I assume that most people know that October is breast cancer awareness month because how could you not when everything from eggs to pepper spray are decorated in pink. And don't get me wrong I think creating awareness is extraordinarily important. But I also think we really need to reconsider how exactly we are trying to do it.
More often than not campaigns about breast cancer include slogans such as "save second base" or "save the ta-tas" or as one sorority at GV is putting "save the hooters." Equally common are tshirts with hand prints painted over the chest obviously signaling someone grabbing them. And while these campaigns are working for a good cause they are so incredibly problematic that they actually cancel themselves out in many ways.
Take a moment to think about what those slogans are actually saying. First of all these campaigns reduce women to being nothing more than a pair of breasts. The slogans aren't advocating to save women or people or lives; they are advocating to save boobs. Which is problematic in about one thousand and one ways. On top of that, they sexualize women's body's by basically saying "fight breast cancer because men like boobs." This type of rhetoric encourages us to care about breast cancer because of what part of a woman's body it attacks, a part men gain pleasure from, rather than emphasizing the fact that it costs women their lives. And it is gross. And regardless of whether or not the people using these slogans actually hold this mentality, that is the message that is being sent. Have you ever stopped to think about why breast cancer gets so much more exposure than most other diseases? Why of every possible option this is the disease that gets tshirts that can be bought pretty much anywhere? Yeah. The heteronormative objectification really goes that deep. And sure it raises awareness, which is great, but at what cost?
Aside from all of that, these slogans are also incredibly harmful because they ignore, exclude, and devalue the experiences of the many women who beat breast cancer, but who are not able to save their breasts. Sometimes successfully fighting breast cancer means removing the breasts, and when society repeatedly portrays breasts as the most important part of a woman's body, when beauty standards are linked so closely with cup sizes, this can become a very traumatic experience. These slogans only exacerbate the situation by putting all the focus on "saving the ta-tas" and thereby implying that women who survive with their breasts are somehow more successful survivors than those who did not.
And finally, these slogans erase the experience of men who get breast cancer. I have met people who did not even know men could get breast cancer and this is largely because of the way the conversation about breast cancer has been framed. And it is incredibly dangerous because men are less likely to catch their cancer at an early stage because they do not know it is something they even have to be worried about. But even more than that, it largely excludes men who are suffering from breast cancer or who are survivors of breast cancer from the entire campaign to end the disease that so heavily impacted their lives.
So seriously people, get rid of those bumper stickers and stop buying those horrible t-shirts because those oh so clever one liners do more harm than good. We should not have to sexualize a disease or those who suffer from it to be willing to fight to end it. There are plenty of ways we can call for awareness without this kind of problematic rhetoric. Because we are not trying to "save the tatas"; we are trying to save lives.
P.S. When I was searching for the images to include in this post, I also found this. In case you needed any more convincing that this mentality is problematic and contributes to other bigger issues. Because this is disgusting.
Because lets encourage sexual assault while we're at it.
This post was predominantly written from my phone so I hope you will all forgive any strange typos.