Fun with Feminist Flickr (beating cancer/beating women edition)


Several people have sent me this breast cancer awareness ad, put out by the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation. When I first saw the picture, I wasn’t so sure it was totally offensive. And as Ann said to me via IM not so long ago, perhaps it’s the group trying to counter the criticism of their “girlie pink ribbons” image.
But then I was driving and saw the ad on a bus shelter, and all you can really make out from far away is a picture of a woman’s torso with the words, “Punch it, Strangle it, Kick it,” etc. So, ugh. Plus, the headless woman is yet another example of how the Komen Foundation always seems to imply “save the boobies!” rather than “save women’s lives!”
Pic from techne.

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  • UltraMagnus

    Well, you do realize that we are nothing if we don’t have healthy boobs right? [/sarcasm]

  • http://norbizness.com norbizness

    A different perspective from everybody’s favorite radicalized spinster cancer survivin’ Austin aunt.
    In short, the pink ribbon industry is about keepin’ it unreal.

  • happy_bunny

    This shirt’s stupid. And I’m sick of hearing about breast cancer anyway. I don’t understand why there’s so much hype around it. How is breast cancer so much worse than any other kind of cancer that it’s the only cancer you ever hear about. You don’t see walkathons and ribbon campaigns for brain cancer, pancreatic cancer, colon cancer, etc… women have brains, panreases, and colons too.

  • Vervain

    Everything’s boobs and violence in this country, isn’t it?

  • Xana

    “And I’m sick of hearing about breast cancer anyway.”
    Tell that to someone who has been or will be affected by breast cancer.
    Those people affected by brain cancer, pancreatic cancer, etc have all the right to start their own campaigns. Really, what needs to be focused on more is heart disease and other conditions that have traditionally been ignored by the medical community with regards to women.

  • http://norbizness.com norbizness

    Well, rather than starting internecine cancer victim/survivor warfare, we can at least safely say that their are no internet campaigns to surgically install view windows for people’s pancreata… although it would be in a sexy location!

  • JustAnotherJane

    Very good point norbizness, I agree.
    However, I do wonder if the fact that breast cancer gets this kind of attention is because breasts are considered men’s property. Especially after noticing how controversial the HPV vaccine is when that is a huge advance. Women deserve cervical cancer! But breast cancer is a depreciation of man’s property, hence the huge mainstream concern.
    Thoughts?

  • http://norbizness.com norbizness

    Well, to the extent that marketability is the main consideration, probably so.
    In the spirit of breast-pancreas ecumenicalism, though, we can always “make the pie higher” for all cancer victims by bringing more attention to cuts in federal funding for many types of cancer research.

  • ElleMariachi

    JustAnotherJane–interesting thought, and one that was shared by my sister as well…”If guys liked squeezing uteruses more, wouldn’t there be more focus on uterine cancer?”
    As for the advert, um, I just don’t get it. We get it, let’s “kill” breast cancer. The fact that those violent words are written on a “wifebeater” (if that’s what this person who made up the add chooses to call it) makes it even more puzzling to me.

  • jamier

    Spit on breast cancer? :\
    One reason I think breast cancer gets so much attention is that it’s the only one of women’s top health threats that’s not “preventable.”
    The highly judgmental Christian society in the USA likes to largely ignore people’s ills that they “deserve” (ie, cervical cancer, AIDS, lung cancer).
    The logic goes, you won’t get lung cancer if you don’t smoke, you won’t get diabetes if you don’t eat too much sugar, you won’t get heart disease if you don’t eat meat, you won’t get in an accident if you pay attention… but nobody really knows what causes breast cancer.
    (Also, not only does breast cancer kill lots of people, it causes even more mastectomies, which may be even worse!)

  • paperdaisy

    I saw one of these ads on a NYC bus stop and was taken aback as well.
    Here is my thing with cancer: I’m not sure the battle language is the best choice of metaphor. Of course, I have never had cancer, and I was too young to watch my grandfather die of it, so I have not experienced the way it wastes and wrecks loved ones. So far be it from me to tell people how to cope. I just wonder if setting it up as “me vs. cancer” would make me feel even worse when in my final moments. Like, at the beginning I am all out to beat the cancer. But then I lose, and die. Should I feel bad about myself for letting cancer win?
    I’m not saying cancer is our friend. I just don’t know if out-and-out warfare and violence is a positive thing to bring into the lives of sick people. Don’t we have enough of that already?

  • http://fiercefemme.blogspot.com Mary B

    I, too, have always wondered why breast cancer gets so publicized when heart disease kills more women.
    Also, this is being publicized as a “women’s” disease, which causes the men who get diagnosed with it to feel “embarrassed” (because somehow having a disease that inflicts mostly women questions their manhood).

  • EG

    My understanding, and I could be mistaken, is that breast cancer became a rallying point for feminists and women because prior to that activism, it had been completely overlooked, in large part because it was a disease affecting women. For example, prior to the waves of activism around breast cancer that have now become so familiar, the major studies on breast cancer, its progress, and its treatment had all been done on men, and their results were being generalized to women with no further study. Obviously that’s not the case any more, and in my opinion, that points to the success of the organizing efforts around the illness.
    Thanks for this post, Jessica. I confess that when I first saw this image, in a magazine ad, my first response was positive, as in “About damn time they stopped being so insipidly cheery and twee and pink.” I didn’t notice the obvious creepy overtones of the ad until you pointed them out–but that’s because I’m a verbal, rather than visual thinker.

