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Sep 6, 2010

Sexualised breast cancer campaign sending the wrong message

Breast cancer awareness is a worthy and honorable goal ... but we should not give carte blanch to sexist rhetoric, even if well-intended, writes Melinda Tankard Reist, a Canberra author and blogger.


“Help The Hooters”, “Save The Jugs”, “Don’t Let Cancer Steal Second Base”, “Cop a Feel”, “Save The Tattas”, “Save The Boobies”, “Save The Headlights”: these are just some of the slogans which have been used to promote breast cancer awareness and fundraising around the world.

There’s a new slogan appearing on twitter at the moment. It’s “Feel Them Up Friday” (#feelthemupFriday).

EllyMc (@Ellymc) took issue with this slogan, believing it sexualised breast cancer awareness. She expressed her thoughts in a piece titled “On Public Health, Prudes and Hashtags“,  which she then circulated through twitter last Thursday. I agreed with her, so re-tweeted another tweet about it by @daiskmeliadorn.

Well, didn’t that cause a flurry of responses? I was making a big deal out of nothing, picking a fight,  it was just a “fun hashtag”.  I was even accused of saying women touching their own breasts was “sexual”.

Now, I really don’t mind anyone disagreeing with my arguments. I’m kind of used to that. But I’d prefer an argument about what I said, not about what I didn’t say.

I have no issue at all with women touching their breasts and support self-examination. I’ve done it myself and found something suspicious, which was checked out (there’s some family history of the disease, so I try to be vigilant). Fortunately, it wasn’t cause for concern.

But I do have an issue with the kind of language used in these campaigns because it emphasises the sexual desirability of breasts, especially as objects for male sexual gratification — and not a woman’s health and wellbeing.  “Feel Them Up” is associated with the sexual behaviour of some men. The phrase is linked with and suggestive of adolescent males groping girls. (You would never hear the sentence “She felt him up in the back of the car”).


Even if the phrase is appropriated, and it is women doing the “feeling”, these connotations remain. The language contributes to the broader cultural s-xualisation of the br-ast regardless of whatever arguments are employed to justify its use. Using these words in mainstream breast cancer awarenss campaigns normalises them and makes them OK — just a bit of “fun”.  This wider commodified sexualisation of the breasts contributes to many negative outcomes, not least mixed feelings about breast feeding. The sexification of the breast is mentioned in this journal article. (Thanks Dr Samantha Thomas for directing me to it. Samantha also has a piece on problematic breast cancer promotion on her blog which is worth reading ).

Many of the slogans used in breast awareness campaigns are about saving boobies/hooters/jugs. But many breast cancer survivors lose their breasts. What do these campaigns say about them? They survived, their breasts did not. Perhaps this is why survivors who have had mastectomies don’t feature much in breast cancer advertising — like this public service announcement for “Saving The Boobies” (note also the apparent jealousy of the smaller-breasted women towards the woman with the larger breasts who is attracting all the attention).

And don’t tell me this nude modelling site — billed as a “Breast appreciation gallery” —  is really about “Helping defeat breast cancer”. The fundraising angle can be used as a nice cover for displaying women’s n-ked bodies — their  “assets” as described here — all in the name of  a “great cause”.

“Nude models wanted. Share your beauty with us and help Q’BellaT with a great cause… If you’re outgoing, fun, daring, over 18, female; and you think your assets belong here…then…contact us with your information. Tell your friends to join us!!!”

Is it any wonder that the less “sexy” cancer causes find it more of a struggle to attract funding and donations?

“The sexism of breast cancer awareness normalises the view that women are sexual objects rather than subjects with agency and dignity”.

Here’s a great article that expresses my thoughts on this. It’s by Beth Mendenhall, a senior in political science and philosophy at Kansas State College, published in February.

Without the appropriate context, one might interpret slogans such as “I < 3 boobs,” “Help the Hooters” and “Save the Jugs” as lubricious frat-boy appeals to more cleavage shots in the next American Pie movie.

In reality, these slogans and others like them are the new vanguard in breest cancer awareness campaigns. Despite its good intentions, the focus on saving breasts because they are objects of sexual desire is an insidious reinforcement of sexist norms and explicitly excludes most br-ast cancer survivors from the campaign.

The new culture of br-ast cancer awareness can be characterised by two features: appeals to saving the breasts, rather than the women, and slogans couched in vernacular terms such as “boobs” and “hooters”. These campaigns treat women’s bodies as objects whose central purpose is the sexual gratification of the male libido.


See the wave of “Don’t Let Cancer Steal Second Base” T-shirts. When a campaign to raise awareness and funds to fight a deadly disease appeals to the potential loss of a s-xual object, rather than the potential loss of a human life, it sends a powerful message about what our society values. The sexism of breast cancer awareness normalises the view that women are sexual objects rather than subjects with agency and dignity.

The impacts of sexism aren’t limited to discomfort and irritation. Thousands of violent acts against women, including battery, rape and murder, are committed because the perpetrator views his victim as nothing more than an object created for his pleasure.

Anxiety and loss of confidence, eating disorders and even suicide are symptoms of women viewing themselves as imperfect if their bodies don’t reflect the perceived norm. If we valued women as subjects with agency, rather than passive objects with “boobs” attached, many of these social ills would be greatly reduced.

It’s undeniable that breast cancer awareness campaigns have been effective — despite being less fatal than other types of cancer, breast cancer receives, by far, the most funding. It works because it reflects and reinforces sexist culture, forcing women to assume the position of passive objects of male desire to be considered effective activists. This pragmatist blackmail ignores the violence and self-deprecation women experience as a result of the norms it reifies. Slogans like “We’ll Go a Long Way for a Good Rack” imply that a woman with less-than-optimal breasts doesn’t deserve as much effort.

