Saturday, October 9, 2010

facebook memes... for breast cancer?

I like it on the livingroom floor

I like it on the kitchen counter

I like it on the table

What am I talking about? Well, breast cancer awareness of course! Posting the location of your purse on facebook raises awareness about breast cancer. And of course, sexuality must be implied to get attention... for the cause, right?

At least the bra colour meme from last year was somehow linked to breasts... this one is a ridiculous.

My purse status was "I like to open it and actually give money (and time) to support a specific cause rather than re-posting inane memes that use sexual innuendo to get attention while pretending that purses are somehow linked to breast cancer... BTW, cancer is not sexy, even when it has to do with parts of the female anatomy"

I could tell you that the cell phone case that I usually carry instead of a purse is on the coffee table. Or the schoolbag I carry when I need more room is on the floor. Or the purses that I rarely use are in a cabinet. But how does that help raise awareness for breast cancer?

And why is it that breast cancer is the "sexy" way to support women's issues? It isn't bad enough that any product in existence, colored pink like toys designed for little girls, is meant to support breast cancer, but now we have to show off how sexy breasts are at the same time. Advertisements tell men that they should care about breast cancer because they like breasts... not because women are dying and not supporting the leading cause of death in women (cardiovascular disease- hearts are not sexy)... simply because men like breasts.

What, other than breast cancer do these ads have in common?

Using a cartoon sex symbol as a spokesperson...

I know I like to box in uncomfortable lingerie...

Nudity is common in these ads

And T-shirts like this one don't even pretend to be about a woman... just boobs.

In my opinion, they are as much about sexualizing and objectifying women as they are about trying to get money for researching breast cancer.

Don't do this research to save women's (and some men's) lives because you value women as people, or because they have a right to expect researchers in related fields to look for a cure. Support this research because you like breasts, and breasts happen to be attached to women.


  1. Yah! I linked to Ehrenreich's "Welcome to Cancerland" rather than participate in this farce (and said so in my status). It did get one "Like" for what it's worth.

  2. Dear Ms. Marx,

    As a breast cancer survivor, I don't give a damn what mechanism is used to bring people to greater awareness about breast cancer!

    Whether it is using the color of my bra last year's 'meme) or where I put my purse is irrelevant. What's relevant is that sex sells, so if playing on people's dirty minds does the trick (I assure you, it does) I'm for it.

    If what you call ridiculous and 'pegmapress' calls a 'farce' does as much as last year's bra-color meme to get people's attention, I'm for it. It doesn't make it less 'silly' or sexist than any other from of advertising and face it, sex sells. If that means 'advertising' the color of my bra (prothetic bra, that is) or letting dirty minds assume I'm talking about sex rather than where I put my purse, so be it.

    Women need not longer die from breast cancer if detected early, yet so many women still don't know all of the signs to look for; nor that they don't need money or insurance since they can get mammograms, ultrasound tests, and more absolutely FREE through a number of available sources.

    Breast cancer kills because the cancer spreads to vital organs of the body, like the brain, which is what kills a woman (and sometimes a man). The objective is to catch the cancer before it has a chance to spread. To get people to learn about early detection saves lives. How many people are going to come running to learn about breast cancer if they are afraid?

    So, you're right about breast cancer not being sexy. I can attest to the fact that breast cancer is downright frightening and ugly. But those facts DO NOT bring people to awareness. So if I participate in doing something you deem 'silly' in order to save one woman from waiting until it is too late, I will do so.

    The methods of advertising that you display above are used is because they work. They are not demeaning to women; they removing the fear of breast cancer, and the fear of talking about breast cancer, so people (men and women) will talk about it and learn about it. Frankly, I don't much care what it takes to save lives that need not be lost.

    What IS demeaning is ignorance and the 'holier-than-thou' attitude of the type you display here. I strongly recommend taking your head out of the place you're burying it and ask yourself what you've done lately to save a life.

    Instead of criticizing what women on FB are doing to attract attention, go get your mammogram instead.

    Susan Connors
    Facebook User

  3. Susan, I appreciate where you are coming from and I understand why you are happy to use whatever mechanism necessary to draw attention to breast cancer awareness. However, I am just using the same critique that I would use of any kind of ad... the objectification and sexualization of women hurts women, whether it be in an advertisement for breast cancer or soap. Separating the woman as a whole from body parts undercuts her power and it happens all the time in music videos and now, it is a basic feature of mainstream breast cancer awareness campaigns.

    And I am criticizing the notion that this purse thing is doing anything to attract attention to breast cancer, because I can assure you that most of the people who see it think of sex or purses, but few people I have spoken to even realize that it is supposed to be linked to cancer. And when they find out about this link, they are as baffled as I am as to what the connection is between purses and breast cancer.

    As for awareness, I have participated in the run for a cure. I have (and will continue to) support various causes by giving them my time and, when possible, money. I spent more time doing volunteer work for various causes than just about anyone else I know. What I will not do is participate in the objectification of women. Even if it is for a good cause.

