I first learnt about the ‘Facebook Bra Color Campaign’ through the blog post by sex-positive activist Carlin Ross who works alongside the legendary Betty Dodson.

The campaign, believed to be started by women in Detroit, Michigan, who are trying to raise awareness of Breast Cancer, asked women to post just their bra color and nothing else.

She had some strong words: “WTF is wrong with women? … If they had asked every woman to write a sentence about how breast cancer has affected their lives and post it on their Facebook wall it would have been amazing. Everyone has been touched by breast cancer. Collect those stories – have women share and commune with each other and start a fucking networking group or raise some money for research. Anything but post your bra color to give every guy in your friends list a hard on.”

Next, I began to see many of my Facebook female ‘friends’ jump onto the bandwagon and post their bra colors. Mind you, we are talking about highly empowered and intelligent women – some of whom are well-regarded social activists in Singapore.

I read the reactions they were getting from men and found I had to agree with Ross. They were laughing at themselves, laughed at, and laughing alongside their friends – men and women. The whole thing was one big fat joke to many.

I started to experience a sick feeling in my stomach. I posted on my Facebook status: “Martha is against the Post Your Bra Color to Support Breast Cancer campaign. Women, please don’t be stupid! Do you really think that turning yourselves into jokes help breast cancer?”, followed by “Martha wants to start ‘Name Your Underwear Colour to Help Men with Prostate Cancer’ if intelligent women can be so naive to post their bra colours.”

As a news writer for Carnal Nation, I wanted to report on this phenomenon so I did more digging. News of the campaign was literally exploding all over the Internet – it was reported by various international newspapers, discussed in numerous forums, commented by many bloggers and the like.

Some voices rang loud and clear – they were poignant and heartbreaking to read; it became evident that many of the women who have been emotionally hurt by the campaign were the very people it claimed to be trying to help. I also joined the Facebook group ‘Not Posting the Color of Your Bra’ which was urging members to make donations of time or money to cancer societies or at least to refresh their statuses with medical facts.

Once my piece for Carnal Nation was done and reposted to my own Facebook page, I began advocating for some actual good to come from the campaign: “If you wish to support breast cancer awareness or research, stop posting the color of your bra on Facebook. Make a donation to the Canadian Breast Cancer Society, or your local Cancer society, or donate your time if money is not an option.”

For the next two days, I followed the posts on ‘Not Posting the Color of Your Bra’ and found myself tearing up at various times. You see, this campaign had shaken the core of my being and offended me deeply because my mother has breast cancer. She is fighting to live.

When I was eighteen, I remember visiting my mother in the hospital after she had her breast removed. She hadn’t meant to have it removed but to have cells extracted for testing. She woke up from the operation with a missing breast because the tested cells were diagnosed to be malignant – cancerous – and doctors made the call to remove the affected breast without her explicit consent. I was told she was traumatised and had cried.

I was a late bloomer. I didn’t understand what the big deal about losing her breast was. Now I do. A woman’s breasts are a big part of how she defines her sexuality. And consequently the covering of her breasts – the bra – is a symbol of sexuality. Losing one’s breasts can definitely be more traumatic for some women than others.

Pulled aside by my father, who said I would have to take over and take care of the family if she had died, I was horrified. Did ‘take over’ mean stopping my studies, cleaning house all day, or getting a job and becoming a money-making machine?

On another visit, my mother dragged my sister and I to a breast cancer support group where a fellow breast cancer survivor gave a motivational speech about how she preferred being alive to having her two breasts. Her in-your-face approach and song-and-dance presentation of life vs. death was surreal. It was drummed into me over the years and by many well-meaning women that I need to watch my own two moulds of flesh in case they begin to rebel in any way.
My mother didn’t die. Last year, my mother found out that she has had a relapse. She has stage four breast cancer. The cancer has spread to her lungs and bones. There is no cure. A new course of chemotherapy will only delay the inevitable.

Yet my mother and I have never openly discussed breast cancer, what the disease did to her sense of self, her body image, or the effects on her sexuality. That was something we Asian people just don’t do; but posting our bra color on Facebook and laughing about breasts – we can.

A male friend commented on my Facebook page: “Hey relax Martha, I think you’re maybe taking this a bit too seriously. It’s a campaign with good intentions, and already created a lot of PR for the disease. But I dare not ask you what colour you’re wearing!”

Nobody has the right to tell me how I should be feeling. These are MY feelings. This Bra Color campaign brought to the surface what I have been pushing aside: losing her. Will she die quickly? Will it be a long, drawn-out process? Will she be in a lot of pain? This ‘well-meaning’ campaign has hurt many people including me – the time now is for a little less intention, a little more action. Where is the cure? How much did this supposed campaign raise towards the cause of breast cancer?

Let your fingers literally do the talking this time. To make a donation towards the Breast Cancer Foundation in Singapore, please visit http://www.bcf.org.sg/home/index.php.

Author's Bio: 

Dr. Martha Lee is Founder and Clinical Sexologist of Eros Coaching. She is a certified sexologist with a Doctorate in Human Sexuality. She provides sexuality and intimacy coaching for individuals and couples, conducts sexual education workshops and speaks at public events. For more, visit www.eroscoaching.com or email drmarthalee@eroscoaching.com.