October is Breast Cancer Awareness month, which means the color pink becomes ubiquitous as various organizations pledge awareness to the cause. This month I’ve seen a pink race car, pink on NFL uniforms, and pink ribbons popping up on various social media avatars. While we all agree that cancer is awful, the sea of pink that swells in October is not always well-received. There are many people who feel this “pinkwashing” has turned into a commercial endeavor, and does nothing to actually help women with breast cancer. Others see it as a sign of solidarity and support for women battling a deadly disease.
For me, there’s an element of the breast cancer awareness movement that’s much more troubling. When I see shirts begging me to “Save the Ta-Ta,” or fundraising races called “Jogging for Jugs,” I cringe. I’m not a prude, and I don’t think we always have to be serious about things, even tragic things. I understand the power of humor as a way to cope with terrible circumstances. So why do these titles bother me so much?
We live in a culture that is obsessed with breasts. If you don’t believe me, just ask any woman ever about her experiences with men and her boobs. Or ask your social media followers how they feel about breastfeeding in public. Large breasts are considered sexy, and there are a wide range of products available to lift, tuck, pad, or otherwise shape women’s breasts — everything from Wonder Bras to surgery. So it’s really no surprise to me that when we talk about breast cancer, we focus on a woman’s breasts. Everyone loves boobs, right? Gotta save those boobs!
The reality of breast cancer is that it doesn’t just affect breasts, it affects the women (and in some cases men) attached to them. Instead of focusing on saving breasts, we should be focused on saving women’s lives. Many women battling breast cancer have to lose their breasts in order to live. That’s heartbreaking to me, but I would much rather have the women I love alive with no breasts than dead with them. When it comes right down to it, the breasts can go. Save the woman. Because she is more than just her breasts.
Too many of us (myself included) have lost grandmothers, mothers, aunts, sisters, daughters, and friends to breast cancer. When you only focus on saving the “ta-tas,” it’s easy to forget that there all real women attached to those breasts, women who would love to keep their breasts but would much rather keep their lives. So when we walk, when we fund raise, when we spread awareness, let’s do it for women. Not just for their breasts.
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