Devil’s Advocate: Hooters Edition

As you know, I’m no fan of the pink.  Before I got cancer I never thought about it.  Didn’t care.  Pink ribbons.  Whatever.  Wanna  buy a pink fanny pack and support breast cancer awareness?  Mmmno.  That all changed when I was diagnosed with breast cancer.  I now feel personally insulted that someone is exploiting my mortality for their personal and/or corporate gain.  I am insulted that someone thinks that buying a $20 water bottle and contributing $.02 is doing something good for breast cancer.  But some folks don’t think that’s necessarily a bad thing.  And it surely doesn’t mean the person who thinks that way is bad.

It depends on your perspective.

I know a lot of people don’t like the “c” word.  You know . . .  cunt.  I’ve never understood why this is so viscerally repulsive to so many people, because when you take ownership of the word it’s not a big deal.  It’s like dick.  He’s a dick.  She’s a cunt.  It’s a gender-specific epithet.  He’s a penis.  She’s a vagina.  Maybe it’s the harsh phonetic difference between the two words.  Whatever.


Recently, in a Ravelry group of women who all share the reality of breast cancer, an add appeared on the discussions page:

It sparked instant outrage among many.  I didn’t like it either (honestly, the inclusion of the effing apostrophe bothered me more).  And “bits and pieces,” what the hell does that mean?  Nips and nodes?  Livers and lungs?  But it was the intent of the pattern designer–a woman–to use humor to raise 25% of each sale of the $5-$8 patterns in the month of October to send to the Komen Foundation.  In and of itself that is not a bad thing.  Is it?

Is it not a good thing for a woman to take ownership of the epithet ta-tas?  Could this not be seen as a feminist action?  Similarly, women have reclaimed the word bitch and prefer to use in a context of power and strength as opposed to a negative (though women use it that way too).  Within the context of the ad, would Save the Breasts be as effective?  Is it necessary to dig so deep into the reality that the ad say Save Women’s Lives?


The breast cancer “movement,” if one can call it that, is as heterogeneous as the women who comprise it.   Leaving corporatization aside, is claiming ownership of this disease (a decision in which we have no choice) the ticket that gives us the right to slam those who wish to do something good?  Or should all individuals who wish to raise funds for a cause they wish to help, defer to those with breast cancer before they act and adapt accordingly?

What is acceptable and why?  What crosses the line?  Who determines where the line is drawn?  Does there have to be a line at all?  Why do those who have breast cancer viscerally hate the pink culture?  Why do those who have been spared the misery find good in the pink?  Why are we so divided?

And, most compellingly, do I have the exclusive right, just by virtue of the fact that I have breast cancer, to construct the public discourse of this disease?

I really want to hear what you think as I want to really dig deep and explore this topic.  If you don’t want to comment publicly, please send me an email and let loose:

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5 Responses to Devil’s Advocate: Hooters Edition

  1. Shorespinner says:

    Late to the comments but here goes. On many levels I hate pink, pinkwashing, walks for the cure, etc. But as a BC veteran some part of me is very glad that all that pink has meant that more money has gone to BC research. I’m alive because of it. But please! let’s move on from awareness and treatment to PREVENTION.

  2. Katie says:

    In my opinion, whole pink culture as it relates to breast cancer is an extension of many women still feeling hesitant to speak up about a widespread issue specific to their anatomy and their bodies. All the ribbons and cute tee shirts, aside from being a clever marketing scheme that works to make money more-so than it does to heighten awareness about breast cancer, is still a shield for women to hide behind. The sad reality is, from what I see about breast cancer, I feel like a lot women feel a kind of shame associated with the disease simply because it affects their breasts. There’s no gimmicky marketing for prostate cancer awareness, so why for breast cancer do people go out of their way to pink everything up? It’s but one of the many ways women STILL sleight themselves.

  3. CinVT says:

    I feel similarly conflicted. For me, it all started with a general disgust for the Susan G. Komen Foundation’s ridiculous politics and their efforts to control women’s health issues by controlling cash flow (and consequentially, cancer screenings). As a woman and a women’s health care practitioner, I was disgusted. The more I learned the more it bothered me.

    Then I was diagnosed with breast cancer, as a 32 year old. I add the age because I think my diagnosis (for me) revealed the deepest, most subtle, most lethal part of the great pink campaign in my generation: the belief that if we “Race for the Cure” or “Make Strides Against Breast Cancer” or wear the funny shirts, well, it won’t happen to us. We won’t be the one with the lump, with the hideous chemo; we won’t have to be a “survivor”.

    I truly think this is what is being peddled, whether the intention started there, whether people’s hearts were in the right place. Or maybe just I, personally, somehow extrapolated this message. Hard to say, especially through my very cloudy lens at the moment. But this picture of the smiley, glowing racer, bald and proud, valiantly “fighting the battle” never looked like me so it couldn’t possible ever be…right?

    Honestly? It still doesn’t look like me.

