The pornification of breast cancer

Saturday, October 10th, 2009 · 45 Comments »

I’m too pissed off about this to write a proper post, so this is gonna be kind of a connect-the-dots type thing. A few quotes and links, some pictures, possibly arrows.

Here we go:

If you’re a sentient adult female in this country, you probably know that “breast cancer awareness” is a pink sewer hole of foul commercialization. If you don’t know this (possibly because you’re new to sentience, or because you’ve somehow managed to get through life without ever coming within hurling distance of the Susan G. Komen Foundation), read The Artist Formerly Known As Twisty Faster for background:

As TAFKATF noted pithily in that last-linked post (emphasis mine):

My fucking problem is not that a few girls got a pink rose and a “mini-manicure,” or even that some well-meaning beautician thinks dipping cancer patients in paraffin is a good idea. My fucking problem is what these things represent: that breast cancer has been turned into a cult of überfemininity.

And now the next, inevitable stage in the evolution of the cult has arrived: pornification! Mais bien sûr. It’s the key component of modern American gender construction, the fabric of our lives, the thing without which none of us could function or dress ourselves in the morning or even know what sex we are. It’s our fucking North Star. Can’t make a cult of femininity without porn, man. Bricks without straw.

Well thank fucking god, the Good Ship Porn has docked.

As detailed in this horrifying post from some blog I’ve never heard of, “breast cancer awareness” is now basically just “breast awareness.” It’s an excuse for strip shows and porn sites and T-shirts that encourage men to look at women’s boobs instead of their faces. I suppose there’s a buck for cancer research somewhere at the bottom of that barrel, but jesus christ. What’s next, “Tricking for the Cure”?

You have to go read the whole post, but here are some of the ads and pictures:








I salute the author of the post (whoever she/he is — no byline is in evidence) for pulling together the exhibit, but I wonder at her/his weird optimism as to the location and velocity of this particular shit train. The mysterious author writes that “we can only hope this trend won’t go full-PETA, using overt sexuality to advance one cause at the expense of another.”

Knock me over with a Wonder bra, but I think that fucker has already gone full-PETA.

Filed under: Pornography · Tags:

45 Responses to “The pornification of breast cancer”

  1. Kookaburra says:

    Errrrgh. Every year this month never fails to send me into a frothing rage. Especially because I have shameful weakness for baby pink, so everyone and their dog buys me pink crap with little ribbons on them. ARGH.

    When I first heard about the “Save Second Base” type advertisements, I didn’t know have the vocabulary or grasp of the concept of patriarchy to even vocalize why I hated them. So I let myself be shouted down and accused of having no “sense of humor”. No more. I’ve been working my way through this blog’s (and iblamethepatriarchy’s) archives. I’m mad as hell, and I’m not staying silent any longer.

  2. Miranda says:

    Unfortunately, Mom died of Ovarian cancer, which isn’t nearly as sexy and doesn’t get the funding.

  3. janicen says:

    Thanks Violet. This is a really important post with great links. The trivialization and prettification of breast cancer has been nagging at me for years. We’re led to believe that it’s not a scourge on women, but an opportunity to join a fun club and wear pink swag. It’s a distraction to protect the cancer industrial complex as well as the corporations poluting our earth and making cancer the norm rather than the rarity it was 100 years ago.

  4. yttik says:

    Ahh yes, I hate the pinkafication that happens this time of year. It’s voyeuristic, pornographic, demeaning, and commercialized.

    At the grocery store at the moment we have full sized cardboard cutouts of the women employees with cartoon captions like “I do monthly breast exams.” It really disturbs me.

  5. Vera says:

    “prettification of breast cancer”

    Yes. Because the worst thing that can possibly happen to a woman is that she becomes un-pretty. Breast cancer must be more pretty so women stricken with it can be attractive while coping with things like radiation and chemotherapy, not to mention co-pays and insurance companies. If these cancer sufferers aren’t attractive, well then, the world just won’t love them as much.

  6. SarahG says:

    Don’t forget the “Save the ta-tas” bumper stickers. They’re all over the place in Virginia.

    This issue makes me incoherent with rage.

  7. tinfoil hattie says:

    Breast cancer is the pretty cancer! It’s pink! And pretty! And it’s pink and girly!

  8. Kiuku says:

    Why don’t they put pictures of breasts with babies feeding from them? Oh yea, the men would get upset that they don’t have breasts; just nipples. Breasts are for men, get it.

  9. Gayle says:

    The Hello Sailor one actually says it’s in support of breast cancer.

    This is way worse than anything PETA does. This is a save the boobs movement for MEN. And I don’t mean for men who get breast cancer.

    For all its icky, sexist advertising, Peta is trying to stop cruelty towards animals. The men sponsoring these websites and events are out to save their playthings. Its all about them.

  10. Bella Donna says:

    Also, breast cancer has to be pink.

    Because it’s girl cancer.

    Otherwise how would you know that it’s different from every other kind of cancer?

