No Bra Day: This Movement For Breast Cancer Awareness Has A Controversial History

Not that many of us need a justification to not wear a bra, but Friday, October 13, is “No Bra Day.” Happening in the middle of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, “No Bra Day” is a social media campaign which encourages women to go braless—sharing photos across their social platforms, of course—in the spirit of breast cancer awareness. If you are new to the “holiday” or a little skeptical of its intentions, you are not alone on either front.

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Lots of women have chosen to take part in “No Bra Day” in years past, sharing selfies and stories on Instagram and Twitter using the hashtag #NoBraDay. Most of the stories are empowering and encouraging, with many women sharing their particular experience with cancer or talking about loved ones who have also been diagnosed. “I have Stage IV breast cancer, and I don’t want any woman to be afraid of advocating for their health,” a lady named Amanda told Bustle for last year’s No Bra Day.

However, the origins of “No Bra Day” are little unclear. The Sun cites its initial celebration happening in 2011 as does the “No Bra Day” page on the UK site Awareness Days. It appears to have gained attention in 2015, specifically as a result of criticism from people saying the day does more to further sexualize women’s bodies instead of increase awareness of women’s health.

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There is no question whether breast cancer is serious or if its cure deserves cultural and financial support. In line with the American Cancer Society, approximately 252,710 new cases of invasive breast cancer will be diagnosed in 2017. For 40,610 women this year alone, breast cancer will be fatal. Saving lives by raising awareness for how to detect breast cancer or raising money to help look for a cure would definitely be worth their own holiday. However, a day to post braless selfies has many dubious of “No Bra Day” and its conceit.

“It’s offensive,” said Jean Sachs, CEO of Living Beyond Breast Cancer, in an interview with Mashable. “I mean, breast cancer is a life-threatening illness. It has nothing at all to do with wearing a bra or not wearing a bra.” In fact, there’s a much-perpetuated myth that underwire bras cause cancer. However, as Scientific American reports, “bra-caused breast cancer theory is not supported by adequate evidence.”

More over to potentially spreading false information, many have criticized the inherent sexualization of “No Bra Day.” Writer Christina Cauterucci summed it up best in her 2015 piece for Slate: “Encouraging women to show off their braless chests in the name of awareness won’t save anyone, but its message to breast cancer patients and survivors is clear: Your disease is about your secondary sex characteristics, not about you.”

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