Boobie Wednesday good, Facebook bra meme bad.


I have to be up front about two potentially unpopular facts before I begin. One: I fully support the Boobie Wednesday movement. Two: I’m male — like, a human being of the pipe-swinging variety. In order to temper this second fact, to keep it from prejudicing you against my thesis, as soon as I’m done my first draft I’m handing the post over to my beloved Jodi to do with whatever she will.

The hue and cry on the intertubes from feminist quarters about the recent Facebook meme is wholly comprehensible to me, but the simultaneous outrage at the Boobie Wednesday meme from feminist writers like Aurellia of Aurellia’s Lagoon at once annoys and stupefies me.

Now, Aurellia is absolutely right on one point — the Facebook meme is wholly irritating, and not just from a feminist perspective. The idea of posting your bra color (and nothing else) as your status, with no explanation whatsoever, as a way to raise awareness for breast cancer, does precious little to actually raise awareness! No links are being posted on how to check properly, no fund-raisers are mentioned, and at no juncture is anyone made aware that the point of “raising awareness for breast cancer” as I understand the behind-the-scenes direct-message suggests, is not merely to be cheeky and naughty and sexual, but rather to remind women that breast cancer can KILL YOU. So the people participating are almost uniformly just doing something “counter-culture”, and/or lying about their actual bra color or lack-of-bra-status so that once guys realize what the meme indicates, they start lusting after the participants.

At that, no mention is made of the fact that men get breast cancer too. Not as often, true, but it’s not an exclusively female issue. The meme even explicitly tells the ladies to exclude guys from it. On the flip side, the founders (@shimmer418 and @honey_is_evil) of the Boobie Wednesday meme are well aware of this fact, and mention it frequently — not so frequently as to overshadow the women of course, but often enough that those men that think they’re just getting a free show from attention-whore females that want to thrust their breasts all up in said man’s face, might stop and think twice about the whole thing, realize that there are brains about a foot and a half above every pair of boobs (or moobs), and realize that THAT’S what’s really at stake.

Leveraging sex as a way to raise awareness and remind people to check themselves so they catch breast cancer early — I don’t really mind that. Yes, posting pictures of your breasts on your twitter feed is titillating (if you’ll pardon the pun), and yes, it does objectify women to merely make them about their breasts. But what about the men who post pictures of their moobs in solidarity, are we objectifying ourselves in the same way? Is it somehow different to show a naked man-boob as compared to a bra-clad breast? And if the end result is that more women check their breasts and find lumps early, so as to avoid possibly dying of motherfucking CANCER, then is it honestly so bad to use the inherent re-tweetability, the inherent male vulnerability to sex-related memes, to achieve such a notable and laudable goal?

Yes, the bra thing is insipid, stupid, sexualized, and totally disconnected from the actual issue at hand, and serves as a slap in the face of women that have survived breast cancer at the cost of a mastectomy or two, and can no longer wear bras. But using sexuality to drive awareness — where’s the outrage at the hundreds of instances of sex being used to sell everything from toothpaste to cars on TV every damn day? If people want to show a little cleavage to remind their friends and loved ones that it’s time to check your girls (and boys!) for cancer, shouldn’t that get a pass while there are so many bigger grievances that can be made about the objectification of women in the media today?

Yeah, I’m sure that last statement is going to earn me a good deal of ire from people that I otherwise support with regard to their feminist causes. I have to wonder how much of my fear on that point is because of the aforementioned pipe-swinging.

While we’re at it — when’s the last time YOU checked your breasts? And what are you doing to address the risk factors of these types of cancer?

Think about it. There’s more to raising awareness than repeating yourself in a factual, scientific and uncontroversial manner. That won’t go viral. “Hey ladies, have you felt yourself up this month yet?” might, however.

Comments

  1. says

    It is worth pointing out, as Elyse did at Skepchick, that the guidelines on self-exam have changed recently:

    http://www.cancer.org/docroot/NWS/content/NWS_1_1x_Role_Of_Breast_Self-Examination_Changes_In_Guidelines.asp

    It’s also worth noting that if you really want to raise awareness of cancer, try colo-rectal cancer. It’s not nearly as sexy, but it needs the attention more. It doesn’t even have its own color. Having a friend who was diagnosed in her early thirties and stayed with us a while after her surgery, I’ve learned how to change colostomy bags. But at least it didn’t kill her.