    After watching my grandfather linger and die from jaw cancer, the “sexyfication” of any kind of cancer is a complete anathema to me.

  11. Morgan Elizabeth says:

    Hey thanks for the link to StilettoRevolt- it’s a fledgling blog that’s just been around for about 6 months, and we appreciate the support. Women have to rally together and alert each other of these media messages, if we have any hope of prompting reform.

    Stay solid, and thanks for reading! :)

  12. Miranda says:

    “the “sexyfication” of any kind of cancer is a complete anathema to me.”

    It’s hard to sex up ovarian cancer too. That’s what got my Mom.

  13. Aspen says:

    I just noticed that on that mousepad the breasts are actually puffed out. So the dOOd using them can rest his hands in between. Lovely. So now do women have to put up with someone using this thing at the office? And if she reports it, she’s not just too sensitive, but also uncaring about the “cause”.

  14. Violet says:

    Morgan Elizabeth says:

    Hey thanks for the link to StilettoRevolt- it’s a fledgling blog that’s just been around for about 6 months, and we appreciate the support.

    Hello, Morgan Elizabeth! Are you the author of the piece? I looked and looked til my eyes fell out for a byline on that thing, but nada.

    Thanks very much for pulling together that post, and good luck with your blog!

  15. Ing says:

    Don’t forget this old hoax about a supposed link between fellatio and breast cancer reduction, which seems to get recycled every year, as I was reminded earlier this week.

  16. SarahG says:

    Violet, what is the Susan G. Komen Foundation? I’ve heard of it, of course, but I don’t really know anything about it. Is that who started all this, with those wretched pink ribbons?

  17. Violet says:

    I want to say that Komen is a vampire squid on the face of humanity, but that would be both cruel and derivative. I gotta get Taibbi out of my brain.

    Komen is the biggest player in the world of breast cancer “awareness.” They partner with corporations to sell pink awareness crap, and in the process raise millions of dollars every year which they use to partner with more corporations to sell more pink awareness crap. I don’t know how much of the money they raise actually goes to research, but I know that a hell of a lot of it doesn’t. A lot of it is just funneled back into the ever-growing “awareness” juggernaut.

    It’s a real charity and I’m not saying they’re intentionally evil or anything. Susan G. Komen, the namesake of the foundation, died of breast cancer, and her family started the organization as a genuine effort to fight the disease. They’re sincere. But they’re also the biggest reason that the whole breast cancer thing is now a pink Barbie princess palace.

  18. Morgan Elizabeth says:

    I do write the articles, and generally opt for anonymity on the site, but that may change. The portrayal of women in the media is often really detrimental to the self image of women in our culture. I think we owe it to ourselves to disempower these media giants, engage in discussion about the unhealthy messages, then forge our own perception of ourselves and of each other.

  19. Violet says:

    I do write the articles, and generally opt for anonymity on the site, but that may change.

    I completely understand, being a dead fictional character myself. Maybe you could create a doppelgänger for your byline.

    The blog looks really interesting. You’re off to a good start.

  20. Tanya Derbowka says:

    It is also domestic violence awareness month. For some reason this cause doesn’t get the attention that it deserves. It must be too difficult to sex that up.

  21. Sis says:

    Komen et al do not want to hear that the industries they support and who contribute mega bucks to Komen’s coffers also manufacture the products that give us breast cancer.

    Read all about it at Breast Cancer Action dot org (the bad girls of breast cancer). BCA is working to prevent breast cancer, not buttress the industry:

    And then read what Barbara Ehrenreich had to say about her breast cancer: Welcome to Cancerland

  22. Michele Braa-Heidner says:

    My former auto mechanic actually said to me as he looked at my breasts, drooling “do you need a breast exam”? suggesting this as payment for the work he did on my car. Needless to say, I never went back to him again! Scum sucking pig!!!!

  23. tinfoil hattie says:

    Well, Miranda, ovarian cancer is about icky girl parts that don’t do anything for men. Tits, now – that’s a cause worth getting behind.

    I visited a friend this past Tuesday and she died 2 days later, of breast cancer. Nothing actually pretty or pink about her last days.

    I imagine the same was true of your mom, and I’m sorry to hear you lost her.

  24. Sis says:

    I would just like to say that my tits are bigger than anyone’s but I don’t expose them. Thus, no one has ever made such comments to me. I don’t expose them because there’s enough shit in a woman’s life without inviting what you KNOW is gonna come if you do. This is different than blaming a woman; it’s saying, take some responsibility.

  25. Gayle says:

    Welcome to Cancerland is one of the few essays every woman really must read. In fact, I think I’m going to send out a link to it in honor of Breast Cancer Awareness month.

    Anyone care to join me?

  26. Bella Donna says:

    Sis: Are you fucking kidding me?

    I dress conservatively and I used to constantly get all kinds of crap from guys about my breasts.

    I gained some weight and they mostly stopped, except for the guys yelling “fatty” and making pig noises at me when I dare to walk around in public like some kind of uppity bitch.

