It's National #NoBraDay - But is that a good thing?

You're probably already aware that in North America October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and now October 13 has been (unofficially) declared National No Bra Day.

Over the last few years, we have seen many campaigns, official and unofficial, to raise awareness about and decrease the stigma of breast cancer. You might remember various times when your Facebook friends have posted statements like, "On the table in the front hall!" (is where I keep my purse) or the color of the bra they were wearing, and then private-messaged you to share that it's a game to raise breast cancer awareness and it's your turn now to do the same thing.

These sorts of games and awareness campaigns get mixed reviews. The late writer Lisa B. Adams wrote about the Facebook games, "The above instructions are not awareness. This is offensive. Breast cancer is not a joke, awareness does not come from sharing the color of your underwear or your marital status." Another writer, the late Susan Niebur, described how women like her, living with the effects of breast cancer, including mastectomies, felt incredibly left out by these kinds of "games." She wrote,

After all, this was ostensibly an effort to raise awareness of breast cancer — but one in which breast cancer survivors themselves could not participate, and were reminded (as if we needed a reminder) that we didn’t need bras anymore, that most basic undergarment of women everywhere, that symbol of sexuality, for the simple reason that we had already sacrificed our breasts in a hail mary attempt to keep the rest of our bodies from dying of cancer.

Both of these writers have since died from breast cancer.

On the other hand, the incredibly popular Ice Bucket Challenge to raise awareness of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) was a runaway success, unexpectedly increasing donations to fund ALS research by $115 million in the summer of 2014, showing that viral social media campaigns can be very helpful when done right. It has been theorized that the success of the Ice Bucket Challenge was due to people's innate competitiveness and narcissism as well as the fact that it encouraged donations to fund ALS research instead of and even as well as taking the challenge.

No Bra Day seems to be another of these awareness campaigns that has sprung from someone's simple idea and grew into something more. "National No Bra Day" actually originated in 2011 with a Faceboook user named "Anastasia Doughnuts" who simply objected to wearing a bra in general and declared July 9 a day of freedom - no connection to breast cancer awareness at all!

Sometime in the last few years, the idea caught on and was moved to October's Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and now National Day Calendar recommends the following to observe this "holiday"

Make an appointment for a mammogram. Use #NoBraDay or #NationalNoBraDay when posting on social media.  Make a contribution to the American Cancer Society or Susan G. Komen for the Cure.

Whether or not you choose to participate in No Bra Day today, help to make the most of this and other breast cancer awareness campaigns by making sure that the focus stays where it belongs - on breast cancer survivors and the important research into prevention and cure. Educate yourself about what you can do to prevent breast cancer in yourself or ensure early detection, and then help to educate others. Volunteer to support a cancer center locally. Recognize that your friends who are facing this disease don't need your Facebook games or your bra-free selfie but they do need your support. Understand that while you might just be questioning whether or not to go bra-less for a day, they may be feeling left out of the "game" - or feeling, like Lisa B. Adams did, "I have stage 4 breast cancer and it is no game to me."



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