I was working on a post about male breast cancer. I wanted to create a graphic with statistics and thought to myself, “Self, hit The Google and get a picture of some pecs.” Now, just in case you forgot I do have breast cancer. I know how serious it is. Indeed, unless I get hit by a bus or fall out of a plane without a parachute, breast cancer will kill me. I rail against the pink. I bitch about the feminization of the disease. I cry foul over sexualization of the disease.
And I wanted no less than a hot guy’s chest for my graphic.
As you might imagine, there is no shortage of images for male chests. But not all chests are created equal (some are even fake). As I was perusing images I was consciously trying to find something “normal,” but I kept going for the hot guy. I wanted my graphic to look nice. I didn’t want some middle aged guy with man boobage as part of my artistic creation. I could’ve gone truthy–ulcerations, blackened pits. No. Too many people read The Boob with their morning coffee. I couldn’t have them spitting out their breakfast.
No, I’m going to go with the hot guy. The guy with the perfectly sculpted arms, the nipples painted by Michelangelo, the chest I could imagine myself . . . okay. Whew, it’s warm in here. Here’s my point.
I was trying to do a public service. I went into it with all the best intentions. And I caught myself sexualizing male breast cancer. I tried to pick the least suggestive of photographs (I even considered a cropped shot of Michaelangelo’s David). But I kept veering toward the guy to whom I was attracted.
And I got to thinking about all of those photo shoots of women with their perfect breasts, peeks at boobage, pink ribbons or neckties in the cleavage. I wonder how many of these photographs and photo shoots were pulled together with the best of intentions, the desire to create that perfect composition in answer to the assignment. But the end product of idealized beauty just got in the way. And when we, the observers, looked upon the finished product we assigned to it our criticisms completely out of context of the original creation either as 1) our reaction to the image itself, or 2) our reaction to the way in which the image was used.
So, a funny thing happened on the way to the male breast cancer awareness graphic. I chose exceptional over average. Sexy over unsexy. Appealing over ugly. I do want to save the man, not merely the man boob. However, I am wondering if my message to men was diluted because I went in this direction.
Gentlemen? Gentlewomen? You tell me.