"I heart Boobies." "Save the Ta-tas." Two provocative phrases meant to raise breast cancer awareness. These two slogans have been around for sometime now, but have made national news over the last couple of months. I have never paid much attention to the breast cancer awareness slogans, and wrote it off as an immature way for someone to make a buck on someone else's misfortune. No longer am I able to ignore the "I heart Boobies" campaign, as students at the school at which I work are now wearing them (mostly adolescent boys).
Upon seeing the bracelets on my students' wrists I have made a new rule for my classroom, no "I heart Boobies" bracelets in my classroom. Some of the students try to argue with me about it and here are the reasons I give them"
1. A Hypersexualization of Cancer. One would think the last thing on the earth that would become hypersexualized would be cancer; however, that is no longer the case. The "I heart Boobies" bracelets take a serious issue such as cancer and trivialize it by reducing cancer to sex. The logic presented in the bracelets is disheartening, as it makes the survival of breast cancer to be only about saving boobies and not about the real goal which is saving a person's life. For a person who has cancer surviving cancer is not about saving a body part. Many cancer sufferers would, if they could, gladly go without a body part than die. Surviving cancer is about living a longer, healthier life, free of cancer. I fail to see how "I heart boobies" raises that kind of awareness.
2. It Objectifies women. By focusing on loving boobies, these bracelets and the campaign run the danger of reducing the woman down to be only her boobies. When in reality, a woman is a person with human dignity and not merely a set of boobs.
3. Human beings: Not Animals. "I heart Boobies" and "Save the Ta-Ta's" bear too close a resemblance to other famous "Save the" campaigns: Save the Whales. Save the Rain forest. Save the Ozone. Cancer is not Captain Ahab, and Cancer is not a mean businessman who is trying to deforest the rain forests for profit. Again, this runs the risk of stripping a human person of their dignity and reducing the person to be either merely animal or merely a thing.
4. Maturity. Most adolescent boys (yes the boys are the ones who like wearing these) are not mature enough to have a serious conversation about breast cancer. When 14 year-olds still laugh at the word "ass" when used in the Bible to refer to a donkey, how can we expect them to think seriously about something like breasts. Most boys of this age still blush at the use of the words "penis" and "vagina." Plus, if an adolescent boy needs to wear a reminder on his wrist that he likes boobies then he has a fundamental emotional problem and needs to seek help immediately.
5. Psychological. The "I heart Boobies" disregards other dimensions of cancer. Mainly the psychological struggles cancer sufferers commonly go through: depression, anxiety, stress. These are to a much higher degree than what most people face on a day to day basis. Plus a number of the cancer sufferers must face the reality of an early death.
6. Sexist. By hearting boobies, the campaign forgets about the male demographic who suffer from breast cancer, for men don't have boobies. Why is the male demographic being ignored in this campaign? Are people so aware of breast cancer that they already know men migth suffer from breast cancer as well?
7. What About Other Forms of Cancer? I highly doubt that other forms of cancer would be treated with the same disrespect to the human person. What kind of slogan would be used for testicular cancer? What kind of slogan would be used for prostate cancer? What would the slogan be for colon cancer (*More people actually die from colon cancer every year than breast cancer.)?
In brief, the "I heart boobies" bracelets miss the mark in raising breast cancer awareness. Certainly they might raise money for breast cancer research, but at what cost? If people were really interested in raising awareness of breast cancer, how about starting with the possible connection that oral contraceptives (birth control) might raise the risk of acquiring breast cancer in women. [UPDATE: I removed a link that went here that discussed the possible connection between abortion and breast cancer. Much of the data reference was 30 years dated. She directed me to the American Cancer Society site to two links on breast cancer and abortion. The short story is that the ACS finds no causation between abortion and breast cancer. Though it did not go into whether or no there is a correlation between abortion and breast cancer. However, a recent study in 2009 by Dr. Dolle on Risk Factors for Triple-Negative Breast Cancer states that there is a link between birth-control, hormonal levels, abortion and breast cancer. It is worth a read.]
Also, I'd like to see these individuals raise awareness by sticking with the pink bracelets and replacing the "I heart Boobies" slogan with "Mom", "Sister", "Aunt", "Grandmother" or "Friend." It raises awareness in a more concrete way by connecting cancer to a person and not to a set of breasts.
Lastly, on the advice of my friend from the update above, if you know a woman encourage her to get an exam, do a self exam, and get a screening for breast cancer and if possible get one often.