there can’t be one person in the world who is not aware of breast cancer. So many of us have been touched by it; most of us personally know someone who is (or was) a victim. Mary Carmichael, posting on the Newsweek blog, said we don’t need a context-free reminder about it, we need a cure, and some scientific clarity about best ways to prevent the disease, not a pointless Facebook exercise.

Amen, sister.

I have no doubt that the hundreds of thousands of women who posted their bra color last week had the best intentions, and I happen to know many of my Facebook friends in Madison who did it are tireless fund-raisers for breast cancer research, running marathons, donating money, proudly wearing pink merchandise, which they purchased because proceeds go to breast cancer research and treatment.

The thing is - if I have to spell it out even further - posting an update about what color your bra is a pointless exercise. It’s not awareness; it’s not education; it doesn’t raise one cent to help the victims of breast cancer.

I don’t think anyone was harmed by it, but obviously I have no sense of humor about such a deadly disease, when it’s touched people so close to me.
Next time one of these viral crazes goes around, instead of posting your bra color, go to or or your favorite breast cancer charity site and make a donation.

Then, instead of posting your bra color, just post the dollar amount you contributed.


  1. We have the right to choose our own individual way of bringing awareness to this cause. Even if it's in the smallest form. This at least took away from the negativie status updates that most people put.... like "FML" for instance. I see that phrase on so many status updates, it's honestly annoying.
    I for one, have never used it. But because it truly isnt necessary. What does it bring awareness to? The fact that you think your life sucks? Oh well, so be it. But it isn't profound... Nor is posting "white" "red" or "black". But at least there's a reason behind it... A true cause. If that offends you, you should really check into how much you truly care about this cause. Because if a little girl came up with this idea, to bring awareness to her mother having breast cancer lets just say, it would be honorable, rather than frowned upon, right? So before you make judgments, I think you should just be PROUD that people are at least TRYING. There are many others that go about their day and don't do a damn thing to help bring awareness to health issues that are killing our loves ones each day.

    It doesn't matter if it's an approach that you don't like, it's gaining awareness just by putting the thought out there for the world to see, and hear, and think about.

    Facebook is a place that millions of us interact, every single day, and I won't feel bad in the slightest, if I'm bringing awareness to causes that have killed people I love. At least we're talking! At least we're preaching, and practicing what we preach!

    Bringing awareness isn't all about the money. It's about the support, and the love. The words of encouragement. The kind gestures. The simple, small things to put a smile on somones face, to help brighten their day.

    I don't care if I had to run in the streets in the color bra I was wearing, I would DO IT for the people that are suffering, and that have died.... I would do it for my mother in law that died from her battle at age 55, on April 10th 2008. And I have NO SHAME in posting a status, for HER.

    So get off your high horse. At least people CARE.

  2. So, Taryn, you still believe we need to "bring awareness" to breast cancer?


    Just send a few bucks to Komen and get off YOUR high horse.

  3. Mr. Morrissey,
    In one way, you can say that the stunt worked because it prompted you to write this thought provoking essay that delved deeper into the issue while giving a different perspective.
    As a female who is dealing with another form cancer, it did not offend me.
    I enjoy your blog.

  4. If "awareness" means we can all feel comfortable insisting that it's time we stopped looking for a cure and started finding one, then I'm OK with that. There's nothing shameful to be found in frankly discussing a serious national health problem.

    My computer monitor at work is festooned with those little snippets of pink ribbon, crossed one end over the other and fastened with a pin. Each represents a donation to the breast cancer "awareness" cause over the years. I made those donations not so much because I felt it was the best approach, but because it made those soliciting the donations feel they were accomplishing instead of simply complaining. There's great value in that.

    Fact is, I've never been a fan of "walking for the cure" or "dining out for hunger" or throwing celebrity cocktail parties to fight AIDS and, financial contributions aside, I've never actually participated in any of those things -- even after the recent and truly unnerving breast-cancer episode we seem to have successfully cleared.

    The reason for my non-parricipation? I believe such things are, in the long run, counterproductive.

    As seems to be the case with so much big medical science, cancer research is a vast and byzantine undertaking with large edges that generously overlap the jealous and oftentimes greedy fiefdoms of various scientific disciplines (with their ruling chieftains) and Big Pharma and and Big Insurance and Big Law and a mess of federal regulators ... and on and on. The effort more closely resembles a train wreck than it does a well-oiled health-care machine.

    Nowhere is there one earnest, dedicated scientist surrounded by test tubes who is just a few donated dollars away from the breakthrough. I have seen the business of cancer up close, far too close, and I would rather watch sausages made than to observe that dreadful enterprise in such proximity.

    So we content ourselves with poisoning patients with chemicals or blasting them with radiation or carving them with knives or throwing up our hands and and saying it's the best we can do.

    It is NOT the best we can do. Instead of keeping our voices down and holding candlelight vigils for those we have lost, we should challenge those who have cost us so much and spent so much and produced so little. We should be raising hell about the lackadaisically sluggish, wasteful, ballkanized and outright cavalier approach to getting this problem solved.