Breasts are everywhere this month! Pink is the new black. If people aren’t “saving the ta-tas” they are professing their devotion to breasts. People are shelling out big bucks buying up rubber wristbands and tee shirts that say “I ❤ Boobies!” Some schools have banned the wearing of these items. We ate pink Krispy Kremes the other day (“boob donuts,” as we called them–unfortunately, that didn’t scare the kids off of them, and I only got one!). Everywhere you look, there are pink ribbons, enigmatic FB updates that sound like a dirty-minded bridal shower game, and businesses donating part of their profits to breast cancer research.
I had a colleague a few years ago who was trying to give a speech to encourage employees to donate to breast cancer research, but instead of referring to the month as “Breast Cancer Awareness Month” he kept saying (to everyone’s amusement) “Breast Awareness Month.” The trend in awareness seems to be moving in the same direction he mistakenly prophesied. At least in my part of the United States, I’ve had breasts shoved in my face all month. It’s like lunch at Hooters! (I’ve never actually eaten at Hooters, but that’s what I imagine it’s like).
Preventing breast cancer is clearly a worthwhile charitable endeavor. One in eight women will suffer from it (just half the number who will suffer from domestic abuse, but that’s a month of a different color). So, does this recent campaign objectify women and trivialize this serious disease? Or is it ingenious at promoting support for the cause? I vote the latter, and here’s why:
- WIIFM. Face it, half the world has breasts, and the other half merely likes them. For a woman, breast cancer awareness is a reminder that she has a potential pair of ticking time bombs down the front of her shirt. For a change, men are being reminded of a reason they should care about preventing breast cancer that actually hits them where they live. Hey, even misogynists can appreciate this rationale.
- Universal Appeal. You can “heart” boobies as a man or a woman. Children “heart” them. As a universal method of infant sustenance, they appeal to people of all ages. Surely, there aren’t many people who do not “heart” boobies (and by extension, the campaign hopes, their owners).
- Sexy Factor. Cancer and its horrifying effects are about the least sexy thing a person can experience. Talking about disease, especially cancer, can be depressing and sobering, and that is the approach usually taken (someone somberly explaining the harrowing effects of this disease on a loved one and pleading for donations to prevent others from losing loved ones). That is certainly effective as well, but it has the disadvantage of being depressing and a tactic used by almost all charities. This new “sexy” approach appeals because of its novelty.
- Positivity. As we learned in Inception, a positive idea has more staying power than a negative one. A campaign with the word mastectomy inside a red circle with a line through it wouldn’t be nearly as effective as the “I Heart Boobies” campaign, which reminds us of health and sassiness, not the physical trauma that normally accompanies this disease if it goes unchecked.
- Humor. Using a childish word like “boobies” to talk about a scary debilitating disease is incongruous; it makes us laugh. That surprise factor is what makes us pay attention to the message. And awareness is about consciousness, being awakened to something we have previously ignored.
Despite my praise for the campaign’s effectiveness, I’m hopeful that Prostate Cancer Awareness doesn’t jump on the bandwagon.
So what do you think? Is the message effective? Is awareness enough? Are you more aware as a result of this campaign? Do you feel schools should ban these items for being too racy? Do you “heart” this campaign like I do? Discuss.