Oct 202011
Authors: Colleen McSweeney

I think I first noticed them a couple years ago –– I glanced over to some guy sitting next to me in class, and wrapped around his wrist was a bracelet touting a message I thought to be about as obvious as Tony Frank’s love of facial hair: it read, “I love boobies.”

At the time, I remember thinking, “Sure, I advocate men being honest with their feelings, but really? What’s next? Wearing a shirt that says, ‘All I look for in a chick is a nice rack’?” For a moment, I thought all social tact may have suddenly become lost among men of our generation.

Of course, this prompted the lyrics of Bonnie Tyler’s “Holding Out for a Hero” to play in my head. (“Where have all the good men goooone..?”)

But eventually, I realized what a lot of us now know the popular bracelet advocates: breast cancer awareness. The rubber bracelets are sold at young-adult clothing stores like Zumiez, and they’re part of a campaign by the Keep a Breast Foundation to raise knowledge about breast cancer in a younger generation of women.

Obviously, I think the advocacy of breast cancer awareness is wonderful –– something there can’t be enough of. But I also think there’s a fine line between cute, effective campaigning and sense of exploiting and “sexing up” a serious, frightening and often heart-breaking disease.

And lately, especially amid this year’s Breast Cancer Awareness Month, I think I’ve seen the line being crossed.

An article that appeared on Salon.com yesterday titled “Sexing up breast cancer,” harshly criticizes the increase of cutesy “going pink” campaigns, saying, “With each passing October, the cult of Breast Cancer Awareness feels exponentially less like empowerment for women — of every size and age and level of allurement — and more like one big autumnal grope-fest.”

It also mentions that no other type of cancer awareness is glorified into playfully sexy campaigns like breast cancer’s is. The article says, “There are no leering campaigns for leukemia. You can’t build a double-entendre empire around non-Hodgkin lymphoma.”

The sexed-up campaign slogans are everywhere: “Help save second base” and “Check your boobs…or I will.”

Breast cancer is the only form of the disease which uses flirty slogans that can be slapped on t-shirts and worn on bracelets to be “trendy.”

Sure, it’s is also the only disease that even deals with a body part that can be branded as sexy, but just because there’s good material for double-entendre doesn’t mean it should be take nadvantage of.

And don’t get me wrong: I’m not an easily offended, sense-of-humor-less feminist who cringes whenever she sees the term “ta-tas” because, well, only men who view women as objects would call breasts that!

No, it’s not that at all. Call them ta-tas (or Thelma and Louise) all you want. The thing that concerns me about the “Save the Ta-tas” slogan, and others like it, is its tendency to put focus on the branding and the attraction appeal of the disease, instead of where it should be: on saving lives.

I completely admire campaigns like Susan B. Komen’s “Go Pink,” and I disagree with critics who bemoan the ubiquity and annoyance of the pink branding of things (like the Dallas Cowboys uniforms) during Breast Cancer Awareness month. Because if done tastefully, the pink adds a tangible, cohesive recognition for the awareness movement.

But, thankfully, regardless of the less-than-tasteful slogans, the current awareness movement has come a long way from where it was a few decades ago. Before “Going Pink,” and long before “Save the Ta-tas,” breast cancer was not as common (or treatable) among women as it is now. And tragically, not nearly as many women knew what to look for. And even if they did, they were often too afraid to even address the then-taboo disease.

And as long as breast cancer awareness programs like the Susan B. Komen Foundation continue to work hard at promoting awareness of breast cancer without turning it into just an excuse for a funny t-shirt, I still feel pretty optimistic about the cause.

So for the rest of this Breast Cancer Awareness month, save the “ta-ta” talk for Friday night, and pull out a pink ribbon to show your support of the “Race for the Cure.”

Editorial Editor Colleen McSweeney is a junior journalism major. Her column usually appears Tuesdays in the Collegian. She can be reached at letters@collegian.com.

 Posted by at 3:39 pm

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