There seems to be a never-ending supply of what some would call provocative, and many would call tasteless, ads and awareness campaigns that continue to pop up every October under the guise of supporting breast cancer awareness. I am not pointing a finger at any particular awareness campaign in this post, but I'm sure you know exactly the kind I am talking about.
Sex sells; it even sells breast cancer awareness.
Proponents of such ads and campaigns often argue that grabbing the attention first is what matters. Meaningful conversation can start later.
Is any kind of awareness campaign better than no campaign at all?
Does the end justify the means?
I say no; it does not. Trivializing a deadly disease is wrong. Objectifying women is wrong as well. Two wrongs do not make a right.
I don't know about you, but I'm a bit weary of the "let's lighten up breast cancer" excuse that seems to be the prevalent reasoning behind the creation and marketing of many provocative breast cancer awareness ads and campaigns. Lightening up breast cancer is the same as trivializing it in my book. And trivializing a disease that still kills 40,000 women and men every year in the United States alone does not sit well with me.
Some things shouldn't be lightened up or trivialized. Breast cancer is one of these things.
Breast cancer is still a serious disease and presenting it as anything else is just plain irresponsible. The objectification of women and/or their body parts is as well.
Oftentimes, such "light-hearted" awareness campaigns proclaim to be appealing to a younger crowd. Creators insist the younger crowd responds better when the word breasts is replaced with "more fun ones" such as: boobies, tatas, hooters, melons, cupcakes, racks and too many others to count. Taking this a step further, often, such campaign slogans also contain verbs calling for action such as: grab, feel, set free, grope and squeeze, to name a few. On the surface, such words might indeed appear harmless and fun, but if one looks deeper, perhaps they also insinuate something else -- that objectifying women or women's body parts is acceptable. It's not.
Again, the reasoning behind such campaigns generally comes back to the claim that the younger crowd won't pay attention if things get too serious.
I have a lot more respect for young people and a whole lot more confidence in their ability to pay attention.
Why should we "dumb things down" for the younger crowd, or for any crowd, for that matter?
As an educator, I understand the grabbing attention concept. After all, if my students aren't paying attention, how I can I teach them whatever I'm trying to teach?
But learning isn't always about fun and games. Often we educate about serious topics that are anything but. Sometimes it's entirely inappropriate to engage learners about a serious topic in a cavalier manner.
The same might be said in regard to educating about breast cancer.
Objectifying women by marketing articles of clothing (or any merchandise) depicting demeaning images or slogans about breasts under the guise of awareness is not helping to generate meaningful awareness. In fact, it might be doing the exact opposite. And think about it: If any message is delivered in a sassy or tantalizing manner, will it really be taken as seriously? Probably not.
Do such ads and campaigns have the right to deliver their messages in the manner of their choosing? Of course they do. I'm all for free expression.
However, the trivialization of a serious disease and the objectifying of women under the guise of awareness are both bad ideas.
Let's stop "dumbing down" breast cancer awareness efforts.
Young people deserve better.
We all do.
What do you think?