Simple English ~ Nicola Prentis

Thoughts on ELT, English and whatever else comes into my head

How is breast cancer like a handbag?

It’s difficult to say anything against any kind of campaign during breast cancer awareness month. But some of it, while well meant, is infuriating. It’s trivial, even offensive, and does absolutely nothing to raise awareness of anything other than how irritating some people can be. I’ll let the invitation I got on Facebook today speak for itself – in a grating, high pitched tone.

Girls, Someone has suggested that we women should do something special on Facebook in order to increase awareness of October Breast Cancer Awareness month. It’s so easy to do, so join in to make this a memorable online event. Last year, the idea was to post the color of the bra you were wearing on Facebook…and it left men wondering for days, why women were posting colors, seemingly at random. This year’s game has to do with your handbag/purse, where we put our handbag the moment we get home; for example “I like it on the couch”, “I like it on the kitchen counter”, “I like it on the dresser”. Well you get the idea. Just put your answer as your status (i.e. don’t respond to this message, but put it on your status) – and cut and paste this message and forward to all your FB FEMALE friends to their inbox. The bra game made it to the news. Let’s get the purse in as well and see how powerful we women really are!!!

The idea that female power is derived from a) keeping things from men b) not including them in breast cancer support/awareness campaigns while pretending that it’s just a ruse to get media attention c) alluding to sex d) related to their handbags because we’re all so girly, tee hee, is so YUCK I was angry about it all morning.
Firstly, that kind of cryptic status update is just annoying and attention seeking. And then if someone indulges you and asks,  can you only tell them if they’re female so you carry on keeping the men “wondering for days”? Newsflash: There will have been something else that got their little man brains looking for answers before a few days was up.

Nicola: Turquoise

FB friend with nothing better to do: Huh? What’s turquoise?

Nicola: It’s the colour of my bra to raise awareness of breast cancer.

FB friend with suddenly much better things to do:  That makes so much sense. Your bra holds your breasts, genius!

Nicola: Yes! But don’t tell the guys! They don’t need to know anything about breast cancer.

Secondly, that one article that might be written will reach the limited number of people who will be bored enough at work to read it. They won’t get anything useful about the actual issue, just some online newspaper fluff about Facebook that most people wouldn’t do more than skim read.

How about a status share that goes round the globe getting men to go home and ask their mother/sisters/aunts/friends/girlfriend/wife if she’s checked her breasts this month? And while we’re at it, how about  women asking the same of their menfolk’s testicular checking routine?

What problem ever got solved by having childish secrets? How many more were solved through openness, support and talking to each other? How about maybe teaching men and women how to spot the signs or check their partner?

I am embarrassed to admit but I don’t do those monthly checks. It makes me feel sick and I just can’t do it so I put it off every month. I used to have a boyfriend that would do it for me. That might sound pathetic but I think it was mutual support. I taught him how to do it and he did it properly .That position is currently vacant 😉 But I’d like to think his awareness is raised and he is asking any new girlfriend if she checks or is keeping an eye on it himself.

There are so many things I hate about this “campaign”. Yet another is how it reinforces the stereotype that women never say what they mean. Instead of talking about breast cancer, they’re appearing to talk about sex while actually talking about their …Jesus Christ…teeth gritted with effort… handbag. This is “female power”?

Breast cancer has nothing to do with my bra colour, nor where I put my handbag. If I want you to know where I like “it”, I’ll tell you directly. And if I hate your annoying post on my Facebook wall, I’ll let you know that too.


10 comments on “How is breast cancer like a handbag?

  1. ProjectRP
    October 16, 2013

    What did you think about the recent campaign to go bra-less on (I think) 13th October?

    • Nicola
      October 16, 2013

      That is a very interesting question. Firstly, I had not heard about it (but then I live in Spain and am on holiday in the US now) so that does not necessarily mean that as a marketing/awareness campaign, it’s failing. Bra-less women is certainly an easy card to play to get male attention so could it pull attention long enough to get newspaper coverage? Yes. Will that newspaper coverage raise awareness? Maybe. Will the actual men drawn in in the first place learn anything useful? I’ll try teaching a man something while bra-less and we’ll see how much he retains shall I? I think I can predict the answer. I see that shoving the real, scary details about breast cancer in people’s faces while they’re eating their tea is too much, alienating even.

      But this stuff just seems like such a trivial alternative. It treats everyone like an idiot instead of a concerned adult too. I’d love to see a more emotional campaign. A friend of mine was telling me about the impact her mother’s young age and cured breast cancer and mastectomy had on their family and her husband and those stories could be packaged so as to be Facebook worthy bites and not major downers. Or something like that. Women not wearing bras…just what has it got to do with anything? It’s the Miley Cyrus effect – sensation over content.

  2. ProjectRP
    October 16, 2013
    Don’t know if it was just a UK thing.

    Personally, about any cancer, I just want facts. I can retain those.

  3. Kate
    October 17, 2013

    I live in Australia and I have received the same (infuriating) message via Facebook private messaging from four different people in the last 24 hours. I completely agree with you. I just don’t get how saying what colour your bra is or where you keep your handbag in a cryptic fashion is going to raise awareness for such an important issue. Yes, just ask women if they’ve checked their breasts!!!

    • Nicola
      October 17, 2013

      If anyone else asks me I’m going to respond with this blog post! The group I was in that posted this went very quiet after I poured scorn on it. I can’t tell if that’s because everyone else agrees with me (it’s a kind of networking group of people I’ve not met) or they’re too scared to disagree!

  4. Nicola
    October 19, 2013

    Reblogged this on NicolaJane and commented:

    A rant under my other blog incarnation

  5. linksandanchors
    October 19, 2013

    My over developed interest in marketing and copywriting found the message you received more than a bit weird,

    “Girls, Someone has suggested that we women …” who writes like that? Only wannabee experts in Viral Marketing and Online Community Manipulation. It simply fails to “speak with a human voice” (see:

    A google of “hand bag game breast cancer” led me to this Daily Telegraph article from 2010:…-suggestive-Facebook-status-updates-new-breast-cancer-campaign.html

    which explains some of the background.

    • Nicola
      October 20, 2013

      I don’t think it was written by any professional marketer or copywriter, that is why. It’s well meaning, Jane Public and not endorsed. I didn’t mean to imply that I thought it was.

  6. linksandanchors
    October 19, 2013

    here is a working link to the article:

  7. Pingback: Blog Stats – how did I do in 2013? | Simple English ~ Nicola Prentis

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.


This entry was posted on October 16, 2013 by in Thoughts and tagged , , , , .
%d bloggers like this: