The Problem with Breast Cancer Campaigns

This morning, I opened my email and saw this, sent courtesy of Hungry Boiler at Purdue:

Cup Size Matters

Who's best interests are being served by such campaigns?

Who’s best interests are being served by such campaigns?

From a feminist perspective, what’s the problem with such campaigns, despite what seem like good intentions (i.e., breast cancer research).

There’s a theme here, as with other “cutesy” campaigns that attempt to make breast cancer a crude joke (e.g., the pun on “cups” here).

For starters, a huge part of the problem with such campaigns is that breast cancer isn’t fundamentally about “saving boobs,” but about saving women’s lives. And what kind of message does this send to women about why they should get regular breast exams? The message here makes getting a breast exam into a frat boy joke, some sort of titillating exercise where a woman protects her “boobs” because she wouldn’t want to lose them (never mind her health or her life). But of course, for those who are diagnosed, breast cancer isn’t funny at all.

The other problem, of course, is that breast cancer can also be found outside of a woman’s breasts, for example, on the chest well or pressed against the ribcage. Perhaps most harmful of all is the fact that such campaigns – pushes for “creating awareness” that start with preventative tests that can be prohibitively expensive for many women without insurance – prevent us from looking for underlying causes, like environmental pollution, industrial agriculture, and a diet of increasingly process and genetically-modified foods – all of which contribute to rising rates of all cancers.

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