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Nancy Stordahl

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Where's the Feminism in the Awareness?

Posted: 10/25/2012 11:04 am

We all know sex sells. For some time now it's even been selling breast cancer awareness. If you need proof, all you have to do is look around.

Some breast cancer awareness campaigns find it acceptable to use words like boobies, tatas, hooters, honkers, jugs, rack, coconuts, knockers and melons (just to name a few) in place of the word breasts during October awareness campaigns; in fact, all year long.

We hear phrases such as grab a feel, squeeze a boob, touch yourself and save the boobs intended to encourage women to check themselves or have their male companions do it for them.

Usually we're told it's an effective way to grab attention, lighten things up a bit and appeal to a younger crowd. I'm not buying this argument.

It's wrong to trivialize women. It's wrong to trivialize a deadly disease. And I have to ask would this be acceptable if we were dealing with male body parts or a man's disease?

What I'd like to know is when did sexually objectifying women in the name of breast cancer awareness become acceptable? How did we let this happen? How did women let this happen?

Where is the feminism in breast cancer awareness?

Have women forgotten how hard others had to fight for rights we enjoy today? Have we forgotten it hasn't even been one hundred years since women earned the right to cast a vote? Have we forgotten women were clamoring for equality and demanding to be taken seriously not all that long ago; that in fact, we still are?

We have come a long way. Let's not start taking too many steps backward. Some awareness campaigns are just that, steps in the wrong direction. And feminism has dropped the ball.

Breast cancer awareness greatly benefited from feminism. First and foremost, the feminist movement helped bring breast cancer out of the closet never to be hidden away again. The stigma of breast cancer was clearly and thankfully diminished, but somewhere along the line something else started happening as breast cancer appeared from behind closed doors. That something was the emergence of what has come to be known today as the pink ribbon culture.

This pink ribbon culture started off slowly, gained momentum and morphed into something so huge it almost seems unstoppable.

Everywhere you look it seems there is pink stuff being marketed and sold in the name of breast cancer awareness. There are pink lights, pink teddy bears, pink trucks, pink newspapers, pink M &M's, pink potato chip bags; you name it. If you can eat it, drink it, play with it, make something with it, drive it, wear it or even put your trash in it, you can probably find a pink version of it.

People seem almost giddy with all the pink and all the ribbons.

Breast cancer is now the shopping cancer.

Breast cancer is now also an accepted arena for sexually objectifying women and their body parts. This feels like two big wrongs to me and two wrongs do not make a right in this case either.

When did a women's cause like breast cancer awareness lose focus of feminism? Or when did feminism lose sight of breast cancer awareness?

When did it become alright to market, sell and wear sassy t-shirts depicting demeaning images or comments about breasts? What other disease has the afflicted body part(s) displayed on articles of clothing with silly, even degrading commentary?

Focusing on saving boobies, tatas or hooters instead of focusing on saving women's lives feels very wrong.

Has breast cancer awareness merely morphed into a big business?

Is breast cancer being used? Are women being used? I think they are.

Again, where is the feminism in the awareness?

Feminism is not a dirty word. Feminism is not something we only needed to worry about in 1920 when we wanted to vote. Feminism is not something we only needed in the 60's and 70's to gain equal opportunity in the work force.

We need feminism today just as much, maybe more. This October and beyond let's reignite the flame of feminism as it relates to breast cancer awareness. Let's start expecting, no demanding better.

Our health depends upon it. Our dignity depends upon it.

Our lives do too.

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