  4. Dear Ms. Marx,
    I appreciate your response and do understand where you are coming from, however, one can not help but objectify breast cancer. It isn't soap, but something that occurs in people with mammary tissue. While this does include some men, it is a horrible disease that affects woman and occurs in one specific place...the breast.

    There is no separation of the person from the body part; indeed, it is a specific body part that we seek to draw attention to. It is like saying you can't talk about a man's prostate to draw attention to prostate cancer. And, since prostate cancer is widely believed to affect the sexual functioning in males, why not draw attention to the fact that that is not necessarily so.

    It isn't sexist to point out that something that occurs in women's breasts has to do with (a) woman and (b) their breasts. Frankly, if mainstream breast cancer awareness campaigns worked that well, there wouldn't be so many 'creative' ways being attempted to get people's attention. The fact that we are talking about this illustrates my point.

    There is no connection between purses and breast cancer. What you don't understand was that this campaign was designed to get people to be curious about what we are talking about, then, once we have their attention, tell them what it is about. Unfortunately, you have let the cat out of the bag which diminishes the element of surprise.

    I'm glad you participate in the run for the cure. If I could run, so would I. But if all I have the ability to do is stand on my head and spit wooden nickels, I would do that.

    I believe you are still confusing the method with the objective. If the "purse location" gets me the attention of some guy who would otherwise only think of a woman's breast as a sexual part of the body, I'm fine with that. Getting him to think about the breast in other terms is the end goal. This will reel such people in who would never participate in a run for the cure and otherwise miss the message altogether. The same holds true for making women who are in denial and who run from being educated about breast cancer curious enough to stick around long enough to hear the ultimate message.

    It is obvious that we disagree, but I believe that when it comes to breast cancer we are talking about more than just 'a good cause'...we are talking about getting the attention of someone who needs to take immediate action. It's about saving a life NOW, it's about getting women to get mammograms NOW and about getting men to encourage the women they love to do so --using any kind of wake up call to do so.

    This is not "Applied Social Research" and the objectification of women; it is not about curing societal ills; it is about real people taking action that could mean the difference between living or dying when that death is preventable.

    Please get a mammogram if you haven't already done so and encourage all women (and men with breast) to get one now.

  5. I don't understand how the facebook meme raises awareness. How doesit provide information to women about what early signs to look for? Where do people who are curious about the meme go to get this information that's supposedly being passed along to people who otherwise wouldn't get it? Especially if "surprise" is somehow important. Does everyone who posts the purse location follow up with a link to a particular BC awareness site? I saw one purse location among my fb friends and had no idea ithad anything to do with breast cancer. Nor did I receive any information.

  6. Susan, in your opinion, the end justifies the means... Yes, breast cancer kills women, and yes, that is terrible. But do you know what else kills women (and maintains the feminization of poverty, and makes us vulnerable to domestic abuse and sexual assault, etc)? Sexism, which is rooted in the objectification of women (among other things).

    Your comparison to prostate cancer does not really make sense to me personally, because I have never seen these tactics used to try and raise awareness for medical problems that are associated with men. However, the objectification of women is used by other organizations (PETA for example) to try and get support, and I just don't agree with it under any circumstance.

    I can understand why sexism is used to 'sell' awareness of breast cancer, and, given the social context in which we currently exist, it is a useful tactic. However, I am just trying to point out that there is a societal problem when the way to save women is by visually cutting them into pieces and drawing on men's sexual interest in breasts.

  7. Samquilla, good point. There is no link attached to the meme to provide information to people about breast cancer. I am assuming that people are meant to actually google the information themselves once they realize what this is all about?

  8. I am seriously angry right now, because I did not know that this meme going around was for Breast Cancer, and I'm a supposedly hip young 21 year old with a bunch of friends on facebook passing this around.

    I don't agree with this whole 'well if sex sells, let's use it'. I will not be demeaned because people think it's the best way to get attention. I promise you that it doesn't really help (and if it does, it just adds a harmful sexist environment where it's least needed). At the end of the day these ads are saying one thing, it's not about your surviving, it's about you keeping those pretty things called boobs. this sort of attitude is the same thing that is making people vandalize breast cancer awareness posters (seriously, they erased awareness and it became Breast Month, omg so cool and funny)

  9. OK, so...When we realize that the campaign is about purse locations, not favourite spots for a shag, and also (somehow) that it's for breast cancer, we will say "how clever", and then, depending partly on whether we have breasts, we will either get mammograms, open our wallets, or start doing research?

    Can we really justify this vague 'awareness' campaign, given that breast cancer must already be the most well-publicized 'women's issue' that there is?

    I can't speak for all straight men, but I'll speculate that I'm not abnormal in believing at some level that the women who post these things are flirting, or enjoying revealing something erotic. Which might not be the same thing as objectifying them. But it definitely doesn't make me any likelier to lift a finger to do anything about cancer.

    Maybe I'm wrong, and maybe this does work. If so, I've got an idea for the next campaign: what's your favourite way to have your temperature taken? (In the armpit, eh? mmmm...) And it's for flood relief in Pakistan, of course...