Your breasts are not curing cancer

It’s breast cancer awareness month, and of course, you know what that means. Boobies!

The fact that breast cancer affects and threatens breasts has, over the years, lead to some obvious marketing ideas to generate interest and attention.

Everyone likes boobs, and sex sells, and every little bit of awareness helps, right? So let’s use boobs to raise awareness for breast cancer!

And so, every year, we see boob-centric breast cancer awareness campaigns like “Save the Boobs!” or the current semi-unofficial Twitter campaign that involves women changing their avatars into images of their cleavage, all in the name of a “good cause”.

Supporters of these campaigns feel that if just one person is saved from breast cancer by campaigns such as these, it makes them all worthwhile.

And if you don’t like it, chances are you’re probably just a prude, who is angry because you think men shouldn’t like or get to look at boobs.

The trouble is, it’s not that simple.

1. The value of raising awareness at this point is questionable

Raising awareness can be extremely important.

When people don’t know about a problem, or are misinformed about it, or when the problem can be solved through a different perspective, then campaigns designed to raise specifically the awareness that needs to be raised matter.

Unfortunately, changing your Twitter avatar to a picture of your cleavage doesn’t really raise awareness that needs to be raised.

The fact that cancer exists is not news to anyone. I would even argue that the fact women need to check their breasts for lumps regularly is not news to anyone.

What might be news, however, is the fact that children and men are at risk for getting breast cancer too, the fact that winning the fight against breast cancer might mean having to live without breasts for the rest of your life, and the fact that many breast cancer survivors are not only unimpressed but are actively upset by boob-centric breast cancer campaigns.

Pictures of perfect female cleavage do not raise awareness about any of this at all. All they do is continue to sexualise an extremely unsexy disease.

2. Boob-centric campaigns can be offensive, and even outright cruel

As many have pointed out, the problem with boob-centric breast cancer campaigns is that they place almost all the value on women’s breasts rather than their lives.

It’s not always possible to "save the boobs". Sometimes, the only way to save a woman’s life is to sacrifice her breasts.

A mastectomy is an extremely harrowing thing for any woman to go through, both physically and emotionally. Reconstructive surgery is not always an option. Even when it is, it is hardly a perfect solution.

Try to imagine the emotional trauma of losing your breasts. Try to imagine having to make the decision of whether or not you are going to put yourself through further surgery, knowing that nothing can be done to quite return your natural breasts to you.

This loss caused you emotional turmoil. You feel ugly, disfigured, and less like a woman. You had to make a sacrifice in order to save your life, and what you really don’t need is to be reminded that others consider their breasts to be some of the most important features a woman has.

Then imagine logging onto social networks to see breasts glorified even more than usual.

People praising and talking about boobs, insisting on focussing on calling for breasts to be “saved” as if that’s the real priority. Getting involved, not because they’re passionate about saving lives, but because they’re getting to ogle at boobs.

Healthy women, who have never had to deal with what you’re going through, whose breasts are perfectly intact, making pictures of their cleavages their profile pictures in the name of “solidarity”.

All around you, people admiring, obsessing over and flaunting the very thing that you have sacrificed in an attempt to save your life, while they’re expecting to be congratulated for it as if they’ve done something helpful in the fight against cancer.

Of course not every woman who goes through cancer will feel this way about these campaigns, but we know for a fact that many do. So why insist on carrying on with them?

3. There are other, better, more official ways to raise awareness.

If you still firmly believe in the value of raising awareness, you can add a pink ribbon to your avatar.

Pink ribbons are part of an official campaign, they do not perpetuate the myth that the most important thing at risk from breast cancer is female cleavage, and they show support without bombarding cancer survivors with potentially upsetting images.

At the end of the day, there’s nothing wrong with wanting to show off your boobs, and there’s nothing wrong with wanting to look at boobs, but there’s a lot wrong with trying to make out that this is all part of some noble cause.

Boob pics benefit people who want to post or look at boob pics, and that’s it. They’re not curing cancer, and it’s time to stop pretending that they are.

Follow Laura on Twitter or visit her blog.

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