Facebook Gets Colorful

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lh_mothIf you’re a Facebook user or anyone tuned into popular culture, you likely heard about last week’s grass roots effort on Facebook to raise awareness on the issue of breast cancer. In the event that you spent last week on a deserted island, you can bring yourself up to speed by reading this article at CNN.

The long and short of the story is that the following message (or a version of it) floated around Facebook for a few days:

Hi everyone,  Some fun is going on…. just write the color of your bra in your status. Just the color, nothing else. And send this on to ONLY girls no men …. It will be neat to see if this will spread the wings of cancer awareness. It will be fun to see how long it takes before the men will wonder why all the girls have a color in their status… Haha

Being rather quick with the delete finger, I got rid of at least twenty copies of this message quickly before really tuning in to what was going on.  Let me say up front that I’m a pretty tidy Facebook user – I post status updates about my work and family, share photos, and keep up with friends and contacts.  I’m not a big group signer-upper, I don’t care for farm animals, and I’m not a gamer.  So when things like this come around, I usually delete and move on.

I honestly didn’t even give this issue much thought until Friday morning, when I tuned into my favorite Catholic radio show, The Catholics Next Door with Greg and Jennifer Willits.  On the show, Greg was sharing with callers his reaction to the phenomenon of women posting their undergarment colors for all to see.  He had commented upon this on his own Facebook page with the simple remark, “There’s a little too much info on Facebook today.” What ensued was a two daylong debate in the comments of Greg’s page (and likely on countless other sites too) with a thoughtful discussion of the facts at hand.  Greg’s position was that for some men, knowing this type of intimate information about women could be problematic.  Greg thoughtfully referenced teaching points from the Catechism of the Catholic Church to support his efforts to defend modesty.

Listening to the radio show and reading the comments on Facebook led me to ponder my own reaction to the Facebook trend.  In my mind, modesty issues aside, there is some minimal value in “raising awareness” about healthcare issues.  But let’s do so in a way that can be taken seriously by both genders, with factual information and a respectful tone.  Breast cancer has affected both men and women, and cancers of all types continue to be a universal health care issue.

What I’d truly prefer to see rather than awareness raising measures are real actions of support and compassion.  My fear is that we tend to take the easy way out with trends like these, thinking that we “gave at the office” because we tied a pink ribbon on our shirts or engaged in a trend on our favorite social networking site.  How about, if we truly want to make a change, contributing $5 to cancer research, driving a bedridden patient to her radiation appointment, or making dinner for a family whose mom is undergoing chemotherapy?

Raising awareness is fine, but next time I’d prefer that we raise compassion.  A caring attitude and a helping hand look good in any color.

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About Author

Lisa M. Hendey is the founder and editor of CatholicMom.com and the bestselling author of the Chime Travelers children's fiction series, The Grace of Yes, The Handbook for Catholic Moms and A Book of Saints for Catholic Moms. As a board member and frequent host on KNXT Catholic Television, Lisa has produced and hosted multiple programs and has appeared on EWTN and CatholicTV. Hendey hosted “Catholic Moments” on Radio Maria and is the technology contributor for EWTN’s SonRise Morning Show. Lisa's articles have appeared in Catholic Digest, National Catholic Register, and Our Sunday Visitor. Hendey travels internationally giving workshops on faith, family, and Catholic technology and communications topics. She was selected as an Elizabeth Egan Journalism Fellow, attended the Vatican Bloggers Meeting, the “Bishops and Bloggers” meeting and has written internationally on the work of Catholic Relief Services and Unbound. Hendey lives with her family in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. Visit Lisa at www.LisaHendey.com for information on her speaking schedule or to invite her to visit your group, parish or organization.

8 Comments

  1. Lisa,

    I to posted about this on my blog. I live in a remote place and can no longer listen to CND, but am familiar with them and can just see this debate going on.