One of the most ironic effects of boob-centric breast cancer campaigns is their complete exclusion of breast cancer survivors who have had mastectomies. The new culture of breast cancer awareness is perversely inhospitable to those it ought to support by emphasising the link between female sexuality and healthy breasts.

This might explain awareness T-shirts with mock street signs saying “Pardon Our Appearance While We are Under Reconstruction”. A recent manifestation of this exclusion was the Facebook.com bra-color-in-status trend, which explicitly excluded survivors with mastectomies and was a painful reminder of their deviance from social norms of sexuality.

Br-ast cancer awareness is a worthy and honorable goal, but off and especially on-campus campaigns should critically examine the messages they send and refuse complicity with a pervasive culture of sexism. We should not give carte blanch to sexist rhetoric, even if well-intended. When we place women’s value in the maintenance of their sexualised body parts, rather than their subjectivity, we license insidious forms of physical, structural and mental violence.

Melinda Tankard Reist is a Canberra author, speaker, commentator, blogger and advocate for women and girls. This article first appeared on her blog.



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31 thoughts on “Sexualised breast cancer campaign sending the wrong message

  1. Jenny Morris

    Bravo, Melinda!

  2. Liz45

    Thanks Melinda for exposing this reality – I had no idea! I find it repugnant, for all the reasons that you’ve mentioned. I’ve known at least 5 women who’ve died from breast cancer – all of them lost at least one breast. As a feminist and interested in a just and equal society, I find this sexualisation of breast cancer offensive. I’ll certainly be more aware in future. I’m involved with a women’s health centre, and shall raise this at my earliest opportunity. Thank you for speaking out!

  3. Meski

    As a guy, I think some (most?) of the slogans are fairly tasteless.

  4. Cath

    My mother and 2 aunties had breast cancer so I’m a candidate as well and clearly the marketers behind this campaign have ZERO consideration for how vulnerable you are.

    A woman’s breasts have some key functions, and no one is denying that her sexuality is a big part of those. But when it comes to having your life threatened, saving these should not be the priority. If we continue to make the saving of the breast, as opposed to the saving of the life the priority we will lose many more women to cancer.

    There are enough issues with reconstructive surgery to not make that a viable option for everyone either.

    So – thank you Melinda for presenting these campaigns for what they are – cruel, repugnant and non-creative.

  5. Tom

    Melinda – In a perfect world I’d have no agument. Trouble is, the world in which we live is far from perfect and ‘the message’ has to get out. My mother died of brea$t cancer 10 years ago. Remembering her as a feminist I wonder what she would have made of the notion of the s_xualisation of that which was killing her.
    I agree with Meski that the slogans are pretty tasteless but if in an imperfect world they get the attention, get the tins rattling and advance a possible cure, should we be anything other than disappointed that this is what it’s come to?

  6. Scott

    Isn’t this just niche marketing? “Save the Boobies” was created by a Canadian not for profit called “Rethink Breast Cancer” (who raised about 1.4 million last year for Breast Cancer programs). They deliberately target younger women (as breast cancer is the leading cause of cancer for women between 18 and 40, roughly 5% of all breast cancer sufferers) and believe they get greater penetration by making their marketing “sexy” to appeal to this demographic. Another aim of the campaign is to take the “scariness” out of breast cancer, to normalise it and encourage women to talk about it, both to each other and their partners. The head of Rethink, MJ DeCoteau lost her mother to breast cancer so I don’t think her aim was to objectify anyone.
    Are women objectified by the campaign? I don’t believe so, but it’s up to each individual to decide for themselves. Even if a few people are offended, there is no reason to stop this marketing. I have no doubt this strategy will raise awareness among the young (we are talking about it after all) and increase fund raising (if only through Tshirt sales). The “Save the Ta-ta’s” T-shirt company raised $340,000 US for breast cancer research over the last 6 years. Can only be a good thing.

  7. Emma

    I agree with this article, and have a big problem with this sort of campaigning. I don’t think the sexual objectification of women is ever a good thing, but in this context it’s particularly horrible. There are other non-objectionable ways to increase awareness for breast cancer, or to fundraise to cancer research.

    The assumption that an issue, even cancer, needs to be sexualised in order to grab the attention of young people is patronising. It’s also lazy and as Cath says, lacks creativity.

  8. Scott

    @Emma. You might say that it’s patronising, but the reason why marketers use sexy or shock advertising when targeting the young is because it’s effective. Lots of academic research out there that says that shock advertising works better than fear focused or informational advertising when dealing with the under 30’s. Check out one such paper below.

  9. Eric Brodrick

    I get the impression here that Melinda is hijacking a cause to spread her own agenda. Such “party line” phrases as “treat women’s bodies as objects whose central purpose is the sexual gratification of the male libido”, “The sexism of breast cancer awareness normalises the view that women are sexual objects rather than subjects with agency and dignity”, “they are objects of sexual desire is an insidious reinforcement of sexist norms” and “it emphasises the sexual desirability of breasts, especially as objects for male sexual gratification” have even less to do with breast cancer detection than the corny slogans she is protesting about. She writes as if women are totally passive creatures with no sexuality or desire of their own (providing its by someone she desires, does any woman mind being “felt up”) and then goes on to link these slogans to assault, rape and murder which is stretching the point a bit far.

    I could write an entire essay in reply to this article, but when it comes to the crunch, if one woman’s life is saved by an awareness campaign. Does it really matter how cheesy or politically incorrect the slogan is ?

  10. Gibbot

    I respect your opinion on this issue, Melinda, and as both a fan and a friend of @ellymc, the last thing I wish to do is incur her considerable and well documented wrath* by appearing antagonistic. I can’t help but feel however, that your position actually does more harm to the cause of cancer awareness than the real or perceived sexualisation of it.

