In addition to being LGBT+ history month, October is also Breast Cancer Awareness Month and it’s been really interesting to see some of the activism to fight this type of cancer. I lost my grandmother several years ago and nearly lost one of my aunts to breast cancer so this is something that really hits home for me.
— Lily Bailey (@LilyBaileyUK) October 13, 2015
One of the problematic aspects of activism around breast cancer awareness is the sexualization of the disease. There have been many cancer survivors or those undergoing treatment who are angered over the sexualization of breast cancer with campaigns like “Save the Ta-tas!” or “Save Second Base“. Rather than focusing on the breasts, we should be focusing on saving the people living with the disease.
October 13th, for example, was a faux holiday called No Bra Day in which some called for many to unleash breasts from “their boobie zoos”. Luckily, there was some serious backlash about the activism that really didn’t do anything about breast cancer. (Interestingly enough, it actually seems like July 9th is the real No Bra Day?)
— Iris Augustadt (@augustadt_iris) October 13, 2015
And there are many other campaigns with pink ribbons or pink centered items that are meant to support breast cancer research and awareness but don’t actually do anything. Leisha Davison-Yasol wrote about her own experiences with breast cancer (including going through physical therapy after treatment and surgery on the cancer that was so invasive on her left side) and how days like #NoBraDay actually do the opposite of what they’re out there to do.
Davison-Yasol asked that rather than pay more for items that are supposed to donate to research, actually donate to research facilities and advocacy groups yourself. (She highlighted several organizations in her article about her own experiences.) She has a totally valid point with that – by donating directing, you make a bigger difference and know that the money is going to research or whatever the organization might do. And if you can’t donate money (if you’re like me and utterly broke), consider donating time or talent – like making ready to go meals for people undergoing treatment or helping clean around someone’s house (if they want the help!).
I do think talking and raising awareness about breast cancer (and other forms of cancer) is important because there are so many people that are impacted both directly (by having it) and indirectly (family member or friend has it) by it. But if your awareness is only for you to feel good about a pretty meaningless act, then you really haven’t contributed to a change.
And it’s important to recognize many things about breast cancer – the risk factors, who can get it, what screening tests are out there (Planned Parenthood offers many screening tests like mammograms). It’s important to know that anyone with breast tissue (read: pretty much everyone) has a chance at getting breast cancer, meaning that it is not just cis women who are impacted by the disease.