October means many things to many people, but for those who have lose someone—or battled themselves—against the disease of breast cancer, October represents remembrance and hope, life and grace. Arguably the most popular cancer remembrance month, October may be associated with ghouls and ghosts, black cats and witches, but it is also laced with pink ribbons and slogans such as “Stop Breast Cancer” or “Save the Tatas.”
It has become popular to directly associate breast cancer with a woman’s breasts and, over time, to directly associate breast cancer with breasts specifically. Slogans such as “Save the Tatas” or “I Love Boobies” become popular and appropriate to adorn or advertise with during the month of October, as well as the rest of the year. Whereas these campaigns to bring awareness to this life-threatening disease are innocent and effective, are they inclusive? Do they serve the correct purpose? Are they over sexualizing a serious disease?
Questions like these need to be asked by both men and women of all kinds. They are certainly asked by Kelly Hill, woman, super-mom and breast cancer survivor:
“When I scroll through my news feed and see memes that say ‘Save the Ta-Tas,’ and ‘No Bra Day for Breast Cancer Awareness,’ I am immediately angry, hurt and depressed. My life is more important than saving my breasts. In fact, I have to remove my breasts in order to save my life. It doesn’t encourage self-checks and self-awareness. It dictates that breasts are more important than I am.”
Making a credible point, Kelly points out that these popular “memes” do more harm than one might think. Plus, they don’t promote the health aspect of cancer. You don’t prevent breast cancer by advertising the tits, you prevent it by encouraging adults to get regular mammograms.
How this isn’t inclusive:
These phrases are sexist. They’re sexist towards men. Breast cancer has become overwhelmingly supportive of women and has given a particularly strong emphasis on the “breast” side of things. Most people know—but for some reason this point is often disregarded—that men, too, have breasts. Though they aren’t as “popular” as a woman’s breasts, men are included in the over 240,000 people who are diagnosed with invasive breast cancer each year. Though the amount of men diagnosed is far fewer than that of women (about 1 in 1,000), this disease does affect them, therefore they need to be recognized for it. The fight against breast cancer should not exclude men.
How this is serving the wrong purpose:
The real way to bring awareness to and help prevent breast cancer is through the promotion and education of mammograms and self-checking. This is what needs to be advertised by media. “Save the Tatas” in no way informs people about the risk and process of being diagnosed with breast cancer, and how to prevent a late diagnosis. All this phrase does is emphasize the loss of the boobs, which shouldn’t be society’s top priority: it’s the loss of life we should be worried about.
How this is over sexualizing breast cancer:
No one needs to be told that women’s breasts are far too over sexualized in our society, but it’s quite sad that a disease that takes over 40,000 lives a year is sexualized without many people even noticing. Taking a step away from the slogans I’ve been talking about, there’s been a new trend that has been used to “raise awareness” against breast cancer. “No Bra Day” has risen to popularity among young women looking to support those fighting breast cancer. This trend consists of—you guessed it, not wearing a bra…for a whole day. It has also become increasingly popular to post a picture of a naked back on social media with a caption or hashtag supporting the cause. Whereas I believe women are more than free to choose to post pictures like these and to not wear a bra, I don’t think this is a very effective way of fighting against breast cancer. How does taking your bra off “raise awareness”? Everyone knows what breast cancer is, everyone knows the death toll: why are we taking our shirts and bras off rather than giving out the facts about this horrible disease?
Not only is this over emphasizing the “breast” in breast cancer (again), but this trend also has a strong, negative impact on many survivors, including Kelly:
“’No Bra Day’ is the worst of all of them. The last thing I want to see is other women clearly flaunting their breasts. Most breast cancer patients have extreme confidence problems when it comes to their appearance. I cannot even wear a pretty lacy bra because my breast prosthetic doesn’t fit in it. Some women decide not to reconstruct their breasts and cannot even wear a bra. ‘No Bra Day’ does not raise any awareness for breast cancer, instead it makes those people who have fought for their lives sad and depressed because they are not able to have two breasts that haven’t been broken and pillaged. I am a cancer fighter and survivor and ‘No Bra Day’ makes me want to avoid going out in public altogether. It hurts more people than it supports. ‘No Bra Day’ raises more erections than it raises awareness.”
With these thoughts, hopefully one can realize the impact that certain phrases and trends may have on those who have been directly impacted by breast cancer. Though this doesn’t apply to everybody, in a society as diverse and large as ours, we need to remember to think before we speak or act, and remember that a life always comes before a breast.
The fact of the matter is, the way we’ve been “attacking” breast cancer has been all in vein. Our strategies need to be changed. This is a war and in order to win it, we need to make informative decisions about prevention and early detection, not look or promote “pretty.”
Image Courtesy of: healthyheels.org