Sexy Sexy Breast Cancer

The breast cancer awareness movement: pink ribbon, pink ribbon, pink label, stress on the importance of self-exams, pink label, Facebook game, pink label, pink t-

Wait. What was that?

Male privilege is the sexualization of Breast Cancer awareness.

Photo from aboutmaleprivilege

People are sexualizing breast cancer (in a very gendered way). The use of “save the tatas/boobies/second base/etc.” as slogans for breast cancer awareness are problematic in two ways: they devalue the victims attached to cancerous breasts, and they assign priority to saving breast tissue. Instead of designing campaigns that might discover the causes of breast cancer, or research more effective  treatments, or shift the average stage of discovery/diagnosis closer to the less-fatal stage one, the ‘Let’s sexualize a common and serious illness’ campaigns focus on increasing profits. I heard more than one conversation on campus in October about students supporting breast cancer awareness—by watching porn. One porn site capitalized on ad revenue by declaring its intent to donate $0.01 to breast cancer research for each view of a breast-related video.

Women—because the “save second base” campaign focuses on women’s breasts and their appeal to heterosexual men—are worth more than how sexually attractive men find them. Breast cancer kills. Devaluing the lives lost or permanently altered by breast cancer is not funny or cute, and it doesn’t encourage people to take their risk for developing BC seriously. It fails its purpose as an awareness campaign, and all that is left is objectification.

But “save second base” doesn’t stop at devaluing the person second base is attached to. It emphasizes the value of breasts, even when they might kill the person they are attached to. Treatments designed to save breast tissue are drawn out, with significant health impacts, and not always possible. Sometimes, mastectomies are better than radiation, and the criteria for deciding whether they are is for the patient to decide. The loss of a body part, especially one so visible in the mirror, is a difficult experience. “Save second base” and pink t-shirts declaring “I heart boobies” attack people who have undergone mastectomies.

Randall Munroe says it best. “[These campaigns] get it exactly backward. Often, the point of breast cancer treatment is to destroy some or all of the boobies in order to save the woman.”


2 responses to “Sexy Sexy Breast Cancer

  1. I had never actually thought of it that way, but you’re absolutely right. I’ve never understood why breast cancer enjoys such media attention and support when so many other forms of cancer go comparatively unsupported, but maybe this is one of the reasons. Interesting, and certainly problematic.

  2. You said it, sister! Women with BC largely do push back against this sexualization of breast cancer (I know I’ve written a bit about it as have other bloggers). It becomes “save the beautiful breasts” and not “save the women.” Well said.

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