Nothing yet ;)
If you’re an avid Facebook user, then you probably remember seeing these random color status announcements posted by women a few weeks ago. Perhaps you were even gutsy enough to post a color yourself. It was for a good cause, you know: Breast Cancer Awareness. At least I think that’s what it was all about. That’s what I was told anyway.
Supposedly, in an effort to raise awareness about breast cancer, thousands of women received memes instructing them to post their bra color in a show of support. They were then encouraged to send the meme on to their female friends and get them to post their color as well. No one was supposed to spill the beans about what the color statuses were all about, though. That way it would remain a fun little secret just for the women.
Lots of women took part in the meme. I’m sure they considered it both funny and helpful.
I wasn’t one of them.
Instead of sharing my color I posted this:
My grandmother, who is now deceased, suffered from breast cancer and went through chemotherapy and radiation treatment. She eventually had a mastectomy. This meme would have embarrassed and angered her. Many women who’ve had breast cancer no longer have breasts and therefore don’t need bras anymore. For them, the topic of bras can be painful and even humiliating. Encouraging mammograms and self-exams is helpful. Sharing your bra color is not.
While I expected some comments, I have to admit I wasn’t prepared for the responses I received. A few were supportive of my stance. Most chided me for taking the meme so seriously and encouraged me to “lighten up”. Someone even quoted a verse from the Bible about laughter being good medicine. A few had the nerve to inform me that my grandmother (whom they'd never met) would have wanted me to be happy and have fun with the game.
But somehow I just couldn’t see the humor.
I kept remembering the hospital stay and the radiation treatments with their resulting burns that covered her entire chest, neck and back. My mom had to rub salve on her burns every day. It was excruciating for everyone involved. The only thing my grandmother could swallow during that time were slushy drinks from Dairy Queen. Under normal circumstances, it’d be a treat to go for ice cream with your grandma. With her mouth full of ulcers and thrush and her torso covered in burns those daily trips to Dairy Queen became more about survival than having a good time.
Try as I might, I just don’t recall any of that being funny.
And I had to wonder about all the breast cancer survivors who don’t require bras anymore. How did this meme make them feel? One the comments I received pointed out to me that “most of them are just happy to be alive”--I suppose meaning that they shouldn’t be complaining.
A friend pointed me to a blog post by Susan Niebur, a breast cancer survivor, which confirmed to me that while my opinion wasn’t a popular one that day, it wasn’t completely off-base.
Susan said it so much better than I ever could have: “It’s time for a little less awareness, and a little more action.” (And in this case, since the only thing others were being made aware of was bra color, I’d say complete un-awareness would be entirely acceptable).
The fact of the matter is that as devastating as breast cancer is, the ends don't justify the means. Promoting true awareness and action doesn’t require one to compromise one's dignity or common sense. (Would you randomly walk up to all your acquaintances and announce the color of your underwear if you were standing face to face?) And making a game out of a heinous disease is not only insensitive to the victims, but also counter-productive when participation requires concerned on-lookers to “lighten up."
I think it's up to all intelligent women to consider what’s being asked of us, even in a ridiculous meme, and then thoughtfully determine whether or not it merits our participation. In this case it did not. One of the many benefits of modesty is that it serves to protect not only ourselves but also the sensitivities of others, something that seems to be sorely lacking in our present culture.
So I guess the next time someone starts attacking you for your modesty, just tell them to lighten up.