Tuesday, October 14, 2014

The Hypersexualization of Breast Cancer Awareness

            I think few people would argue that awareness of cancer and attempting to find a cure are very good things. Necessary things. But that does not mean that the way in which it is done is necessarily good.
            You may know my beliefs on Susan G. Komen. I don’t care for them. Any organization who gives more money to its fundraising than to finding a cure for the disease it represents loses my respect. (No wonder they took “for the Cure” off of their name.) Add in its support for Planned Parenthood, and you can bank that I’ll never support that particular organization. But this isn’t about Susan G. Komen.
            It’s also interesting to note the significantly greater amount of funding that Breast Cancer research receives than any other form of cancer, even those that have a much higher death rate. But this isn’t about uneven funding.
            Lest you take me wrong, I am fully supportive of cancer research, Breast Cancer included. My grandma is a survivor of Breast Cancer, and I’ve known others who have died from the disease. Rather, I’m attacking a specific section of Breast Cancer Awareness that I find not only alarming and disgusting, but counterproductive to the cause and disrespectful to the patients.
            Has anyone else noticed how hypersexualized Breast Cancer Awareness has become?
            It started somewhat harmless, relatively speaking. Wristbands that read “I <3 Boobies” and bumper stick that say “Save the Tatas”. I don’t care for them. I don’t see the point to them. Let’s replace the official, appropriate name for this particular body part with street slang. That’s respectful to the women (and handful of men) that are battling Breast Cancer.
            Because here’s the deal: We’ve taken the focus away from the disease itself. Rather than seeing it as a bad thing that happens to one-eighth of all women, something that has to be caught early and fought, that always has a chance to come back, with a focus on the body part it affects.
            We get it. Guys like breasts. For whatever attractive quality they have, there tends to be a focus on them. As if it wasn’t obvious, we’ve tailored this cause and way too much else to reflect that. Part of it, I believe, stems from the hook-up/pornography institution that has been growing in our society. Rather than actually caring about women, men are taught, through peers and family members and any sort of media, that women are simply a means to our ends. Using women leads to things like this, where rather than worrying about women suffering we’re worried about them losing their “boobies” and hence something to gawk at.
            But it only starts there.
            Now, I’ll admit, researching what I didn’t already know to write this post was a bit uncomfortable. But it simply further affirmed what I have long thought.
            We’re focusing on the sexual arousal quality of breasts rather than the struggle of the women afflicted with Breast Cancer. Not only is this immature, it’s quite unfair to the almost 300,000 diagnoses of the cancer every year.
            It doesn’t take much of a search to find this garbage. I like the idea of Volley for the Cure, with high school volleyball focusing on Breast Cancer for a game. Its adult counterpart, “Boobyball”, not so much. So this isn’t really volleyball, rather it’s a half-glam half-burlesque showcase of female bodies. While the story behind it is admirable, it sexualizes something that has no need to be sexualized.
            Of course, there’s No Bra Day. Though there is no official date, the unofficial holiday seems to at least take place during October, Breast Cancer Awareness Month. This one is pretty self-explaining. Women are encouraged to leave their bras at home and “set the tatas free”. Again, taking Breast Cancer a few steps lower into the blurring line of “awareness”. (To be fair to them and to show my support, I did participate again this year.)
            Let’s clear this up: Do we value a woman’s breasts over her actual life? No woman wants to have a mastectomy, but at this point in our medical advancement, sometimes it is what is necessary or safest for a woman with Breast Cancer. Slogans like “Save Second Base” make is seem like a mastectomy isn’t an option, because it’s important, either for guys’ arousal or for a woman to feel attractive, that she have her natural breasts. Putting such an emphasis on these body parts shames women who can no longer have them. We’re telling them that we aren’t really worried about them, but about their chest. How shallow.
            But just when we thought we couldn’t sledge further downward, alas. We further find young, topless women representing a disease whose average diagnosed woman is in her 60s (not at all to say that younger women are not diagnosed). The “CoppaFeel!” campaign in the UK puts pictures of bare breasts on billboards along with a word the woman used to describe her breasts. Take, for example, the word “Squidgy”, whatever it means. What, in the name of all things holy, this has to do with Breast Cancer is a question that needs to be asked.
            But lest we think our neighbors across the pond are the only creeps, there are a plethora of examples in the U.S. An online pornography site offered to donate one cent for every 30 video views. Thankfully, Susan G. Komen came through by rejecting the offer and telling the site not to use its name. Author of Pink Ribbon Blues, Gayle Sulik, had this to say:

I don't see the porn site to be much different from the 'Feel your boobies' T-shirts. It sexually objectifies women, trivializes breast cancer . . . and uses the objectified woman as window dressing for the profit-making machine.

I haven’t read her book, but I feel like it would be a good one.
            Perhaps the crown jewel of objectification of women in the name of Breast Cancer Awareness would be the YouTube account “Simple Pickup”. To spare you from looking them up, this is a group of perverts who give tips on how to have a one-night stand with the woman you choose. One of their particularly disturbing videos is titled “Motorboating for Breast Cancer Research”. For those ignorant of the term “motorboating”, I’ll look to the almighty Urban Dictionary to define. I apologize for any offense:

The placement of one's face, specifically the mouth, into the area between a well-endowed woman's breasts, followed by a rapid shaking of the face in a side-to-side motion accompanied by yelling. The resulting sound that is created sounds similar to an outboard boat motor.

