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Facebook? Your Bra Color? Something About Breast Cancer Awareness? I’m Confused.

Let’s be honest: It’s Friday afternoon and you’ve probably spent most of the day goofing off on Facebook. So you’ve probably noticed your girlfriends posting colors as status updates, like “Pink!” or “Black and white polka dots!” OK, random … I, for one, had no idea what was going on until I opened a message from a friend:

Some fun is going on for breast cancer awareness … just write the color of your bra in your status. Just the color. Nothing else. Send this ONLY to girls. No men. It will be neat to see if this spreads the wings of cancer awareness. It’ll be fun to see how long it takes for the men to wonder why all the girls have a color in their status. Ha!

Hell’s bells, why do so many “awareness”-raising campaigns for breast cancer have to be so stupid? I, of course, am supportive of women’s health initiatives in concept, nor do I think there’s anything inherently wrong with the idea of Breast Cancer Awareness Month. But every year it seems like more products appear to supposedly raise money “for breast cancer”—pink nail polish, pink pajamas, bracelets with pink stones. While some of the money probably actually does go towards researchers or women who need it, I always wonder who else is profiting off all this “awareness.” (Marketing critics call this phenomenon “pinkwashing.”) Even when products aren’t being sold, it still seems to me that sometimes people get wrapped up in the idea of “doing something” for breast cancer that could be just anything, instead of doing something that is actually useful.

I realize the Facebook/bra color meme is fairly benign—no one is profiting from it—but it still strikes me as being majorly silly. Pardon me if I sound like a grouch here, but I actually had a bit of a health scare myself earlier this week: At my annual checkup at the gynecologist on Monday, she felt a large lump in my left breast and ordered me to get an ultrasound ASAP.

I kept calm, but my mother was flipping out. Mom particularly freaked when she asked me if I’d felt the lump before and I told her yes, I’d felt it months ago. But boobs are … confusing. Everyone’s nipples are different, you get goose bumps when it’s cold, women get cysts, and boobs are full of fat, anyway! I explained to my mother that I felt the lump in the left breast many months ago but I assumed it was just boob fat.

My mother gave me that Patented Angry Mom Look in return, like she wanted to strangle me.

Thank God, I had the ultrasound on Wednesday and the lump is not a tumor—it probably is just boob fat or maybe a cyst.

Well, I felt like a moron. Maybe I should have gotten my lump checked out earlier, just to be safe, I kept thinking. But then this morning I was chatting with The Frisky’s office manager about my experience and something occurred me: There are lots of pink ribbons and pink nail polish and pink teddy bears, but there’s startlingly little detailed info out there when it comes to breast health. I do perform breast self-exams regularly and I even keep a “How To Perform A Breast Self-Exam” doodad hanging on my shower nozzle to remind myself. But even I, a reasonably intelligent person, didn’t know what kind of lump should feel “normal” for my boobies and what needed to get checked out by a radiologist.

I mentioned to our office manager how I wish we had been forced to feel “normal” and “troubling” fake lumps in fake breasts back in health class (as well as to learn more about women’s health in general). I wish people wrote status updates like, “Everyone, let’s do a breast self-exam tonight!” I wish there were more breast self-exam spots on TV news. I wish that during breast cancer awareness month, trained professionals were out in public places showing women how to examine themselves properly. 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.

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