    I had to quit track when I was 14 because I couldn’t practice in my neighborhood without 30-year-old guys trying to follow me home, yelling at me to “Just take it off Baywatch” I wore was sweats and a t-shirt, I wasn’t exactly exposed.

    Men will degrade women in public no matter what they are wearing.

    Women in Muslim countries can be gang-raped for leaving their house without a head-covering, or a man should they “take some responsibility” too?

  27. Sis says:

    I know what men will do.

    So do you, apparently.

  28. Kookaburra says:

    Sis, I’m really hoping that was sarcasm or parody. I have taken to wearing kameez almost exclusively in an effort to play down my chest and other feminine aspects. (Unfortunately, even t-shirts aren’t “non-gendered” on my figure).

    I still get approached, hooted at, propositioned. The first time I saw pictures of a double mastectomy as a young teen, I was actually jealous for a brief, fleeting instant.

  29. monchichipox says:

    MMmm all the women in my family are “blessed” with Dolly Parton tits and a three inch waist to help accentuate them.

    That whole pink crap shit annoys the hell out of me. Last year around the time of the walk for the cure thing I had a hissy fit at work. Which ia a bit unlike me. I kept being harrangued by by a woman coworker wanting me to sponser her walk. She wouldn’t stop until I flew off the handle yapping about how I give to the charities I want without anyone having to get blisters for my donation. Then went on a bit about how we shouldn’t have to pan handle for womens dieseases etc etc etc. It was only a gut feeling but after reading this stuff I guess I was right.

  30. Honora says:

    This discussion is so painful for me. My beautiful, healthy (thank God) 17 year old daughter is a DDD. Her female pediatrician actually told her at her annual checkup that she was unusually large and could consider breast reduction. My daughter was mortified and did not want to go back to the doctor. The next year at her annual checkup I told the pediatrician in front of my daughter that my daughter liked her body and that if the pediatrician had a problem with it that she should keep it to herself. The woman was taken aback and denied the comments. The problem is that I worry about my daughter.She is incredible, but I do think this is a ‘problem’ in our incredibly sexist world. I hate feeling this way, because she is so blessed, smart, fun to be around (even if you are not into breasts as objects), and healthy. We so screw up our wonderful daughters. Finished, thanks for listening to me, there are not many places where I feel free to discuss this issue, that troubles me.

  31. Violet says:

    I would just like to say that my tits are bigger than anyone’s but I don’t expose them. Thus, no one has ever made such comments to me.

    You’re lucky. You’re also full of it.

    Were you responding to Michele #22, implying that the mechanic wouldn’t have said that if she weren’t “exposing” herself? And how do you even know how she was dressed?

  32. Sis says:

    I think Michellw is a troll. I responded in kind. Mocking. You know?

  33. Violet says:

    Michele is not a troll.

  34. Bella Donna says:

    Ah, sorry for the snark.

    Kind of.

  35. Nessum says:

    As one of the unfortunate who never developed much more than a size AAA, I can assure you that men still fixate their eyes at (my) breast level!

    And they, even total strangers, still find it their duty to comment on what they (don’t) see! Mostly expressing offense, as if they’re entitled to more!

  36. gayle says:

    I hate it when good threads get ‘jacked.

  37. Northwest rain says:

    Coffee Cup software (web design junk) sent out emails — “Save the Boobies”.

    That email was in a bunch of eco-environmental emails — and I thought Boobies — were the BIRDS called Boobies.

    Then then jerks at Coffee Cup sent out apology emails — what a MCP ass hole company. Their software is crap as well.

    Thanks for this addressing this pink craze of pink ribbons.

  38. Northwest rain says:

    My reply got lot or eaten by the monster.

    Coffee Cup software sent out email — “Save the Boobies” — I thought it was from a conservation group out to save the birds called Boobies.

  39. Northwest rain says:

    My replies are being eating by the monster.

  40. Violet says:

    No, they were just getting caught in moderation. But I’m not at the computer 24/7 to check the queue.

  41. tinfoil hattie says:

    I think Michellw is a troll. I responded in kind. Mocking. You know?

    What in the name of heaven is “troll”-ish about reporting a disgusting comment some man made? You’re blaming Michelle, or “mocking” her, because you “think” she’s a troll? If she were a troll, would your blame-the-woman comment still be justified?

    I’m sorry for contributing to the threadjack, but simultaneously shaming women for their body parts and blaming them for male attention in the midst of all this “save the titties” crap is just too much to take.

  42. monchichipox says:

    When are we going to see well built men in baby blue thongs who have suffered from testicular cancer in a “Save the Nuts” campaign?

  43. Violet says:

    When are we going to see well built men in baby blue thongs who have suffered from testicular cancer in a “Save the Nuts” campaign?

    No, not men who have suffered from testicular cancer. None of these busty models are breast cancer survivors, I’m willing to bet 500 gazillion dollars. The Save the Nuts campaign should just feature well-endowed, well-built young men.

  44. Violet says:

    To the idiot twit whose comment I just squashed in the moderation queue: you flunked the stick test.

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