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. 

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