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.
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.