Why Breast Cancer Awareness Month Is Actually a Huge Insult to Women


It's October and you know what that means: breast cancer bro-wareness month! The wonderful time of year where we all focus on breasts! I mean, breast cancer! Either way, it's all for a great cause! Right? Well...

Check out what I had to say about this on Msnbc's The Cycle in the video above.

Instead of showcasing the courageous voices of breast cancer survivors, we dwell on a more male-centric fetishist appreciation for breasts, something every cancer patient who fears the loss of a breast loves to be aggressively reminded of! It's a time where all companies and ad agencies alike can come together and heavily promote your awareness of their awareness of breast cancer awareness. If you're into pink crap and have a crippling boob-fetish, you've hit the jackpot; if you're a woman who wants information about breast cancer, you're screwed. Breast cancer awareness month has become more about breasts than about women's health.

Although last year's breast cancer awareness campaigns were hard to beat with unnecessarily objectifying promotional videos like this one, the men at Simple Pickup have gone the extra douchebag mile this year. They went around convincing women to let them motor-boat their breasts on camera, in exchange for a $20 donation to the Breast Cancer Research Foundation. Because nothing says concern and sensitivity for breast cancer like a frumpy frat boy rubbing his face in your breasts for cash.

When the Breast Cancer Research Foundation heard about how they raised the money, it was rejected, leaving our street-harassing bros sulking. They issued "an apology" — an immature response video — attacking the "small minority of haters who thought this video was offensive."

It's not a small minority of people who would be against using charity as an excuse to be douchebags and harass women on the street. Clearly, if the foundation refused such a significant sum of money, it was for a reason. The boys are now begging for suggestions about how to spend the fruits of their "labor." I suggest that they spend it on getting a life or maybe a lobotomy.

Leaving aside idiots with a camera, what is most annoying about these "awareness" campaigns is that they are not only offensive to women generally, they are also largely unhelpful. Consider the tweeting bra campaign, the undergarment that sends a tweet to all your followers every time you unhook your bra to remind them to do their self-exams. I know, genius right?! I've always wanted a bra that notifies my coworkers, my professional contacts, and potentially my dad, every time I or my boyfriend removes my bra! Finally, the product none of us have been waiting for!

But don't rush out to get your tweeting bra just yet; the undergarment launched by Nestle Fitness isn't available for the general public at the moment; for now, they are getting this attractive Greek actress to wear it for two weeks so that it’s easier for her fans to fantasize about her naked. So… yay breast cancer prevention!

And if fantasizing’s not your thing, you can follow the bra's delightful twitter account that tweets offensive puns like "Boobs I did it again."


Not only is this campaign more about titillation than it is about information, it also seems to be disproportionately focused on self-breast exams, something that some doctors aren't emphasizing anymore. According to the Department of Health, "research results do not support an official recommendation that all women conduct breast self-exams." Yes, "knowing your body is key to pointing out any concerns to your doctor," but self-exams alone, are not an effective way to prevent breast cancer. So why the emphasis? Because it's sexier than talking about the realities of women's health with regard to breast cancer. For instance, while we know when a specific actress in Greece will have her bra off, we aren't told that African American women are more likely to die from breast cancer than any other race. We aren't told that many of the companies that sponsor breast cancer campaigns create cancer-causing products. It's sexier to talk about fondling breasts and undoing bras than to talk about the fact that Nestlé itself is in some way responsible for climbing cancer rates due to the high-level of aluminumin in some of its products. 

Even mamming, the mammogram-promoting campaign instructing women to prop their breasts on mundane objects and upload photos to Instagram seems more concerned with the popularity of its campaign than the benefits it can bring to women. The website doesn't offer intelligible advice about mammograms, other than the fact that they are sooooo "awkward."  

Writer and breast cancer survivor Kira Goldenberg, told PolicyMic that she was stunned by by how the campaign trivialized the disease. Although Goldenberg is sensitive to the fact that it was started by a fellow survivor, she doesn't like the way the campaign "puts-a cutesy-entertainment spin on something that is so far from cute or entertaining." 

Since the US Department of Health only advises regular mammograms for women over the age of 50 (unless otherwise specified by your doctor), why is this campaign using the hashtags and Instagram to reach its audience? My mom still calls it Instagrammer and thinks it's a place that only exists in my phone. She has also lived through a Mad Men episode for most of her life, so when she finds out that women are being encouraged to place their boobs on inanimate objects to talk about the importance of mammograms, it won't make her feel less “awkward” about her yearly mammogram, it will only make her feel like we dropped the ball on gender equality. 

These campaigns can be really beneficial to women's health, but they need to be respectful of the people they're seeking to help. As it stands, they are disrespectful of women generally, and they are disrespectful of breast cancer survivors specifically, many of whom have lost a breast, or both breasts, and do not appreciate having these organs further sexualized by a culture that already does it to excess. We need more visibility for women's health, but the one thing that does not need to be more visible is the over-objectification of women's bodies.

Then again, when you find out that Breast Cancer Awareness Month was started by a pharmaceutical company that sells both cancer treatments and carcinogenic pesticides, these internal contradictions make more sense: it's unsurprising that many of the campaigns launched in October are unhelpful to women and often harmful to gender equality.

Outraged? Puzzled? Frustrated? Make sure to sign the petition to make companies that create products increasing the risk of breast cancer, accountable for their actions and let me know how you feel on Twitter and Facebook.

See what PolicyMic's Liz Plank and Jake Horowitz had to say about this on Huffpost Live:

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