    I was one of many who ‘pinked up’ their avatar for #feelthemupfriday. Though I concede I had reservations about the choice of hashtag as I have more than one friend who has suffered sexual assault, the whole campaign was spontaneous, heartfelt and utterly without malice. The lady who brought it into being had no thought of objectifying women. She wasn’t even concerned with raising donations (although I believe many happened as a result), her goal was merely to raise awareness, and I have to seriously question how that can be construed as a bad thing.

    What I got out of #feelthemupfriday is that if everybody plays an active part, detection rates increase and less women die or lose breasts. Of course women aren’t their breasts, but tell men their partner could lose their breasts if cancer is not detected early and they take a personal interest.

    The best advice I could imagine giving loving partners (the kind Fred Nile approves of, of course – not the ones he ‘researches’ on the taxpayers’ dime,) is to shower together and get to know your partner’s body intimately. If that leads to a little more intimacy in your relationship then all the better. Why take the sexuality out of an act that can save lives? Why take the fun out of anything if you don’t have to?

    More men die every year of prostate cancer than women die of breast cancer. The main reason is not funding, although that’s sadly lacking in comparison to breast cancer. It’s discussion. It’s the fact that men don’t go to the doctor with their health concerns because that’s not what we do. We don’t talk about it, and society is just fine with that.

    I’m more than happy to feel my partner’s breasts for lumps, but neither me or my partner is comfortable with the idea of sticking a finger up my arse to check my prostate, though when I think about it, I would much prefer it to be my partner than a male doctor I may or may not know.

    Breast examination happens more regularly than prostate examination because it’s been made acceptable through public discourse. I’m all for it. What we now need is #manicuremonday and #twinstuesday. We need to make cancer detection a part of our daily lives, male and female.

    There’s no ‘brown ribbon day’, and until you’re willing to stick a manicured finger up my arse, I don’t see how you have a right to complain about the fact that men are getting on board the breast cancer cause. Less women are dying. Those that lose breasts are better loved and supported. Nobody with a brain thinks women are their breasts, but us blokes are getting involved. What are you doing for us?

    *This is a total lie. Elly has not a wrathful bone in her body. She scarcely has a cranky muscle, and her derma is Christ-like. I really live in fear that she’ll stop baking for me.

  11. zut alors

    A very good article, Melinda. I was unaware of several things you mentioned.

    @ Eric Brodrick

    You say the slogans may be regarded by some as “cheesy or politically incorrect”. I’d use stronger language ie: vulgar, crass, offensive.

  12. Liz45

    @SCOTT and others of like mind. What you’re inferring, is that young women or all women are so damned stupid that they’ll only respond to this sort of advertising? I disagree. The biggest impact re the awareness of young people contracting breast cancer in this country in recent times, was after Kylie Minogue announced, that she’d just been diagnosed with this disease. The number of younger women who participated in the many forms of medical examinations of their breasts took place without any sexist, gimmicky and I’d further assert, grotty and gross promotion/s? Women are not stupid at any age. When there’s an educational program or other community awareness program, or in the case of Kylie, a well known identity who bravely ‘goes public’, the positive outcomes outweigh any of the sexist bs described here! I applaud every time I see her looking so well – let’s hope it continues!

    The sad passing of Jane McGrath and before her Belinda Emmitt, also showed, that when there’s a good educational program, or again in both these instances, young women who ‘go public’, the positive ramifications far outweigh anything that these offensive ‘girly’ T-shirts do. The McGrath Foundation grows every year. The numbers of specialised breast cancer nurses has gone from ten or so to the tens now – all around the country. Whether it’s the 3rd day of the Sydney Cricket Test, or Jane’s interviews and generosity of spirit with other people, the results have been outstanding. We loved her for her courage and pure lust for life! Those women who are afflicted are only dealt with in a respectful, compassionate and dignified manner – proof positive of how productive real education can be! There’s no need for the grot!

    There’s more to being a woman than our breasts. It’s interesting, that even in the small sample here, it’s men who think this type of campaign, that denigrates women and diminishes the ‘whole’ of us is OK. Women who are either experiencing this awful disease, and other women who know how we’re devalued, or only valued by our attractiveness are repulsed by this sort of sordid bs!

  13. Liz45

    PS – @GIBBOTT – I’m saddened by the numbers of men who are suffering from prostate cancer.

    Whether it’s support groups or media publicity or???for breast cancer awareness, or rape crisis centres or refuges for women who are bashed in their homes, the reason/s why they exist, is due to the fact, that women got out there and did it! We wrote the submissions for govt funding, or in the case of the McGrath Foundaation, one couple started a campaign; or women who’ve survived the disease started up a rowing team, or did a walk, or shaved their heads or ???Men moan and whinge about the publicity of these issues and the lack of them for men, but won’t get off their bums and do the hard yakka? Why don’t you get some of your mates together and start a campaign? As for invasive and embarrassing medical examinations – have a baby and see how many times you have invasive examinations? Suffer from anything from cystitis, painful periods or persistent bleeding or??? and see how many invasive examinations we have? Breast, ovarian or vaginal cancers?Truly? Start an awareness campaign/support group tomorrow!

    When I was a worker suffering from a preventable workplace injury, that 27 yrs later I still have to take strong pain medication for, I was so appalled at the way I was treated; how ignorant I was, that I started a support group that went to 2 – no money, and on a centrelink payment. Just do it!

  14. Mack the Knife

    I can appreciate that anyone who works at the sharp end of domestic violence picks up a jaded and generalised poor view of men. These type of offenders are motivated into violence by more issues than just a woman’s boobies.

    In the real non politically correct world of girl meets boy, the women seem to objectify their own breasts to create the arousal or interested response from men.

