FRIDAY is No Bra Day. For the uninitiated, this is the time of year when some women, though it’s not clear how many, choose to go about their day without a bra, then post pictures of themselves in stretchy T-shirts. The day is also supported by men, many of whom take the opportunity to tweet lascivious comments, or even create their own #nobraday posts using images filched from semi-pornographic sites.

All this is in aid of furthering the objectification of breasts … sorry, raising breast cancer awareness. It’s hard to believe that this social media campaign, whose origins, around 2011, are murky and mysterious, is growing in popularity, but here it is again. One newspaper that seems particularly keen on it is – surprise, surprise – The Sun, which last week published an article saying, as if in answer to some readers’ questions: “When is No Bra Day 2017, what is it and why is it celebrated?”

When The Sun starts to take an enthusiastic interest in a breast cancer related event, it’s worth adopting a circumspect approach. Because, well, the Sun is about ogling breasts, so anything to do with breasts, even a disease, is an excuse for more ogling. Remember the paper's front page from 2014: Page 3 v Cancer? Those who saw it will probably find it hard to forget the image of a Page 3 model, socking it to cancer. This year, in the run up to #nobraday, we find the newspaper attempting to give the day a proper history, and some credibility, through describing how it was inspired by Breast Reconstruction Awareness (BRA) day, the creation of a Toronto cosmetic surgeon – though actually BRA doesn't advertise this special connection on its site.

One of the problems with #nobraday is it seems a vague affair. “Boobies are Fantastic,” a Facebook page promoting the day enthuses, as it exhorts women to throw themselves at a day of “boobie freedom”. “It is time,” it adds, “that the world see what we were blessed with.”

Of course #nobraday isn’t the only breast cancer campaign that appears to be doing more to further the cause of the breast as fetishised, sexual object than beat cancer. It belongs to a long strand of cancer awareness marketing that has seen such gems as “I love boobies” T-shirts and also the Moonwalk, a kind of bra carnival. Whether breast cancer awareness is about bras, or about ditching them, the linking factor is eroticisation.

Breast cancer, once taboo, is now something we all know about. Or at least, we know about pink ribbons, no bra days, Moonwalk tents and Sun front pages. According to a recent survey, 42 per cent of women don’t know the symptoms of breast cancer.

That suggests all the pink ribbons and slogans aren’t working. We are so dazzled by the marketing that we miss the message. I don’t believe that breast cancer awareness can be increased by a #nobraday selfie. All that can help is knowing the actual signs: lumps, inverted nipples, orange-peel skin, changes in breast size or shape, alteration in skin texture, discharge. If you want to increase awareness, publish that. And then get on with your day, whether you're wearing a bra or not.


SPEAKING of bizarre campaigns, if ever there were a phrase to strike an autumn chill, it’s the one issued by Macmillan Cancer Support's latest campaign: Go Sober For October. Seriously: no booze all the way through to November, not a drop, even as the nights close in and it dawns on you that winter is coming. Even when you're thinking that the only way to make it through is by dressing up as Zombie-vampire and drinking lots of Bloody Marys.

The idea, of course, is that you stay off the booze for the full 31 days of the month and others are so impressed, they donate money to MacMillan Cancer Support, cheering you up the fundraising leaderboard as they do so. I don’t know the origins of this tendency to attach charitable giving to extreme acts of penance, whether it be running a very long way, getting drenched in freezing water, or not consuming something you love, but it’s distorting our understanding of what it means to give. A quasi-religious approach of attaching charity to fasting and abstinence is not always encouraging. Can we not have some donation-campaigns that involve doing something nice, or even relaxing? Donations tied to every lie-in during the whole of Snooze-anuary? Or confectionery bars consumed throughout Choc-tober? Or even all the laughs you have in Funbruary?