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Has Feminism Dropped the Ball In Breast Cancer Awareness?

Has feminism dropped the ball in breast cancer awareness campaigns?

“Sexy” sells. Sadly, it is even selling breast cancer awareness. Breast cancer has been trivialized. It has also been sexualized. Both are wrong.

You might want to read:  It’s Time to Stop Trivializing Breast Cancer.

The end does not justify the means. In case you need a couple visual examples depicting the sexualization of breast cancer, here are a couple pretty tame ones, for starters.

Has Feminism Dropped the Ball During BCAM?

 Has feminism dropped the ball in breast cancer awareness?


I’d like to approach this topic of the sexualization of breast cancer from a different angle, an angle I have not heard discussed all that much, and this surprises me.

I’d like to ask, has feminism dropped the ball?

Have we become complacent? 

Let’s not forget how hard others have worked to achieve women’s rights.

Let’s not forget that women were clamoring for equality and demanding to be taken seriously not all that long ago; that in fact, we still are.

Let’s not forget it’s only been one hundred years since women earned the right to cast a vote. Unbelievable, but true.

Yes, we have come a long way. Let’s not start taking too many steps backward. Some awareness campaigns are just that, steps in the wrong direction.    

Has feminism dropped the ball in breast cancer awareness?

Has feminism dropped the ball?

Has feminism dropped the ball in breast cancer awareness?

Breast cancer awareness reaped the rewards of the feminist movement by helping to bring breast cancer out of the closet. The stigma of breast cancer was diminished, but somewhere along the line something else started happening.

That something was the emergence of what has come to be known as Pink Ribbon Culture.

This Pink Ribbon Culture started off slowly, gained momentum and morphed into something so huge, it almost seems unstoppable.

Not just in October but all year long now, there is pink stuff being marketed and sold in the name of breast cancer awareness. There are pink lights, pink toys, pink newspaper ads, pink candies and pink potato chip bags (are pink potato chips next?) just to name a few.

If you can eat it, drink it, play with it, make something with it, drive it, wear it or even put your trash in it, you can probably find a pink version of it.

You might want to read:  Why Is Breast Cancer the Shopping Disease Anyway?

Has feminism dropped the ball in BCAM?

People can’t seem to get enough pink.

I can deal with the pink. I actually like pink. And ribbons aren’t so bad either.

But seriously, what happened here?

When did a cause that’s supposed to help women get so off track?

Has feminism dropped the ball in breast cancer awareness campaigns?

And when did it become alright to wear sassy t-shirts depicting demeaning images or comments about breasts? What other disease has the afflicted body part(s) displayed on articles of clothing with silly, even degrading commentary?


Why is this OK?

Has feminism dropped the ball during BCAM?

Or this?

Has feminism dropped the ball during BCAM?


Really, it’s all about the boobs?

When did it become more about saving breasts than saving lives?

Have we lost sight of what the original intent of all this awareness was?

Has breast cancer awareness merely morphed into a big business?

Is breast cancer being used? Are women being used? It feels wrong to trivialize a deadly disease. It feels wrong to trivialize women by marketing silly t-shirts depicting demeaning images or comments about breasts under the guise of awareness.

Feminism is not a word or cause to shy away from. Feminism is not something we only needed when we wanted the right to vote. Feminism is not something we only needed in order to gain equal opportunity in the work force. No, we need feminism today as well, maybe more.

This October let’s remember that feminism is not a dirty word. Let’s put the feminism back in the awareness. 

Let’s start expecting; no, let’s start demanding more. 

You might want to read:  Think About Pink by Peggy Orenstein

Do you think breast cancer has been sexualized?

Do you think feminism has “dropped the ball” here?

Do you care?

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Image via Breast Cancer Consortium

Kristie Konsoer

Friday 9th of October 2020

The comments above span nine years, and the issues are largely the same. I think some progress has been made as I don't see overtly sexualized ads anymore, but I could be very out of the loop as often is the case. I do see more attempts at humor (dogs with pink breast balloons) that aren't cute or funny. I am also starting to see a shift to more realistic examples of scanners, treatment chairs, IV poles, scars, side effects, etc. that feature more gripping connections to the realities of breast cancer.


Thursday 29th of June 2017

yeah, we all deserve better, yet i never heard a feminist who is supposed to be for equality talking about breast cancer affecting both sexes. should i keep calling myself a feminist or stating the truth makes me a mysoginist?


Thursday 29th of June 2017

Jeanine, I consider myself a feminist and I talk about it. I'm sure there are many who talk about it. Thanks for reading and commenting.


Friday 28th of February 2014

Not only sexualised, but chauvinist. 1in 100 breast cancer sufferers are male and the stigma for them has increased a hundred fold. Everything to do with breast cancer is pink and aggressively feminine and the men have been marginalised as the women have been objectified. The end does not always justify the means.


Friday 28th of February 2014

Tim, The stigma for male breast cancer patients is definitely there. Pink craziness, shopping, trivialization and yes, sexualization of breast cancer do indeed marginalize men. In the scheme of things, those things don't help women either. We all deserve better. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.


Monday 5th of November 2012

The message I get EVERY time I see one of those save the ta-tas stickers, or other booby-centric ad, is that my breasts are to be saved but not me. Since my left breast is wrecked from my surgery last year, my impression is that if/when my cancer returns, I am no longer worth saving. When people point out to me I should be happy to be alive, I reply I am, but the ad says ta-tas, not lives. When people tell me I should not define myself by my breasts, I say I don’t have to, society does that for me.

For the record I am a feminist and proud to say so. But the issue is so much simpler to me: booby ads sell early detection as the only answer, they do not sell cure or prevention. If one of those pretty boobies in these ads gets checked and gets cancer, it is likely subsequent surgery will wreck the booby, therefore making it not “ad-worthy”.


Monday 5th of November 2012

Wendi, I know what you mean about those messages. It's good to hear you proclaim to be a feminist. Some women shy away from this proclamation for reasons I don't fully understand. To me a feminist is someone working for equal rights, respect and dignity. In my mind it's really that simple. Thanks so much for commenting.


Friday 2nd of November 2012

Great post; thank you so much for writing it. I was just searching the internet to make sure I wasn't the only one who felt this way. I have been disgusted and even enraged by the way breast cancer awareness has been handled, and not just in this past month. And it saddens me when I see that most women just don't seem to get it. I think "What happened to feminism" is simply that most women do not identify as feminists--they don't even see these issues as connected.


Friday 2nd of November 2012

Michelle, Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts. Somehow the term feminism has taken on a negative connotation for many. To me feminism means fighting for equal rights, respect and dignity for women. Some of these campaigns exploit women and the disease of breast cancer. I feel saddened too, when it seems so many don't see this, especially so many women. In my mind it's all connected. Thanks again for commenting.

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