Why I Don't "Heart" Boobies

My 10 year old neighbor from down the street is wearing an “I heart boobies” shirt today.    I noticed it when I went outside to check on the football game going on in front of my house.  Did I mention my neighbor is a boy?
Not that it matters.  I wouldn’t like it on a girl, either.
I understand that this shirt is for breast cancer awareness, and that the organization that makes these items has good intentions.  But right now his shirt is not raising breast cancer awareness.  It is only raising awareness of boobies in general, and boys don’t need any help in that area.  

Not a shirt I would put on my son.  Or myself.

This makes me wish we thought a little bit harder about how we talk about breast cancer.  I understand the desire to be funny and quippy and to use a little bit of shock to draw attention to the issue.  I know that risque humor sells, and when a portion of the sales money goes to breast cancer research, we can justify a whole lot.  I know that women want to feel empowered to be able to talk about serious medical issues that in the past were only mentioned in whispers, and I understand the need to bring these issues to the forefront.  I just think we should find a better way to do it.
Part of what makes breast cancer so difficult for so many women is the fact that many of them lose their breast(s) during treatment.  This may save their life, but many say that they feel like less of a woman.  They feel like losing a breast makes them less beautiful.  This is a shame because of course we recognize that life is more important than “beauty”, but you can understand why they might feel this way, given our breast-obsessed culture.  I have to think that, when we slap the word “boobies” on everything, we are just feeding into this same damaging obsession.  We claim to be helping, but in some ways we are actually making it worse.
Women are not just parts, they are people.  Breast cancer doesn’t just affect their “boobies”, it affects their whole person.  I think we do everyone a disservice when we turn it into a joke.  This is not empowering, it’s demeaning.  Women deserve more respect than that.
Maybe this “boobies” organization, and others like it, have done some good.  I’m not saying they haven’t.  I just think we need to try harder to focus on the whole person and not expect lowbrow humor to build effective, healthy awareness.  My dear friend Jen’s sister Andrea is a young wife and mother of three who is currently fighting aggressive breast cancer.  When I think about what would motivate me to want to stop breast cancer, I don’t think about “boobies.”  I don’t even think about Andrea’s boobies.  I think about Andrea.  A real person’s story is incredibly motivating.  Giggles are not.  Maybe if we spent more time talking about the women like Andrea who are actually living with this disease and less time relying on juvenile, middle-school humor, we’d be effective in fighting cancer AND avoid collateral social damage in the meantime.


ChangingNOW said...

I <3 Prisca's Voice.... This topic has been on my mind for quite some time now. I HAVE boobies, they mean alot to me (as an avid breast feeder) and so do the relatives/friends who are breast cancer survivors, but that still does not make me comfortable enough to buy any of the products with this logo. Before I knew what it was about I had seen the bracelets being worn by my TMS students. I immediately gave them my disapproving comment about the sexual boundaries in school. Worst part was the majority of them (the boys) really admitted to that being the reason they wore them, because they could get away with being vulgar under the "supportive" campaign! I'm pretty open with my boys about the human body in hopes that they would be comfortable enough to come to me with any questions or concerns, but also to create the level of RESPECT I want them to hold in regards to their bodies and the people's around them. This post is so rambling, I apologize, I'm just very frustrated by the lack of respect that is becoming persistent and accepted in our communities.

Jess said...

Ramble on, Judy! This totally confirms my suspicions about the motivation of a lot of the people who wear that merchandise (especially the younger ones, and ESPECIALLY the boys). I am a little mystified by how any adult would think that a teenage boy would wear something that says "boobies" on it and really be thinking entirely about cancer prevention! So silly! I definitely think we need to encourage kids to get involved in cancer awareness, prevention, cure research etc, but I have to believe there is a better way! Thanks for your insights!

Don and Shelly said...

Jess, we could agree more. We currently have a good friend that is fighting this type of cancer. A few weeks ago they had us over for dinner and she told us something that he said to her. She said he told her that he loved the "sum"...not the "parts." Off-color humor isn't going to motivate prevention for find a cure. It also isn't building up women to be seen as the precious treasures that they are.

Don and Shelly said...

We COULDN'T agree more... :)