    This is reflected by the ‘because you’re worth it’ parallel industries of women’s beauty products, magazines and products such as push up bras and exposed lacy undergarments that a woman deliberately uses to emphasise her chest.

    In other words these women, particularly in the younger age groups like to feel admired for their attractiveness and the marketing campaign is designed to take advantage of that to gain the outcome that highlighting through the use of words such as boobies etc means more breast examination and lower cancer rates.

    Although not politically correct either, it would probably also help if men were encouraged to learn how to feel for anomalies in their partner’s breasts to further aid the campaigns.

    The generalising evil, lustful anti men rhetoric is standard anachronistic jargon from feminist men haters and denigrates men and diminishes the ‘whole’ of us.

  15. Emma

    I think the “sex sells” mantra that advertising people peddle out it a self-perpetuating myth. Sex doesn’t and never has sold to me. Shock advertising is not the same as using sex to sell. Who is shocked by sex in marketing these days? Being disappointed and disgusted is not the same as being shocked.

    Mack the Knife, in response to your last line, calling feminists ‘man-haters’ is actually an anachronism. You’ll find that the vast majority of us do not hate, or even dislike men. What Melinda is arguing against is not men, but social structures and marketing campaigns that reduce women to sexual objects.

  16. Scott

    @LIZ45 – That is not what i’m implying at all. I think you forget a lot of this stuff is psychological. It is innately human behaviour. Has nothing to do with intelligence or susceptibility. It’s operating at an instinctual level. I also think you don’t realise how special and successful a charity the McGrath Fundation is. An organisation like that only comes around once in a few decades and it basically sells itself. It was a brand almost from the start (due to the high profile of the McGrath’s and the talent they were able to attract to the board). You can’t just rely on that happening in every country in the world.

    @Emma – Read this study – http://comp.uark.edu/~jwicks/dox/SexAdvRes.pdf

    A few arguments for your point of view (i.e The distraction hypothesis), but a few more for mine (that sexual advertising is effective, even for cause related purposes)

    If you have some more research that supports your view, I would love to see it.

  17. Liz45

    @MACK THE KNIFE – The use of violence towards women, whether it’s domestic violence or sexual abuse/assaults has nothing to do with sex – it’s to do with power and control. So let’s clear that up!

    The word ‘feminist’ describes people who strive for justice and equality for women. People like you who use it as though its some mad radical, irrational, illogical, man hating, bra burning woman is just a nonsense. You’re just showing your ignorance on this issue.

    The fact is, that as intelligent beings, women of all ages do not need the lowest common denominator in order to pay attention. There is no need for smut or grotty advertising. That says, this is the only way that you will take notice to save your life – it’s an insult!

    The reason why women like me and some who’ve posted here get really frustrated and angry, is due to the sexist and patriarchal behaviours of too many – usually men!

    The reason why women wear low cut clothes etc is another topic altogether. We can discuss that another time. However, there are many individuals and organisations who are most concerned with the sexualisation of children for example, in order to sell clothes. The ads that are described in this article are demeaning the intelligence of women. I’ve already pointed to the response to Kylie Minogue for example, to illustrate , that women of all ages will respond to an awareness program which doesn’t require women’s bodies being sexualised in order to ‘sell’ the message! Jane McGrath didn’t use sex to sell her message. On the contrary, she generously told her story which included her loving relationship with her husband; the fact that she went on and had 2 babies who she breast fed, after her mastectomy. She probably helped more young women than any sleazy sex add or sexy slogan on a T-shirt! The love and affection of many people all over this country is manifested in the success of the McGrath Foundation before and after her death. No smut required!

    I am not a ‘man hater’ either. I have 3 adult sons who I love dearly; I also have grandsons. I hate many of the attitudes and behaviours of TOO MANY men, and I also intensely dislike those, either male or female people who make excuses or try to justify those attitudes and behaviours.

  18. Liz45

    @SCOTT – The McGrath Foundation was and is successful because of the people involved and the message. It has grown each year. The point I made, was that it’s not necessary to use smut and grot to sell a serious health message. Kylie Minogue contributed a huge amount to the education of young women to the important reality, that young women are not immune from breast cancer. Belinda Emmitt was the same – she was only in her 20’s? Smart people in the industry don’t need grot to sell a message. It’s not good enough to say, ‘this is the way life is’? Millions of women like me are trying to remove that old cliche and the negative attitudes and behaviours that follow it!

    Sadly, there are ‘Jane McGraths’ around the world. With the right advertising network and somebody who bothers to get involved in one of the many support groups around the world, that relate to breast cancer, there are alternatives.

    It wasn’t until the 1980’s where men could be charged with raping their wives. Up until that time, it was deemed by ‘community standards’ that a man could almost do as he wished with and to his wife. The Law agrees with those people, mostly women who spent many years advocating on behalf of abused women. Only this year have Australia’s Attorneys General decided, that there’d be a special body set up to investigate past and future homicides of women, in order to peruse those incidents and see if those crimes could’ve been prevented. I’ve been to a seminar about this only a few months ago. You must acknowledge, that there are now strong laws protecting women from abuse and discrimination. Saying that it’s “innately human behaviour” is no longer acceptable – it most definitely is not, and those who practice them can be called to account – legally! Instead of people taking the easy way, that involves showing a lack of respect for all persons, people are now told, that behaviour like that is neither legally permissable nor is it in keeping with current attitudes.

    Incidently, I also object to the grotty and ‘sexy’ messages on infant T-shirts!

  19. lauralady

    Whilst I appreciate where you are coming from the truth is these ‘sexualised slogans’ sell and get attention. The slogans you are referring to I believe are mainly aimed at the younger generation, and it takes slogans like these to grab younger peoples’ attention. Quite frankly there’s no room for being prudish in a battle as big as the one against breast cancer. These campaigns clearly work or they wouldn’t be out there – and have reached thousands of people that would otherwise be clueless and uninterested.

