By Gayle Sulik
A blogger who goes by the name of The Accidental Amazon recently asked: “When did breast cancer awareness become more focused on our breasts than on cancer? Is it because our culture is so obsessed with breasts that it slides right past the C word?”
The Amazon’s questions are important — but they are inconvenient; blasphemous to the pink consumption machine, disruptive to the strong societal focus on pink entertainment, and anti-climactic for the feel-good festivities that have swallowed up popularized versions of breast cancer awareness and advocacy. Her questions are sobering — but sobriety is the last thing that a society drunk on pink wants. We’ve been binging on boobies campaigns and pink M&Ms for too long, and we’ve grown accustomed to the buzz.
After a federal judge in Pennsylvania declared that the “I ♥ Boobies!” bracelets worn in schools represented free speech protected under the 1st Amendment, an interesting debate broke out about language as well as the legitimacy and usefulness of the boobies campaigns. The judicial system, focusing on the former, upheld the tradition that people are free to express themselves unless what they communicate is lewd or vulgar. To them, “boobies” did not fit this category because they were worn in the context of breast cancer “awareness.”
Much of the ongoing debate, and I use this term loosely, has been about discerning whether the Pennsylvania judgment was sound. Is “boobies” an offensive word when used on bracelets or t-shirts in schools? For the most part the discussion has been a polarized virtual shouting match about prudishness versus progressiveness. The commentary quickly “slid right past the C word” to focus on the B word. Boobies is far more titillating to the public than CANCER.
And why not? Sex sells. Playboy, Hooters, Pin-Up girls, pink-up girls. What’s the difference? Women’s sexiness is for sale to the highest bidder, or for $4.99. We’re not too fussy. It’s all about “the girls” getting attention from the boys. Of course, the undercurrent remains that all this nonsense really is about breast cancer. Boys wrote on facebook pages and in editorial posts that they “LOVE BOOBIES” and – in the spirit of breast exam – they’d love to “feel your boobies for you.” Some snickered at anyone who expressed concern about the accuracy of the campaigns, the fact that they diverted money from more useful endeavors such as research, or that they focused on women’s breasts to the exclusion of women’s lives. “Get a life,” one boy said. “Don’t be so angry,” chimed another. Women and men alike chided those who felt differently. After all, who are we to rain on the happy boobies parades?
Peggy Orenstein has tried to place the issue in a larger context, that these “ubiquitous rubber bracelets” are part of a new trend called “ 0 Comments on Boobies, for fun & profit! as of 1/1/1900