This was done to dozens of random women found on the streets. I sincerely hope no girls I know would succumb to such pressure. But when a camera is put in your face and you are told, “It’s for a good cause!” it doesn’t make things easier. These degenerates donated about $7000 to Breast Cancer research which, for the nation’s collective conscience I am thankful for, was returned after the backlash received. Simple Pickup, naturally, made a rebuttal video in which they said that a “small minority of haters”, thanks to their “personal problems”, “literally just lost $7000”. Not the most intellectual argument supporting their cause, but it will have to do.
            Guest columnist for cleveland.com Mariah Wilson, whose mother had Breast Cancer, summed it up this way:

The removal of breasts is no longer a woman's burden to bear, but a man's loss. Grieving has turned into a grievance of a loss of sexual pleasure, not a loss of identity for a woman.

            To reiterate, I am not against Breast Cancer research or awareness. Contrarily, I believe it is important. What I am against is the marginalizing of a serious disease by people who care nothing about the victims and all about their pleasure. Anyone who claims to care about Breast Cancer victims should feel the same. 

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

"I have the right not to see dead babies."

            Do we?
            Should there be some ordinance, or at least a respect, that prevents us from being subjected to such pictures? Do we have the right not to be confronted with hot-button issues?
            The right to not have to see graphic images, found in the same article of the Constitution as the right to privacy and separation of church and state, is one treasured by a number of individuals. It is a good thing we can forfeit this right when convenient, or else it would be difficult for these individuals to partake of R-rated movies and M-rated video games.
            Why is this right tied so closely to the right to privacy and the separation of church of state? Besides the first two being nonexistent as the third is, figments of creative legislation from the bench, they are also used to justify the same thing.
            The right to privacy makes it legal for a couple to choose to use abortifacient birth control; it also gives a mother the sole control over the life or death of her unborn child. The separation of church and state is justification to pro-choice proponents who believe, as backed up by Secular Pro-Life, Pro-Life Humanists, and other non-religious pro-life groups, that abortion is opposed solely on religious grounds; hence abortion must not be abated or halted because Christians happen to be against it.
            In a similar way, the right not to be confronted with photos of abortion’s aftermath are opposed; the first amendment should and must be compromised for our personal comfort.
            During World War II, there were doubtless German citizens who were made aware of the atrocities in concentration camps, and said, “I don’t want to see that. It doesn’t directly affect me, and I shouldn’t have my day interrupted by such problems.”
            Doubtless during the 1960s, there were people who saw the police brutality on blacks broadcasted on the news, and thought they shouldn’t have to see it.
            The citizens in Turkey probably said the same thing when confronted with the Armenian Genocide.
            When we turn on the TV and see starving children or abused animals, do we say, “I have a right not to see that”? Probably some do. But many understand the purpose- until we see the problem, until faces are put to the numbers, we don’t fully understand the suffering and the need for it to stop.
            Hence the Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C. Hence the Martin Luther King, Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change in Atlanta, Georgia. Hence the Tsitsernakaberd memorial in Yerevan, Armenia, and the like museums being built in national capitals across the world. In these museums, we find photos of the atrocities that happened. So we better understand them. So we don’t forget them. So they won’t happen.
            This is why Martin Luther King, Jr. made sure brutal attacks on black people made it to television, newspapers, and magazines. He stated, "America will never reject racism until America sees racism." His niece, Alveda King, coined the quote by saying, "America will never reject abortion until America sees abortion."
            We can charade all we want and say that presenting facts is enough. Facts are vital, but facts will not make you stop like a startling picture will. We can hear all the facts we want, but until we see what they mean, what the result is, they may never sink in. Or at least not move us to act. And that goes for anything.
            Those who say, “I shouldn’t have to have my day interrupted with pictures of dead babies”, are often the epitome of hypocrisy. Those who are pro-choice and say this, tell us, “Yeah it looks like a baby, but I think it should be allowed. I just don’t want to see it.”
            Don’t get me wrong, I don’t want to see graphic images either. Some are unnecessary. But some are most necessary. The very fact that we turn away from it is our God-given consciences telling us there is something wrong with it.
            But instead of saying, “There is something wrong with that, and I’m going to do something about it,” we say, “There is something wrong with you showing me that, and I’m going to do something about it.” We lash out at the messenger rather than receive the message. We are angry about being confronted with abortion rather than being angry with abortion itself.
            What is the problem? If a fetus is an inferior being, or not alive at all, as pro-choice advocates claim, why is there something wrong with seeing the images? We’re just showing you a clump of dead cells. A surgical procedure.
            But something inside says that is wrong, says we don’t want to see that. But the action itself will attempt to be justified.
            Dare I say that, when a genocide is happening, we do not have the right to go about our daily lives as if nothing is happening? I dare to say it.
            There were three groups of German citizens during the Holocaust. There were those who knew what was going on and refused to do anything. There were those who were not informed, through choice or not. And there were those who were aware of the horrors and did what they could to stop it, because it was wrong and they knew it. The Resistance.
            When the Resistance tries to warn you that there are atrocities, you have the right to turn away, remaining willfully ignorant of what is going on. You can even become outraged with them. God will judge all our actions in the end.
            But don’t ruin it for those who will have the character to stand up and stand out. There are many, and they are many in disregard of what you choose to believe, whose eyes will be opened for the first time to such evil. They will look, they will reason, and they will choose to believe it is wrong. At least their hearts will be pricked. Some will even ask what they can do to prevent it. Because our consciences tell us that that dismembered fetus on the board isn’t just tissue. It is as human as us.
            Just like the Armenians. Just like the Jews. Just like the blacks.

            Some of us don’t want to be ignorant.