    All that said, if you want to flash your tits, go right ahead. If nothing else, it might get people more comfortable talking about disease that attacks “those sexy parts.”

  2. says

    Absolutely agreed. I guess one of the issues I have is that whenever men participate in the breast cancer awareness movements, the implication is made that we’re just in it to “save our toys”. Never mind that I’m not a necrophiliac, and there’s therefore absolutely nothing enjoyable for me in an intact breast on a dead woman.

    I don’t know why breast cancer awareness is getting so much extra brainshare when other cancers like colo-rectal cancer or, say, lung cancer are bigger killers. I guess it probably IS the fact that men think they have a vested interest in intact boobs that’s driving the awareness movement — that and some very vocal and kickass women leading the charge on behalf of loved ones (or themselves) who are breast cancer survivors. Another idea has been kicked around on Twitter recently that there should be a prostate cancer awareness day as well. Maybe flash a little ass to remind people to get their prostate exams. If sexuality is a prime driver, preserving men’s ability to orgasm should be high up there, right?

  3. says

    There was a period of time, not so long ago, when it really was necessary to raise awareness of breast cancer and teach people to do self-exams (pre-mammograms) and raise some funds for the research. That time is not now.

    I rather like a “Save Your Asses” campaign. And there are a slew of cancers where people could use some awareness that fall under that heading, including HPV-related anal cancer, which people can do something about if they get themselves and/or their kids vaccinated. Someone would just have to pull the information together in one place.

  4. Jodi says

    There were some great ad campaigns on tv a couple years ago to raise awareness for colorectal cancer. I think it was these guys who did it http://www.colorectal-cancer.ca but I can’t seem to find any video. It was just a short silent tv spot. It opened with what looked like cleavage but as the camera slowly zoomed out it showed that it was actually a womans bum that was blushing slightly. The words ‘Don’t die of embarrassment’ then appeared on the screen and something along the lines of ‘get screened for colorectal cancer’. There was a different ad with a man too but I can’t remember how it went.
    A save your asses campaign would be awesome.

  5. Jodi says

    We were talking about this again this morning and I finally had a chance to read that link you provided, Stephanie.
    Clearly, the regulations have changed. However, my family doctor and the nurses that I see at the clinic for yearly physicals continue to tell me to do the self exams. I can only assume that this is because we don’t get yearly mammograms? I don’t know how it is done in the US but here we don’t start getting mammograms until I *think* sometime around age 40, unless there is something wrong. I realise breast cancer in someone my age is more rare, but isn’t it a good idea to encourage young people to be aware that they have a chance of finding lumps themselves?

  6. says

    We actually post about all type of cancer on our Twitter page. Boobie Wednesday is only one day of the week and the other 6 days we post about everything. The regulations have not changed because it was a suggestion, not an order. http://news.aol.com/health/article/task-force-recommends-women-wait-till/769593. And we are always looking for suggestions of other cancers to bring to the forefront so everyone can educate and check or be checked for them. As we say, “Its not about what you show, its about what you say.”

  7. Erin says

    There is actually a fundraiser out there in the West (and Toronto) for ‘below the belt’ cancers: http://www.uncoverthecure.org/index.html They should probably take it step further and set up an ad campaign outside of the one for the fundraiser to help raise awareness. I believe our grocery stores also collect for prostate cancer around Father’s Day.

    On the Facebook/breast cancer side, there’s a group (http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?v=box_3&id=849300470#/group.php?gid=19668383381) that started up over a year ago that lends support to people dealing with cancer in all stages. Their primary focus is breast cancer but people who have had brushes any type of cancer are welcome to join. They send out a monthly newsletter that includes a reminder to do a beast exam.

    I do agree that the bra colour thing was a little lame. I had no idea what everyone was doing at first and only found out because someone let it slip…that doesn’t help raise anyone’s awareness.

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