11/30/2013 10:20 am ET

No, The New York Times Did Not Sexualize Breast Cancer


Earlier today, my colleague Amanda Marcotte wrote about the New York Times' decision to run an A1 above-the-fold photograph of an Israeli breast cancer survivor, her tank top lowered to expose a lumpectomy scar and part of her areola, to illustrate a story about breast cancer screening. Marcotte laid out three ways of looking at the image, but came down hard on the side of a single interpretation: “It's grossly inappropriate to sexualize breast cancer, which is a serious and deadly disease.”

How did the Times objectify this woman, according to Marcotte? Because she’s wearing a tank top. Because lowering her tank top to show part of her breast “is reminiscent of a strip tease shot.” Because a strip tease shot to illustrate a story on breast cancer is part of “the sexualization of discourse around breast cancer,” which “strongly implies that the main reason to keep women alive is as life support for their delicious breasts.” With this shot, Marcotte says, the Times “proved that they’re as dependent on WTF traffic as everyone else.”

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