  20. Liz45

    @LAURALADY – Are you referring to the points that I’ve made? There is no excuse for being sexist, and using sex to either sell kids clothes, or to use women and their bodies is not on. Are you really implying, that there’s nobody in the advertising industry that doesn’t have the talent, imagination or uniqueness to think up something devoid of grottiness to make people aware? It’s not a case of being a prude, which I’m not, it’s laziness! We have laws in this country about using sex, race etc in a demeaning manner.

    Just as well the advertising industry isn’t asked to create awareness re prostate or bowel cancer – the mind boggles! Women are not stupid. We don’t need the lowest common denominator to catch our attention. What about raising the awareness from the perspective from a young mother leaving her children, for example? Or men losing the loves of their lives?

    People rightly complain about the clothes industry encouraging women to look anorexic to sell clothes for example. Laws have either been made or are going to be, re the weight of models – no ‘stick’ figures will be encouraged, or in fact, allowed! Good thing too! Just one example of how we’ve moved on from a profit market to a health market? There are some pretty yukky T-shirts around for kids, toddlers even – the mind boggles over the type of person who’d buy these for a 2 yr old???
    Kylie Minogue did more good for the cause of making young women aware, than a grotty T-shirt could! Breast screening places were inundated with young women wanting to make appointments!

  21. SavingBoobs

    I noticed you commented on Melinda’s post on September 6th 2010 thanking her for highlighting this to you.

    As you are expressing such strong views based on this article alone, I feel it necessary to advise you that Melinda’s post is a document of her observations and opinions.

    There are so many organisations that could give you some facts surrounding this subject so you can make a fair judgement. It may be worth you doing some research into how and why these slogans are chosen, who they are aimed at and more importantly how successful they are. I appreciate that since 6th September and seeing the volume of posts above, you’ve not had chance to do this.

    I feel that the subject of breast cancer slogans and inappropriate children’s clothing are being crossed over here and are separate subjects. You can’t make judgement that one supports the other based on this article, especially as Melinda has used several organisations as an example. I can categorically tell you that this assumption is not a fact.

    I must point out that there are male cancer organisations out there that use the bold and not-for-the-prudes-among-us statements/logo/mascots too. Something else you could perhaps look into before commenting further.

    A lot of the slogans used by Melinda are taken from charities or organisations targeting young people. Showing the loss of a wife/husband or a mother/father is not suitable for this market (please remember men can get breast cancer too).
    These slogans are chosen for a number of reasons. One of which, as Lauralady points out, catching the attention of younger people is difficult. Not only are these slogans doing this but also it’s making a very serious subject more comfortable and easy to talk about. I must also point out that by young people we’re referring people in their mid to late teens not small children.

    As I am sure most of you are aware “kid these days” are not as they were 50 years ago. The language they use, the mentalities they have and the world that they are subjected to is so different to then. The way in which we approach them has to develop with the times. We have to take this into consideration and relate to them, not talk at them. Young people are always being talked at and told what’s best. The message isn’t going to get very far if the approach in the same manor.

    Women and men aren’t afraid to talk about their private parts anymore.
    As such, I can guarantee that if I walk into a room of 20 teenagers and ask them if they “feel their boobs”, it’s taken more seriously than saying do they “examine their breasts”. The only difference between those two statements is language. They both say the same thing. Why do you perceive it otherwise?

    Some of these organisations used as an example in this article are created and supported by people who have had or still have breast cancer. Fact. They are targeting the market as they would like to have been targeted themselves and how they feel they would react to this approach. It is not strictly based on how advertising agencies say they should approach them. And to assume they are not “afflicted” by this disease is incorrect.

    I don’t think feminism comes in to it. I certainly don’t feel stupid or less of woman being approached by these people. And I dislike the view that I should. I can also see that they are simply trying to raise awareness to a market not targeted by national healthcare currently, routine breast screening doesn’t begin until the age of 50 (UK).

    If an organisation creates a slogan with no intention of it being of a sexual nature but a very small number of you perceive it to be that way. Is that their problem or yours?

  22. Liz45

    @SAVINGBOOBS – “As I am sure most of you are aware “kid these days” are not as they were 50 years ago. The language they use, the mentalities they have and the world that they are subjected to is so different to then. The way in which we approach them has to develop with the times. We have to take this into consideration and relate to them, not talk at them. Young people are always being talked at and told what’s best. The message isn’t going to get very far if the approach in the same manor.”
    No, that’s true, children aren’t what they used to be 50 yrs ago, and in some ways, that’s sad. Also, 50 yrs ago, there weren’t Anti-Discrimination or Anti-Racism Laws; men were allowed to rape their wives without fear of being charged with a serious offence; child slave labour was condoned in more countries, and children being sold for sexual gratification was perhaps not as large a problem as it is now. Sexual harassment was more in evidence but was not a crime – there was no person employed as a Sex Discrimination Co-ordinator, and it was unthinkable, that a woman would sue her employer/s for $37 million for negligence pertaining to sexual harassment in the work place.

    Just when the Laws in NSW and Australia are tightening and strengthening the protection of women and kids, this type of advertising comes into the situation. IF this type of advertising re a serious and potentially terminal condition, of both women AND men(where does this type of advertising includemen?) is the only type that is ‘catchy’ it doesn’t say much for the intelligence or sense of imagination of people in advertising.

    I shouldn’t have to point out, that there’s more to breasts than the pleasure gained by men? I still maintain that these sorts of phrases are sexist and grotty! Not necessary at all. Why not push forward self examination, doctors visits, and while they are there, they could also have a pap smear, if they’re sexually active. In fact, it could be a good opportunity for some common sense sex and general health care chats with a doctor or nurse practitioner. I understand, that young women are loathe to present for pap smears also – and young women can also be struck down with cervical and ovarian cancers.