  • pisaquari

    Not to mention lung cancer kills more women than breast cancer.
    Can’t put a lung in a tight tank top, I guess.

  • http://baltimoregroupblog.com Matt Browner-Hamlin

    I walk past that poster every day too. The first thing that struck me about it, too, was the violent language attached to a woman’s body. Clearly it had some metaphor attached to it, but my first thought was “This is some kind of anti-domestic violence ad.” Then in tiny lettering I see it’s about breast cancer.
    Also, since breast cancer is an increasing risk with age, it seemed odd to have what appears to be a young woman in the ad.

  • http://m00se.wordpress.com/ m00se

    I’m really sick of hearing about breast cancer too …especially when
    one of my seven doctors is talking about the fact that I have it. The
    Komen foundation isn’t perfect by any stretch of the imagination, and
    twisty makes some really valid arguments that I agree with on this
    matter. Breast cancer is sentimentalized to the point of
    ridiculousness. As a woman undergoing treatment for breast cancer the
    sight of pink ribbons often makes me want to vomit.
    One of the big arguments people often make against the Komen
    Foundation and other similar organizations is the fact that there is
    too much money spent on services and not enough on research. Again,
    there’s a valid point in there. On the other hand as a recipient of
    some of the services which Komen grants made possible, I’m incredibly
    appreciative of them. During the most stressful period of my life to
    date, the fact that I got to consult with a nutritionist for free, the
    fact that there are services in my area which can take me to doctors
    appointments, or can arrange that errands be run for me when I can’t
    physically do it makes a huge difference. I live in the DC area and
    the list of local services and organization that have received Komen
    grants in the past year or so is extensive.
    It’s easy to say a service isn’t necessary when you don’t need it. And
    it’s easy to make light of problem when it’s not yours. God knows this
    has been the way “women’s issues” have been viewed by society for
    years.

  • Christopher

    This is a terrible ad. Honestly, I can’t imagine what they were thinking.
    Everything conspires to make the woman in the ad look like a target; The actual target of the language is printed in much smaller type and isn’t readable from a distance; the most expressive parts of the human body, the face and hands, are cut off; the woman’s stance is distinctly NOT that of somebody about to unleash an ass-whupping.
    The whole thing is an absolute disaster of composition, and I seriously wonder who greenlit it and what their thought proccess was.

  • paleblue

    “But then I lose, and die. Should I feel bad about myself for letting cancer win?”
    Great point, paperdaisy. I hate that the media constantly presents us with “strong, fighting” women who “beat” cancer and “refused to give in.” If only it was that simple! It’s such a dangerous idea.

  • pearl

    But breast cancer is a depreciation of man’s property, hence the huge mainstream concern.
    Thoughts?

    I don’t really agree. I mean, most women like their breasts, and don’t relish the thought of getting a masectomy. But really, how is breast cancer awareness a bad thing?

  • Mina

    “Everything conspires to make the woman in the ad look like a target; The actual target of the language is printed in much smaller type and isn’t readable from a distance; the most expressive parts of the human body, the face and hands, are cut off; the woman’s stance is distinctly NOT that of somebody about to unleash an ass-whupping.”
    Now I wonder…what if all the text was in white and the shirt was in camo print? What if it was in blue camo print, which some commanders seem to think is more feminine than plain old jungle or desert camo print?
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/africa/6314263.stm
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/africa/6192630.stm

  • http://www.manlymen.org Tony

    However, I do wonder if the fact that breast cancer gets this kind of attention is because breasts are considered men’s property. Especially after noticing how controversial the HPV vaccine is when that is a huge advance. Women deserve cervical cancer! But breast cancer is a depreciation of man’s property, hence the huge mainstream concern.
    Thoughts?

    I don’t know. Do your breasts belong to some guy? I know that I don’t own any.

  • http://interrupting.blogspot.com invisible_hand

    i actually liked this ad. i saw it much more as a response to the criticism of breast cancer culture as depicted by barbara ehrenreich, in which she theorizes that the current attitude in re: to breast cancer is to infantilize women with very girly and childish comforts, such as teddy bears etc. this poster gives women diagnosed breast cancer a much more positive, self-sufficient and fierce image of how to deal with one’s disease.

  • http://feministing.com/members/drr6/ Pat

    The reason breast cancer gets so much attention is simple. Insurers, politicians and health care providers realize women care deeply about their health. And framing something as “caring about women’s health” is a good way to elicit attention and support. A disingenous reference to “women’s lack of access to health care” is an optional part of the pandering.
    Women should be commended for their health awareness. And they happen to be vastly more more plugged into the medical system. A 40 yr old woman who may have never been ‘sick’ is still well versed in the medical system by virtue of regular visits for gyn exams, family planning, OB visits, peds visits, and mammograms. Men dont take as good care of themselves for a variety of reasons and avoid going to – and often dont even know how to – go see a doctor.
    No one of course wants to be labelled as “not caring about women’s helath.” So this charade continues. The fact is that cancer is not the number one killer of women; and even among cancers, breast cancer is NOT the number one killer of women. But hey, why let the facts get in the way of PR juggernaut?