Don't Knock 'Wear Red Day'

Sasha Brown-Worsham

Today (February 4) is National Wear Red Day and we are all supposed to go red to raise awareness about heart disease in women. But how does wearing red actually do much of anything?

Seriously, wouldn't it be awesome if all one had to do to make a difference was wear purple (or pink or red or green) and then suddenly everyone would donate money and time to certain causes? When these days come up, it always does make the cynic question whether it's all just one big waste of time and effort. This is especially true when they start rolling out the celebrity spokespeople, like Jennie Garth for today.

But it isn't.

While it might seem silly to wear a certain color to raise awareness (after all, how many times does a person really say, "Why are you wearing that color and can you tell me about it?"), the fact that we're even asking these questions means it worked, right? 

Every October we roll out the pink ribbons for Susan G. Komen and, inevitably, people start to complain about the "pinkwashing." Organizations like Think Before You Pink actively try to get people away from color-coded "awareness."

While it's true that simply donating money might be a worthier cause than buying a pink hat where only 10 percent of the proceeds go to research, when we interviewed Nancy Brinker, Susan G. Komen's sister and the founder of the Susan G. Komen for the Cure, she said that "pinkwashing" raises $55 million each year for the organization and that money translates into more research.

There are other days, too. On October 20, GLAAD encouraged us to wear purple for Spirit Day to support LGBT youth. April 2 is World Autism Day and we are encouraged to wear blue to support it. The list goes on and on. Black is for suicide prevention, orange for Agent Orange exposure, gold for childhood cancers. Unless you know what they mean, the message of the ribbons or the colored clothing might be lost.

But maybe you ask. And maybe you learn a bit more about childhood cancer or AIDS or heart disease and maybe that gets you to the doctor or gets you to donate some money or even host a party. It may not save everyone or change the whole world, but it gets us talking about heart disease today (and whatever other cause on the other days) and that is something. Consider this:

"One in three 40-year-old women will have a heart attack or chest pains sometime in their lifetime," said Dr. Susan B. Shurin, MD, acting director of the NHLBI. "Even though women are more aware of heart disease, one-third of women still underestimate their personal risk and don’t take steps to lower that risk."

If wearing red saved one woman's life because she asked her doctor an extra question or two, wouldn't we say that's worth it? How about 10 women's lives? At one point does it become a worthy cause?

It takes almost zero effort, it's true. But then I guess the question really becomes: Why not do it? Why be cynical? Throw on a red top (or ribbon) and see if it doesn't spark a discussion. Even this blog post is proof of something, no?

Do you wear colors to raise awareness?


Image via YouTube

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