    There are many people in this experience I owe a deep debt of gratitude to whom I will never meet. They are the scientists who devote their lives and brilliant brains to jousting at the razor blade windmill of breast cancer. They are every man and woman fighting breast cancer who said yes and signed the terrifying consents for clinical trials of the drugs that I will now suffer through for 16 weeks to try to steal me 16 more years to watch my tiny Kindergartner and second grader grow.

    My thanks to them is to now agree to any trial I am offered. All I can think is what if next time it is my freckled, front teeth-missing, martial artist of a 7 year old? What if the lump is in her breast someday? So yes, please, take the tissue, take my blood, take the extra films, do what you need, but for the sake of all that is right and holy and good may this study, may ANY study make a difference for the next person.

    I feel no such debt to the Komen Foundation, or the like. I find save the ta-tas insulting, but not for the WORD ta-tas. I find the notion that we are saving BREASTS insulting. Breasts are/were a big part of my world. I am a board certified lactation consultant. I used my breasts to feed 2 babies for years and for other, er, recreational purposes. And then they grew tumors and they were cut off. What I have on my chest now, however well reconstructed, however much they appear to be, are NOT my breasts. I gave those up to live.

    So when these campaigns are being cutesy, when they focus on 2 mound of tissue on a chest that our culture has so hyper sexualized, so intensely focused on, to the point where when breasts are used to feed a baby it must be “discrete” but exposing your breasts on Cosmo covers are completely acceptable, it makes me ill. We women, none of us, are our breasts. We are NOT our bodies and we undermine this statement anytime we distill ourselves down to “ta-tas”. In my mind, it has very little to do with the TERM it is, rather, the focus.

    I think the distaste for the term on the board you are discussing is that of women who very much do NOT have breasts now and still believe their lives are worth saving. Or women with mets who get to keep their ta-tas right up until these cell mutations take their lives. I think you would find if you ask them that it is not the ta-tas…it is the idea that if we spout patently false lines like “early detection saves lives, do a self breast exam, save the girls, the ta-tas, second base, the boobies, the hooters…” we do harm. These campaigns let people forget that this is not a pink fluffy cloud wrapped in pink ribbon. We try to make it palatable and not threatening and we gloss the fact that this vile disease makes it nonnegotiable, the taking of so much of who I, who we, are to save our lives.

    What would happen, do you think, if colon cancer tired “Save the Assholes”? It might sell shirts…do you think it would do anything else? To quote a wise soul, “Fuck the Ta-Tas! Save the PEOPLE!”


    (p.s. I quite like the word cunt; as long as my 5 year old with no impulse control doesn’t learn it for awhile. I suppose people would blame it on his mother having cancer, though, so maybe that is okay, too.)

  4. ihatetamoxifen says:

    My concern with Pinktober is that most people don’t understand how little the cause actually receives by the consumer buying a pink product. Frankly, in most causes it would be more effective to send one dollar to a charity of your choice. Just put the dollar in an envelope, no return address needed and send it anonymously. It will have a much greater impact than buying pink.

    I blogged about the pink ribbon marketing machine for my company:

    In the blog, I have a link to a Fast Company article about the marketing aspect. It is BIG money! (Remember the Fast Company article was written for marketers; it shows why companies have jumped at Pinktober without a thought about how offensive it may or may not be to those diagnosed with BC.)

    Donors need to be aware of how much money will actually go to the cause from their pink purchase. If people stop buying pink products, companies will stop supporting Pinktober. I doubt that will happen anytime soon, though. BC alters our lives and our friends and family see it happen, so they buy pink products to feel like they are helping us. We need to educate them about making gifts that will make a difference.

  5. I have been writing back to every company which sends me a “Breast Cancer Awareness” marketing letter. Here is what I write to the dance companies … anyone reading this blog … please feel free to modify & use it yourself if you like:


    As a dancer with breast cancer I am writing to tell you how OFFENSIVE it is to see this disease used as a marketing gimmick. Please be aware of the growing backlash amongst women with cancer AGAINST the “Pink October” breast cancer awareness campaigns.

    The “Breast Cancer Awareness” campaigns were first started by Astra Zeneca, a company which makes Tamoxifen and other breast cancer drugs. This same company also makes pesticides with known carcinogens. In short they profit from giving people cancer, then selling drugs to treat the disease. Many people with cancer are deeply offended by seeing corporations who make carcinogenic products use “Breast Cancer Awareness” to pink-wash their products.

    Do you really wish to be associated with that?

    I applaud your efforts to donate to cancer research or treatment. Please consider to donate to a more general cancer organization throughout the year – not just in October and not just breast cancer. Prostrate cancer is also epidemic and caused by many of the same factors as breast cancer.

    Lastly, please consider to watch the movie “Pink Ribbons Inc.” as it will give you an idea of the incredible level of corruption and profiteering involved with the exploitation of “Breast Cancer Awareness”.

    A Dancer with Cancer

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