Possible Sexualization of Breast Cancer

April 10, 2015

Recently, in an interview I conducted of young men and women, I asked the following question: “What comes to mind when you hear ‘breast cancer’?” One telling answer came from a 16-year-old high school student who responded: “the I-LOVE-BOOBIES bracelets everyone used to wear.” I found this to be an extremely telling response of just how pervasive this campaign was.

In one sense, because their goal was to spread awareness of breast cancer, this campaign did it’s job. The shocking message grabbed people’s attention, maybe even made them laugh. However, if you feel something is inherently wrong with this message, you’re not alone.

In a recent article published in the “Gender and Sexuality” portion of The Daily Orange, the author, Kathryn Krawczyk, quotes “breast cancer survivor and author of the blog Stupid Dumb Breast Cancer” Ann Marie Giannino-Otis. Although I would highly reccommend reading the entire article (here: http://dailyorange.com/2015/04/breast-cancer-awareness-campaigns-objectify-disease/) I will give you a quick summary of what was said.

Referring to campaigns that encourage people to “save the boobies,” Giannino-Otis makes the following statement:“It has nothing to do with saving my breasts and has everything to do with saving myself,” said Giannino-Otis. “It really degrades what we’re trying to do.”

Some of the other important points made in this article:

1.  “Giannino-Otis also pointed out that 1 in 1,000 men will be diagnosed with breast cancer. Campaigns to “save the boobies” portray breast cancer as a woman’s disease and completely alienate this population.”

2. “The SCAR project is an amazing example of the realities of breast cancer. This project asserts that “breast cancer is not a pink ribbon” or some cute disease to be sexualized. It does this through its powerful images of women who lost their breasts but beat breast cancer.”

3. “The real problem doesn’t arise from trying to “save the boobies,” but from the objectification that makes these campaigns so successful. By worrying about saving breasts, these campaigns imply that this potentially fatal disease is actually about a woman losing her sexuality.”

After reading this article, I wanted to take a moment to reflect. Although there are men that suffer from breast cancer (who need to be recognized and respected), the truth is, a majority of people with breast cancer are women. And because breast cancer has been dubbed a “women’s disease,” feminist issues are expected to arise. The “save the boobies” campaign strategies being one major issue.

Although it is meant to be a lighthearted joke-there could potentially be very serious repercussions. In a way–and I think what’s at the heart of The Daily Orange article–is that women are being valued for their bodies/sexual beings rather than their lives. This is definitely an issue to consider.

If you have any opinions on this topic, let us know on Facebook or Twitter!


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