    As a woman who’s lived through past years of horrific discrimination, around this country, indeed around the world; who’s worked very hard with other women in my area for a women’s centre, and then a women’s health centre, of which I’m proud to be a board member, I take great exception to what I perceive to be a backward step to overcome sexism, prejudice and violence towards women and girls. We’ve had many campaigns for the betterment of women’s health, and have not had to resort to campaigns that depict womens breasts in this negative and grotty manner. It’s these type of attitudes that help formulate and reimpose the sexist stereotyping of women’s breasts and women’s bodies in general. We aren’t on this planet for the pleasure and gratification of and for men. A more productive message would be to promote healthy human relationships, and to encourage the loving care and concern of all who persons of all relationships, who love women in this age group. What about women who are gay? I’m sure they take exception to this stereotypical form of ignoring their existence?

    Several years ago, I had a scare re breast cancer, which turned out OK I’m pleased to say. I’ve also lost at least 5 women family/friends through this disease, and I have 3 young grand-daughters!

  23. Tom

    @Liz45 – I say to you ‘get over it gran’. While I don’t think anyone could actually sincerely disagree with the point you make, having an intellectual gab-fest which aims to convince people that ‘it shouldn’t have to be this way’ misses the point of fact that ‘this is the way it is’. Out time, our moral compass, our cherished memories of an environment where it was not necessary to compromise on taste or decency are long long passed. This is how they do it these days, I don’t like it and would rather there was a better way but understand that irrespective of the fact you and I don’t like the shape or form of the messenger, the last thing we need to even contemplate doing is shooting him/her.

    On common sense, it has and never will be common I fear.

  24. Liz45

    @TOM -Get over it yourself! You forget, that it was a woman who wrote this article, and I suggest, a woman younger than myself! As a MALE there are obviously many of lifes’ circumstances that you are not even aware of.

    A good test I use as to whether something is sexist or ageist, is to substitute or accentuate a person’s race and see how that sounds? What if the ads said, ‘black boobies’ or ‘abo boobies’ or some other such names, could you see that that would be racist, at least sounds tacky or grotty? Why has it changed? What if the same mindset was involved in warning young men of testicular cancer? Use some grotty references to ‘bouncing balls’ perhaps? Be careful of the ‘family jewels’? How’d that sound? Encourage women to ‘play with the fiddly bits'(to feel for lumps?)?

    I’m just making the valid point, that just because IT IS doesn’t make it right! There are many things THAT ARE, such as today, another police officer was murdered? Do we just say, ‘that’s the way it sometimes is’? Or, ‘that’s life’? No, of course we don’t! We treat it with seriousness and condemnation, even though, police officers are shot around the world on a daily basis? Do we think racism is OK? Child slave labour? Young people being forced to participate in ‘armies’? No, of course not! That’s not the behaviour of a civilized world that treats human beings with respect!

    I don’t like it and would rather there was a better way.

    Exactly – and that’s exactly what I’ve done – said I don’t like it, and added, that there has to be “a better way”? So did Melinda, and apparently, EllyMc, and probably lots of other women – of many ages I suggest!

    Oh yes, and you’re ageist – SONNY?

  25. Tom

    @Liz45 – in no particular order:

    “Sonny” at 51 I take that as a compliment!

    As I said earlier in this blog, my mother died of breast cancer, I don’t buy the ‘if you are not a woman you don’t understand’ line.

    I believe that while the uber feminist movement intellectualises the headline question of this blog, countless millions of people will be missed by the ‘this is a strictly serious educational appeal to you charity and good sense’ media campaign and as a consequence potentially a few thousand women (and granted probably one man) will die of breast cancer through ignorance around the world.

    I say again, whatever works, get on with it, raise the money, find the cure, stop what is a horrible death. When that’s done, drop me a line, call me a misogynist and try to convince me that being relative in whatever age we happened to be in is a bad thing.

    Just BTW, I thing the ‘bouncing balls’ idea is very clever and should be picked up by one of the numb-nut ad agencies that currently get their message on men’s health through to less than 5% of the male adult population.

    And BTW, I don’t know a single woman that doesn’t refer to her own breasts as ‘boobs’ anywhere outside of a doctors surgery or screening clinic, how/why is it offensive and to take your line, is it ok for women to call them boobs but not for men, is it the same as the use of the N word by people of colour?

  26. Liz45

    @TOM – I’m very sorry to hear of what happened to your Mum – it must’ve been horrible. I’ve been there too with friends and a much loved sister in law!

    Just so we’re clear – nothing I’ve said, or Melinda either for that matter, has removed, downplayed etc the importance of public education re breast cancer. I can’t stress that enough. I just can’t see why clever people in advertising can’t come up with clever ads without being sexist and grotty!
    That’s all! Simple, or it should be!

    What women call their own breasts etc is their business – that’s not the same as public campaigns. I don’t know of many black people who use the “N” word – on the contrary, it’s offensive to most, as the history of its use has been a derogatory one. There’s also been a campaign to get rid of the brand/type ‘Coon’ cheese? We got rid of “Nigger boy soap pads” and “Nigger brown” as a colour. This took place over a period of years, during a time of awareness and enlightenment, and after we were told how offensive and hurtful these words were for others. I said – about time! We don’t approve of stealing kids any more, nor do we threaten unmarried mothers and remove their kids any more. We grew up! We still have a long way to go!

    The whole point is, that this country has a culture of demeaning women and girls. This is perpetuated by a practice of ‘what you think about today, becomes an action/s tomorrow’? That’s why women like me take exception to the use of sexist language – for any reason – there’s always an alternative. some smart people CAN think of it if they’re made to feel that the use of language as Melinda described, is inappropriate. That’s not rocket science! It’s simple!

