Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Raising Awareness or Selling Out?

We've all seen the ads, posters, billboards, you-name-it promoting breast cancer awareness. NFL players wear pink on their uniforms during the month of October. We see the stickers on cars and know exactly what a pink ribbon represents. Various manufacturers even sell their merchandise in pink to support the cause. Most people probably know the name Susan G. Komen. Heck, way too many people know or know of a woman who has faced a personal battle with breast cancer. As a woman who knows women (some of whom are my family) that have faced this illness, I'm all about raising awareness.

So why do I have a problem with the breast cancer awareness campaign?

Well I didn't at first. And my problem is not with the fundamental idea of raising awareness. That part is great. I do feel however that over time the fundamental message has gotten lost, or at least shoved aside a little. I have a hard time understanding how we've gone from participating in fundraising events like runs and walks and wearing pink ribbons to putting stickers on our cars that suggest you should "Feel your boobies." Ok, the bottom line is there, but is there no more classy or tasteful way of saying that? What parent wants to explain that to their children, or have their kids who may not understand it think it's ok to walk around saying such a thing (after all, people post it right on their bumpers). I honestly used to receive emails from a parent of one of my students for whom breast cancer awareness was a top priority. How do I know that, you ask? Because at the bottom of her emails she had a signature that included her name followed by "Team Leader, Team Boob-a-licious." Wow. Good to know. At least I hope it was about breast cancer...

I decided to write this post when I saw what I felt was the farthest over-the-line advertisement I have seen yet. While on our lovely weekend in New York, we noticed this billboard just off of Times Square:
There are 3 words but I can't remember/see what the top one is. The other two are "Communicate" and "Conquer."

If a billboard in Times Square is pushing the limits, then all limits were obliterated when I spotted this same photo today hanging on the wall in the waiting room of my pediatrician's office!!! Well thank God I don't have a 6 year old son to explain that to. Wouldn't it be a little bold of them to go ahead and spark that conversation for me? I'm not talking about discussing cancer with a child, but rather why there are photos of bare breasts on the wall in the doctor's office. I really wouldn't want my kids to think that it's just casual commonplace for women to walk around exposed. Seriously.

Clearly my issue is with how we've gone from raising awareness to using suggestive sexual photos to catch peoples attention. Is it really necessary? Does it even respect the cause? I guess that is my biggest issue. Exposing the illness and the pain and suffering it causes isn't good enough anymore. Now we have to expose our body to get people to pay attention. Exactly what message is that sending young women? "If people won't listen to what you're saying honey, just show them your boobs." God help us all.

Not only do those types of advertisements seem way out of line for young eyes to see, but I feel like it's just so disrespectful to women. I'm not a feminist by any stretch, I actually think the feminist movement is pretty gross. I'm happy admitting that I'm a woman with a woman's body made to do womanly things. That said, for a cause that is so important to women, I am just shocked that we've stooped to the level of using our bodies to raise awareness. And let's go ahead and be honest: to raise money. Wait, does that make us....????? GASP! See what I'm saying? It's offensive and I have half a mind to write to the Breast Cancer Foundation and tell them just how cheap and dirty those ads are. Should we start a petition? Tell them to stop treating us like 5-letter words? Who's with me?

To depart on a lighter note, I am reminded as I write, of a clip from one of my new most favorite TV shows, Community. In a recent episode Britta called out (and mocked) Annie for playing the doe-eyed helpless damsel routine in order to raise money for the gulf clean-up. Turn up your volume, at least on my computer it was really quiet. Enjoy...


  1. Right on, sister! I think it's completely out of line, and incredibly cheapening to women. And what better way to support women who have lost their breasts to cancer than to plaster huge perfect perky ones in Times Square to remind them of what they've lost. Wha?! Am I missing something, or is that a little messed up? Let's parade around the boob models and make them the face of the breast cancer movement. Ugh. It draws the exact WRONG kind of attention.In college, after we did a cancer walk shortly after the "feel your boobies" campaign started, do you know what I found in every other guy's room I entered for the rest of the year? A big ol' "Feel Your Boobies" poster. They don't think it's inspiring, they think it's funny.

  2. amen! How about those I 'heart' boobies bracelets? I saw a young YOUNG child at the mall yesterday wearing one of those. I strongly agree that these types of messages are NOT communicating breast cancer awareness, it is making a mockery of it, a way of getting away with being childish and immature in public. 90% of the time when you first see something like that, you do NOT think breast cancer you think "what?!" until it's explained. Great post Em!

  3. I was JUST having this conversation with Grandma Susie two days ago. What angers me the most is how flippant people are about "standing up to cancer" when breast cancer is linked numerous times to abortion and artificial birth control. It's a highly beatable cancer and the entire campaign is edging out awareness of more aggressive cancers and illnesses. Not to mention 12 year old boys wearing "I <3 boobies" bracelets. That really doesn't scream support and solidarity to me. Are parents REALLY convinced that their adolescent children are suddenly concerned for the suffering of others?? I truly didn't even think adolescents were capable of such things in the first place. I'm going to link this first thing tomorrow. You hit it right on the head yet again!

  4. AMEN!!!!! So well written and so very true...sadly. My husband and I discussed the problem with the breast cancer campaign but also there is a major problem, in my opinion, about how the Foundation sponsors Planned Parenthood....but, that is a whole other can of worms...

  5. Oh Suzanne...I'm right on your heels, sister. I tell EVERYONE I know about SGK's shady practices. It makes me ill.

  6. Well said!! I couldn't agree more!! Linked here from Jenna's blog! This is definitely one of the most frustrating ad campaigns for me...and the Komen/PP tie is so sad.I disagree with one thing though! I do think you are a know the real kinda...the kind that celebrates TRUE feminism and embraces the way God made us! I first started thinking about TRUE feminism when i discovered helped open my eyes to true feminism. Thanks for such a beautiful post!!!


I love hearing from you!