Since when is breast cancer sexy?
Apparently at least since the launch of rubber bracelets that are adorning the wrists of some high school kids with messages like “I ♥ Boobies!” “Save the Ta-Tas.” “Save 2nd Base.” “Project Boobies.” “Feel Your Boobies.” “Jingle Jugs.”
I find it’s always worth a standing ovation when teens take up for causes greater for themselves, but is the real message of breast cancer awareness being lost in an attempt at irreverence?
The “sexy breast cancer” movement was formed in an effort to bring a new and hip approach to younger people. Some groups say the bracelets and other sexy breast cancer efforts help promote the importance of breast self-exams for young woman, but as writer Peggy Orenstein points out, experts no longer recommend self-exams for anyone since they are neither effective at detecting cancer earlier nor is there any survivor benefit.
A federal judged in Pennsylvania ruled last week that two girls suspended from school for wearing the bracelets were denied their First Amendment rights. Which, of course, is a victory, but as Orenstein also points out, it was a victory for free speech, not for breast cancer.
Sure, promoting breast health can never hurt, but how much benefit is there really to these bracelets?
Young women should touch their breasts. Not out of fear but because they live in a world that continually encourages them to act sexy without understanding their sexuality, to care more about being desirable than about their own desires. Kittenish cancer campaigns reinforce that message, simultaneously pathologizing and fetishizing women’s breasts at the expense of the bodies, hearts and minds attached to them. In that way, they actually suppress discussion of real cancer, rendering its sufferers — those of us whom all this is supposed to be for — invisible.
I’m all for endless promotion of breast cancer and wearing a bracelet is better than nothing, especially if the price of it goes towards breast cancer research. But maybe instead of (or in addition to) wearing a bracelet — quite possibly for shock value to begin with — teens could surprise us all even more and get their hands dirty by volunteering for a cancer organization that directly helps those who have been affected by the terrible disease.
Do you think teens wearing the bracelets are silly or praiseworthy?