Before I was diagnosed with beast cancer, the pink ribbon universe didn’t affect me personally. I knew of women who had been diagnosed or died as a result, but as far as being zapped right in the soul I considered myself fortunate. I was reminded of my great aunt who died of breast cancer when I was a teen, but before my diagnosis I didn’t recall that. I must have known that something wasn’t adding up because even though this was packaged as noble and good, there was something about it that I didn’t like.
It wasn’t until Komen made their decision to defund Planned Parenthood that I started to focus on this and educate myself about this larger-than-life fundraising machine. It was crystal clear then: women’s health was secondary to big salaries, self-promotion, and the bottom line. If they were jumping on the conservative bandwagon to defund Planned Parenthood, then clearly this organization had its own particular cancer that was spreading. Komen had turned the corner from a noble goal to perpetuating its own existence. Indeed, the picture was beginning to widen: this whole movement had issues.
One of the things that has consistently ticked me off is the feminization and sexualization of the disease. It wasn’t so much as “save the women,” but “save the boobies.” And while I am grateful that breast reconstruction following mastectomy is covered under insurance plans, it was not uncommon to see the focus not on the life saved but on the appearance on the boobies after the fact. You’re cured and your breasts look awesome. Oh, yeah, and men get breast cancer, too. After thought.
I have embedded a number of PSAs that promote breast health. They convey a powerful message: Excuses (Brazil), Don’t Get Scared, Get Checked (Scotland), Tumor (New Zealand). These are messages that stick with you after you’ve watched them. And that’s what you want them to do. No one is going to put down their book and say, “I’ll be back. I’m going to get a mammogram right now!” Instead they plant a seed that makes you think and, hopefully, its growth leads you to that moment of “I need to feel my breasts.”
But yesterday I got a glimpse of a PSA that made me throw up in my mouth a little. Chris O’Dowd portrays a health and safety officer at the Topless Female Trampolining World Championships. Produced with the Male Cancer Awareness Campaign and the UK breast cancer charity Coppafeel!, the goal is to encourage men to check their breasts. Give it a view for yourself.
The site Adrants comments: “Yes. Seriously. Why should female breast cancer have all the boobie-based fun? OK, it’s not a real event but the promotion, the girls and the cause are very real.”
And, of course, the campaign’s website describes it best: “This campaign is directed at young men and their partners. Pure and simple. It carries a clear message: Men get breast cancer too.”
Oh, that message. I’m sorry, I thought meant the exploiting-tits-and-ass-and-objectifying-women-again message.
Seriously. What the fuck?