Stop Sexualizing Breast Cancer Awareness

With October comes the changing leaves, the sweet scent of pumpkin spice everything and the all too familiar pink ribbon. Breast Cancer Awareness month is difficult to miss; major sports teams represent their support by wearing pink armbands, companies use the color as an advertising technique, and you are bound to see at least one photo of a fundraiser on social media. The effectiveness of this cannot be understated. The rates of breast cancer have dropped and the money that campaigns raise each year have funded groundbreaking research.

A central aspect to awareness each year are campaigns like “Save The Boobies” or “Save Second Base.” These phrases are the front man of awareness, and are likely the reason that breast cancer is by far the most notable and recognized form of cancer. However, these campaigns work in a very specific way, carrying implications and framing the way we view breast cancer. Each year, I can’t help but reconsider what people are really saying when they advocate to ‘save second base.’

These campaigns are using comedy to capitalize on the societal value of the breast. The implication is that breasts are worth saving, not the people they are attached to. One of the main tactics of treating breast cancer is to destroy the breast tissue in order to save the person. Rallying to save the breast disregards the women they belong to and completely excludes men who are also living with the disease.

I understand the significance of the breast. I get it. You would have to be blind in this country to miss it. But by advocating for the ‘boobies,’ we’re pushing cancer patients from the frame.

According to the National Breast Cancer Foundation, 1 in 8 women in the United States will be diagnosed with Breast Cancer, and the American Cancer Society cites over 2,000 cases diagnosed in men each year. Breast Cancer patients are our mothers, grandmothers and friends, and one day could very likely be us. A person is not entitled to treatment because they have breasts.

This is not to say I’m ungrateful. As someone who lost her own father to cancer, I will rally for awareness until I am blue in the face.

But when you promote this idea, despite good intentions, you’re subliminally disregarding the struggles for which cancer patients around the world have lost their lives. Please, continue to show your support and raise awareness, but this year perhaps spend a little more time considering the implications.

—Rachel Larson, Staff Writer