    Incidently, more women die from heart disease than all the cancers combined! One of the greatest threats to young women’s health and life expectancy is diabetes caused by being overweight. In fact, it won’t be long before it will probably kill more young women in their 30’s and 40’s than all cancers. The education needs to start re young women in their teens!

  27. SavingBoobs

    I think you’ve missed or rather ignored the points many other people and I have made Liz and feel that your feminism is clouding your view. You can be a feminist and you can have an opinion and I’m happy for you to have yours but once you make accusations and actually insult the intelligence of the hard work and effort that has gone into some of these charities, I must try to educate you.

    I’m all for burning bras and wearing trousers if that’s what you’re into. Fifty years ago women were controlled by a man’s world, were meant to be “little ladies” who stayed at home to look after the children and cook the dinner. We were there for the men. Today, we’re supposed to abide to the “girl power” rules and be an equal in life, the workplace or apparently when raising awareness of breast cancer. However, if we don’t then we’re letting the whole female race down. How are these situations different?

    I really am so confused as to how any of this relates to men and the way in which they think of our bodies and us? It is women who have thought of these slogans and nicknames and it’s mainly women they are targeting (because breast cancer is more common in women, not for any untoward reason). We’re talking about boobs to deliver an important message. Not to please or pleasure men. Gay women are not excluded from this type of marketing for that reason. Do gay women not call their breast boobs? Do gay women, or straight women for that matter not have sexual desires and view boobs as sexual objects? You are correct in the fact boobs have more than one use. They are to feed our offspring and they are sexual objects with erogenous zones. Until a woman bears a child the latter is the only use for them. We can use them for both if we so wish and I don’t know about you but I certainly don’t confuse the two although believe perhaps one leads to the other. I’m pretty sure that anthropologists could inform you on their views and discoveries of the similarities in our breasts and a lion’s mane, a peacocks tail or a monkeys bottom.

    Your lack of research hinders your response each time. Why because the slogans say “feel your boobs” or refer to second base do you feel that they’re sexist? Men have boobs too (often referred to as moobs) and are an erogenous zone for them too. Men and women using breasts as sexual objects is not only part of our genetic make up of which you cannot change but genuinely a helpful step to noticing changes in breast tissue. If during a regular sexual act a man is feels his partner’s breasts, is he not in a position to notice changes in breast tissue too? We don’t promote random men touching up random women under the guise of breast examinations, but we do let men know that if they notice a difference in her breasts they should tell her. And vise versa. Just because we promote the touching of boobs to an audience that understands and converses in a cruder language doesn’t mean we agree with violence against women and sexism in the work place. It’s ludicrous to suggest a connection.

    Again, your lack of research has led you to make an incorrect comment. One of the charities Melinda used as an example is all about promoting self-examination. They have chosen to tackle the awareness of breast cancer and lack of self-examination in young people by showing them how because it’s an easier job. Changing the way in which UK healthcare works when all they’re doing currently is making cuts is just not going to happen.

    A young woman diagnosed with breast cancer last year at the age of 23 created one of the charities used as an example. She has stage four secondary breast cancer (there is no stage 5). She was misdiagnosed several times over 12 months because her doctor (and the medical profession) viewed her to be too young to have breast cancer. I don’t know the actual figures so cannot quote but she is probably one of thousands that have been misdiagnosed; if this horrendous injustice doesn’t change the healthcare we receive, will our efforts? I highly doubt it.
    All throughout her treatment, even at stages when her body had nothing left to give she fought to promote awareness and self-examination and created a highly commended charity supported by 100’s of cancer fighters and she still does today. I cannot allow you to brand her work in such a derogatory way.

    Some of these charities are making a difference. Younger women are becoming more aware they are at risk, they are being taught to feel themselves regularly, they are more confident in their bodies and know what’s right for them. This has resulted in women demanding referrals because they now know their breasts better. In some marvelous, life changing instances and to show this hard work has really paid off, women have contacted them to say they’re breast cancer has been caught early enough to treat. That is the whole point of their journey.

    Oh but lets forget all that that’s not what’s important here, is it?

  28. Liz45

    @SAVINGBOOBS – Oh for goodness sake! Melinda wrote an opinion, I agreed with her. Her objections are valid in her view as are mine. I’ve walked a different path to you, that’s obvious. I’ve lost friends too! My sister in law was ignored by her doctor and died horribly; a very close friend died from a rare vaginal cancer – she lived for only 12 months after diagnosis(her ‘problem’ had also been overlooked?). I’m at this time supporting a friend whose mother is dying. I’ve been involved in supporting women, through many circumstances for many years, and as I’ve already stated, I’m on the board of a womens’ health centre. I’m well conversed with women’s health needs and the horrors of all sorts of cancer, including breast cancer. My main point is – there is no need to engage in grot or sexist language and explain it away as -‘the cause is bigger than this’ type of excuse. My mate at this time has asbestosis – who knows what will happen to him in the near future.

    There are many young/older women who, for example, still believe that women who are raped bring it on themselves. There are women who think the same of domestic violence. There are usually reasons or experiences that have led to this, doesn’t mean they’re right though! Sometimes it’s the way these issues are reported; sometimes it’s the judges own prejudices. If we continue to engage in these exercises, all we do, in my view, is keep the myths and injustices alive. Today’s thoughts are tomorrow’s actions! I’ve raised 3 boys – I challenged the names they repeated(re girls) and got them to see how destructive and hurtful they were, and sexist. I didn’t want them to grow up and act like yobbos and worse! They haven’t, thankfully!

