by Julia Larberg
I’d like to make it perfectly clear I’m not disputing the need for a month of awareness for breast cancer and breast cancer research. The National Cancer Institute reports that one in eight people in the United States will be diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetime. This statistic doesn’t include all of the family and friends of the individual that struggles with breast cancer. October as Breast Cancer Awareness month is a needed reminder of the fact that there is still no cure for one of the most talked-about cancers.
I’m disputing the gross commercialized advertising and the appalling sexualization of women that happens during October for the sake of “awareness.” The growing trend of organizations like “Feel Your Boobies” and “Save the Ta-Tas” are a perfect example of this sexualization. Through using slang that is typically used in a juvenile, playful context, these organizations advertise themselves by playing off the sexual stigmatization of women’s bodies. In a society where female masturbation is looked down upon and pushed under the rug, the Feel Your Boobies campaign plays off of this disgust in favor of being able to say “Oh, wait! Feel your boobies for cancer! We didn’t mean it sexually! It’s for research!” It brings attention to the issue, but at the expense of further portraying breasts only as sexual organs and stigmatizing female sexuality.
The advertising language that is used by organizations such as these is meant to be funny and just controversial enough to garner attention. Instead, it emphasizes the fact that the United States has an extremely difficult time referring to female anatomy without it being sexualized. This doesn’t even touch on the fact that breast cancer isn’t exclusive to women. According to the National Cancer Institute, men make up less than one percent of all breast cancer cases, but men are still diagnosed and affected by breast cancer as well.
Yes, these organizations are technically charities. Yes, there are good things being done for breast cancer research in the month of October. My dilemma lies in the question of at what point is breast cancer awareness about the people that suffer from it and not just an excuse to “feel my boobies” for the sake of a trendy campaign that profits off of and stigmatizes female sexuality?