    I think you are a little TOO easy on folks. You make this a discussion about AWARENESS versus COMPASSION. This presupposes that AWARENESS was in fact raised. It also isn’t just a modesty issue but I think it goes beyond that. I think the BIGGEST problem that we see of this whole situation is HOW LIGHTLY we are treating the whole issue. As a young man and newly married this crosses boundaries that in any other context would be totally inappropriate and yet for “a cause” it is deemed ok? I don’t think we should be ok with sexualized “ends justify the means” mentality to our actions.

    Now I don’t want to use your Com-Box as a battle-ground for this issue, I am just shocked that you as a CatholicMom didn’t come down a little firmer on this issue. As you stated this issue was WIDESPREAD to EVERYONE except those on a deserted island. Therefore this is a fairly significant cultural event don’t you think? As I said, I don’t want to wage this debate here, as it seems you find it the whole event valuable at least minimally.

    I think that as Catholics we must hold our women, mothers, and daughters to a higher standard than gimmicks and impurity ilke this. Would you be ok with me asking you, a daughter, sister, or neice what color their bra is? And if they asked why and my answer was that I was trying to determine what day of the month they should do a monthly exam and it was a way to raise awareness. Would this be ok with you? Of course not. The “event” is less problematic than the reason WHY it worked. We are so overtly sexual in our culture that a little “silly” thing like this is really “not that big of a deal” and as you put “valuable.”

    It is too bad the meme wasn’t instead about doing a self exam, and encouraging BREAST FEEDING. That way we could have promoted two ways of preventing breast cancer. Instead we simply created “occassion’s of sin” and gave a catalyst to thousands of women to have inappropriate conversations about undergarments.

  2. Joe, thanks so much for sharing your thoughts and perspective. I welcome a discussion on this, obviously not as a “battleground” but as a compassionate, reasonable place to share thoughts on ideas. If you’ve visited this site much, you know that this is the tone I tend to take on things. My decision not to participate and to share my thoughts in this forum in the way that I did is a clear reflection on my position. I certain hear what you are saying and agree that we should do all we can to educate both men and women in a serious, compassionate, and moral way on these issues. Thanks for taking the time to share your perspective. I hope you’ll be a frequent visitor.

  3. Lisa, I’m so glad to see you addressing this recent FaceBook effort. I found myself overwhelmed with friends mentioning colors all day without knowing what they were talking about. When I finally discovered what it was, I was stumped. It seemed more of a game for women to play to the detriment of their men friends rather than true “awareness” of the issue. I agree with so much of what you’ve said regarding these colors. Thank you for writing your thoughts as a Breast Cancer Survivor.

  4. Thanks, Lisa, for this great piece.

    I am with commenter Lisa in #3, above — it felt like I was in junior high and not in the “in crowd.” I finally asked and got the explanation.

    I have no problem with people posting their colors, and if it raises awareness that’s a great thing. That said, you’re right that concrete action is probably more meaningful (on the other hand, I don’t do much concrete action myself, so I can hardly throw stones ….) Still, I opted not to share my own color. I wouldn’t flash a group of people in the street, and though Facebook friends are “friends,” it’s still not the intimate venue in which I normally reveal information of that nature. 🙂

  5. Ginny and Lisa, my boys tease me for constantly telling them, “Facebook is your online resume – never write anything there that you wouldn’t want read at the nomination hearings when you’re being approved for the position of Supreme Court Justice!” Exaggeration, I know, but I think it’s a good thing for all of us to remember when using these types of sites. I continue also to respect Joe’s comments about holding ourselves to a higher standard. Thanks for chiming in!

  6. Lisa, I am so glad you brought this up. A close friend who just had a double mastectomy was shaken when she saw the colors on FB and found out what it was all about. She felt that other women were making a game out of her ordeal. She was not alone. Here is an article by another woman who had the same response:
    http://www.blogher.com/node/134841

    Also, I was wondering what will be next. To raise consciousness for cervical cancer, is everyone going to start telling the color of their panties?

  7. I thought it was bizarre as well as offensive, but didn’t say anything about it, and I should have. We’re constantly bombarded with ideas/images that wear away our natural inhibitions…those good instincts that help us be the people God made us to be. Next time someone sends me something like this I won’t just delete it. I’ll fight back. Thanks for the good example. 🙂

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