By Chelsey Sanchez
It was everywhere: on bracelets, t-shirts, YouTube advertisements, and even socks. October is Breast Cancer Awareness month, and no one could escape the offensive glare of the “I love boobies!” crusade.
Our default to raising awareness about breast cancer is to objectify breasts, and this says a lot about the world in which we live. None of what it says is something of which we should be proud. The “I love boobies!” mantra reveals how deeply ingrained misogyny is into the fabric of our society. Blindly accepting and repeating this mantra also reveals how easily a mental virus can spread. It continues to show us how little we value women as people and how, instead, we merely see them as objects (especially when our primary concern for breast cancer is about the potential absence of boobs, and less about the loss of life).
Unfortunately, this kind of sexism is not limited to only one month.
The fact remains that breast cancer is a well-known, tragic, and fatal disease that has afflicted thousands. About one out of every eight American women will develop breast cancer according to breastcancer.org. The American Cancer Society estimates that 40,000 women in the U.S. will die of breast cancer in the year 2014 alone. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention claims that breast cancer is the most common form of cancer among women.
And we have the audacity to boil this down to “I love boobies?”
There is a subtle flaw in this campaign for breast cancer awareness. We are used to seeing the media demoralize and sexualize women on a daily basis, and we have become so numbed to it that when we sexualize a disease revolving mostly around a woman, we do not even flinch.
“Sex sells,” Nancy Stordahl said in an online Huffington Post article, “it even sells breast cancer awareness.”
I do not doubt that the minds behind that phrase were full of good intentions. But, good intentions can just as easily reap bad consequences as fast as good ones. Like the infamous amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) ice bucket challenge, we must grow to demonstrate a willingness to learn and understand sicknesses, rather than mindlessly follow a social trend that does little to help its original cause. Awareness is a necessary step in the right direction, but we aren’t really going anywhere if we continuously take one step forward and two steps back.
“I love boobies” forgoes empathy and, instead, dehumanizes the woman’s battle and struggles. It strips breast cancer of its solemnity and takes away from the weight of the disease’s significance.