    I’ll be copying these discussions and showing them to my friends at the women’s health centre – it’ll be interesting to get their feedback on this issue. In the 20 or more yrs of its existence, they’ve never felt the need to engage in this type of a campaign. As a woman who’s attended many seminars already this year, this type of advertising has never been raised as a researched and effective method of communication. I mix with women of all ages.
    I’ve exhausted all my thoughts on this subject. I’ll just be repeating myself! G’night and good luck!

  29. Meski

    @Liz: Do we have to do away with words and products that are homonyms for an offensive word? Coon cheese appears to have innocent origins

    ^ Reports of the Tax Court of the United States, vol. 21‎ (1954), p. 543: “Among the assets acquired from Coon was United States Patent No. 1.579,196, issued to William Edward Coon on March 30, 1926. The patent covered a process for curing cheddar cheese at specified ranges of temperature and humidity.”

    look at wiki for more

    There are other suggestions that it was racial, but I suspect the agendas of those pushing that line. You’d have to pay Kraft a hell of a lot to abandon one of their better known trademarks. And then there’s the chance that they’d decide on something daft like iSnack 2.0.

  30. Liz45

    @MESKI – To be honest with you, as a non-indigenous person, it never occurred to me in my younger years that the word “Coon” was offensive. That was before I was made aware of it – also the word “nigger” and “abbo” and other offensive words. I listened to aboriginal people and black people from other countries – I listened to how horrific their life is every day; every morning when they leave their homes, these people are treated in a different manner to myself-their kids are too – I heard the pain in their voice when they repeated some of these words, and the hatred and contempt behind them! I was horrified, that even unwittingly, I was part of that problem.
    Like offensive words about women; “slut” “mole” “pro” etc are all too frequently, part of some peoples’ everyday language – that doesn’t make them appropriate or OK. I recall challenging my then young sons about these words; I asked them for the male equivalent???Upon their silence and probably some of their young mates at the time, I suggested that one might be ‘super stud’? They laughed nervously, but I made the point, and they ‘got it’? I didn’t hear those words again! Those words are still used today, and are still discriminatory, unjust, hurtful, and wrong! We need to be diligent and sensitive to the lives and experiences of others, not go blithely along reinforcing these injustices.

    Several yrs ago, a wonderful white American woman called, Jane Elliott visited Australia. She’d started a program in her class-room as a young teacher after the assassination of Martin Luther King Jnr, of which I remembered – vividly. She undertook this with kids of about 7 – she’s had death threats, her parents lost their business, and her kids have suffered harassment since childhood – however, she continued on regardless. A brave woman! She has a seminar that she’s taken around the world and modified for adult participants, called ‘Blue Eyed, Brown Eyed’. In short, she ‘picks’ out those with blue eyes, puts a ‘collar’ (tissue paper of pale green, perhaps) and then makes them feel the antagonism of those with brown eyes in the group for a few hours – unlike black people who suffer it all day. This brings forward a mixture of responses, negative and positive, but always brings forward another awareness, that hopefully lasts for ever. At the end, there’s a de-briefing segment, which of course is essential, otherwise it could be destructive. I’m always reduced to tears when I watch – even though I know the end, and I always learn something new – every time! I think from memory, it was about 15 yrs ago!
    These groups are made up of adult people from all parts of the community, of both sexes and age groups. It was an amazing experience, just watching it on SBS (at the time, the most inquired about and commented program ever) – they showed it again- I taped it, and watch it from time to time, just to re-educate myself re the destructive element of racism. I also have Prof Mick Dodson’s speech of 26th May 2000 at the Opera House – the day before the Harbour Bridge Walk for reconciliation, of which I participated – awesome experience. I watch this from time to time for the same reason.(Blue Eyed Brown Eyed’ is available to watch on the net. Mick Dodson’s speech(text) is also available on the net!)

    I realised, that what Jane Elliott said about the US applied here. Being a white kid, taught in a white school, I was taught racism, either directly or indirectly, even if it was the omission of historical facts of white settlement. I’ve learned how white parents had the power to have aboriginal kids removed from the class, the school, just on their request. I can recall one text book and how it depicted indigenous peoples in a negative manner. I’ve read a lot since those years, but as Jane Elliott says, the first step to being a non-racist is to accept that we probably are or have been. I have done that, and I determined to be focused from that time onwards. I read an amazing book called, ‘Demons at Dusk’ a couple of years ago, written by Peter Stewart, who researched for 20 yrs prior to writing it. It’s about the Myall Creek massacre, and it still stays with me now – amazing book. I recommend it highly.

    This has been a long winded explanation I realise, but a necessary one to explain why “Coon” is offensive to black people, as it is still used today, and is hurtful, insulting and destructive. It has no relevance to the making of cheese or the finished product etc, and is unnecessary. That cheese can be called something else – BEGA doesn’t describe cheese either; it’s the name of the company. They can find another word! It could be ‘smooth’ or ‘sharp’ or ????Clever people, advertising people with more talent in that field than I, would have no trouble finding another word??? A small thing you might ask? Perhaps! But every action brings forth another, and hopefully a positive one.
    The point of the patent is a valid one, but not impossible to overcome. Bad laws or attitudes and yes, even patents can be removed or changed if public opinion makes Kraft or whoever realise, that the people don’t like it. For example, who’d have thought that Gunns Tasmania would announce, that they’re no longer going to chop down trees in old growth forests, without govt legislation etc. It was announced today! Amazing, and the new CEO admitted, that it’s due to public opinion. Whacko! About time I say!
    ‘What we think about today become words of tomorrow, and then, become actions of and for the future’? Or words to that effect! We are changing our attitudes to sexism and racism, and ageism too. we evolve as human beings, we should go forwards not backwards!

  31. Meski

    Gunns saw the writing on the wall, as it were, with the new government being what it was. I look at it as them being pragmatic, rather than progressive.

    Would it upset me if Coon was renamed? No, not really. So I suppose that’s your answer.

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