The Boobs Controversy

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and you’d think that people would be focused on, well, raising awareness–and money to support research. Instead, some controversial campaigns to advance the cause may have had the opposite effect. Welcome to The Boobs Controversy.

Back in January, Facebook users saw the names of colors appearing in (mostly) women’s status updates. “Red” (or blue or purple) didn’t tell you much, but the people coloring their updates knew what it meant: the color of their bras. Private messages had circled around the Facebook universe telling women to reveal the color of the they were currently wearing—and nothing else–to raise awareness of breast cancer. Whether it raised more money for breast cancer research or got more women to go to breast screenings is anybody’s guess.

Beginning in September, Facebook users found another series of novel announcements. This time, women reported “I like it on the couch”, or “I like it on the floor”, or, well, wherever they happened to like it. What was it all about? The sexual innuendo was obvious, but the reference was to the location of the woman’s purse. The logic? Again, stir dialog, but get people to pull out their checkbooks and support breast cancer organizations.

The campaigns have generated plenty of dialog, including some strong criticism. Meghan Casserly, who writes the Girl Friday column on Forbes, says:

“It seems to me, that, especially when it comes to bra colors, or where you “like it,” the impact on the actual fight against actual breast cancer is actually nill.

I may be ranting, and I may be making enemies of even my own Facebook friends, but as a girl who owns no “pink” gear and doesn’t plan on it anytime soon, I stand my ground. I think it’s crap. What about you?”

So who was behind these campaigns? Nobody knows. The major breast cancer organizations have all reported that they had nothing to do with them. Did more money flow into the coffers of the breast cancer awareness movement? It’s difficult to assess, though the breast cancer organization, Susan G. Koman for the Cure did report an increase in traffic to their website after the January campaign. Buzz about bra color and like-it positions is making its way throughout the blog community–and, to a lesser extent, the mainstream press. The jury’s still out on whether the campaigns are achieving their goal.

My own thoughts? Almost anything that increases dialog about cancer is good for the cancer community, but campaigns like these are unlikely to increase donations to the movement. Why? The Facebook generation, save for Zuckermann, isn’t loaded, and the folks with cash are probably not frequenters of Facebook.  Plus, when they hear about the campaigns from the kids, I doubt they’re going to get turned on to the cause.

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