LETTER: Sexualization of Breast Cancer Awareness Month saddening

As Breast Cancer Awareness month winds down, I am greeted with relief.

The sexualization of breast cancer is not only on CMU’s campus, but it’s becoming a nationwide phenomena.

Between “save the tatas” bracelets and “grope your wife” T-shirts, the fight against breast cancer is turning away from the movement of camaraderie and hope, to a sexual exploitative campaign to make money.

It saddens me that this new, degrading method of cancer awareness seems to be the new trend.

What about the women who have been diagnosed with breast cancer? What about women who must undergo mastectomies in order to survive? What about the thousands of men who get breast cancer?

This sexualized campaign against breast cancer alienates all of these groups of people. It takes away focus on the person and only spotlights the parts.

I am particularly disgusted with a group of CMU students who annually decorate the front of the Bovee University Center with bras to raise awareness for breast cancer. These actions turn away focus on the issue itself and turns a terrible experience into sexualized objectification.

It treats women as being faceless body parts and fails to honor the women (and men) who really are affected by cancer.

There are real, hope-filled organizations in Mount Pleasant that promote dignity to women and families affected by breast cancer. One in particular is the Angel Wings Fund, an organization that works to assist families of breast cancer victims.

I am disappointed that this Breast Cancer Awareness Month focused so heavily on women as sexual objects, and I hope that in the future the CMU community sees beyond “saving the tatas.”

Brynn McDonnell

Rockford sophomore


  1. This needed to be said.

  2. Mariah Urueta says:

    Right on! Such a good article. It is sad that A) A cause has to be filled with sexual innuendos to be cared for and that B) because of this, it takes away from the other cancer campaigns that are just as bad, if not more.

  3. I second this article. :)

  4. Well said, Brynn.

  5. Good Article, needs to be said more.

  6. I couldn’t have said it any better. It makes me happy to see others were disgusted with the bras flying outside of Bovee.

  7. Lacey Johnson says:

    This is a horrible outlook on breast cancer awareness. The group that puts those bras out is for awareness, not discrimination or sexualization of women. What happens when you get a mammogram? You get your boobs touched and squished. What should you do regularly? Touch your boobs for prevention. Disgusting is the outlook you’ve chosen to take on promoting awareness and the hard work Colleges Against Cancer does all year to raise awareness and funds to promote prevention of ALL cancers. If you don’t like how an RSO is run, then don’t hide behind a letter in CM-Life, come to a CAC meeting and voice your opinion. All the sayings referring to boobs are not slanderous or degrading, it’s the truth. You get cancer in your boobs, men and women, so to promote awareness organizations use boobs as a symbol. Same as using cigarettes as a symbol to promote awareness to lung cancer. The audacity you have to write a letter like this is disappointing and shows how uneducated you are about cancer and prevention/awareness of it. Go talk to a public relations major and they’ll defend all these campaigns, because simply saying “go get a mammogram” won’t catch anyone’s eye whereas those catchy sayings you’ve listed above catch EVERYONE’S attention. This is the most uneducated piece of writing I’ve ever read on cancer awareness and I’m disappointed in the judgmental outlook you’ve taken on CAC and breast cancer awareness in general.

    • Educated Myself says:

      how is it not sexualization? When a campaign’s goal is to “save the tatas” and degrade a woman to her parts, how is that not sexualized? When men wear shirts that have to do with “feel your boobies”, how is that not sexualized? I have talked to women and how they feel about these campaigns. They, along with myself are disappointed with it. I have talked to survivors who feel like they are being treated as sexual objects. It’s not right. I have no qualms with CAC, as it is mirroring a deeper societal issue.

      • More educated says:

        It’s not sexualization unless men make it so. Women are degraded by their gender everyday, not to mention body parts, boobs are sexual but not when you put them as a signature to prevention and awareness. Women feel that way because of wrong doings within certain campaigns. I agree that shirts saying “grope your wife” are out of line, but sayings like “save the tatas” and “feel your boobies” are real things. Women who have had breast cancer feel less of a woman when they have to have their boobs surgically removed because they had breast cancer. How can you try to help prevent it? By feeling your boobs. Some campaigns are disappointing, but simply putting bras on a clothing line as a signature to breast cancer, does not sexualize women. It’s BREAST cancer, a real thing dealing with a body part. All campaigns for breast cancer have the goal of saving the tatas, and in the doctors office, doctors tell women to touch their boobs all the time. It’s about awareness and prevention.

        • If it is not based on sexualization or sexism, tell me…where can I find the “save the testes” campaign on campus?

        • I_Was_A_Teenage_McCarthyist says:

          Wow. that is a revealing statement.

          Only men can sexualize something?

          Maybe you should, I don’t … look up what that word means.

          Because It doesn’t imply a victim/perpetrator relationship.

          Sexualizing means to reduce something only to it’s pure carnal value. To make something which arouses the prurient interest and make all other aspects subsidiary.

          Bras all over the place remind PEOPLE of sex. There is no need to know who hung them or why – if that’s the first thing you see.

          You guys chose bras to get attention. The associated sayings and nonsense turns something real into something puritan in it’s wording, but still has sex appeal.What exactly is the point of an awareness action like this except to remind people of something sexy, and thusly make it important to them?

          Can you point out one person to me who doesn’t know what cancer is? Awareness art is essentially useless. It turns real problems, real illness and real pain into something superfluous.

          What if I hung a giant pair of testicles from a clothesline in the center of campus? Do you care about testicular or prostate cancer? Probably not, because you can’t experience it.

    • hey. check out this movie. this is a problem, and if you are choosing to be blind to it, then you are hurting your organization. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4SsPm6ByxyE&feature=share

  8. I am foremost disgusted with this article because it’s grossly inaccurate and a poor portrayal of CAC. I would just like to ask how hanging bras up outside the UC was sexual objectification? Unless I missed it I didn’t see any women out there in bras asking men to feel their boobs for breast cancer. Additionally, can I see a full story of the work CAC did for breast cancer? Such as making people pinky promise to get checked, or perhaps having local businesses such as max & emily’s donate cookies as incentive for people to call their loved ones to remind them to get mammograms.

    Save the tatas also is not a sexual explicit either it is just another word for breast a female organ that exists. Companies that make these shirts raise hundreds of thousands of dollars for cancer research and put breast cancer in the media, which is extremely important for awareness and prevention.

    Want to see a save the testes campaign? Have suggestions for how to better run pink week, while still making a statement and creating awareness? Come talk to us we meet on a biweekly basis and are open to suggestions. However, it is distasteful to passively bash a group that tries to prevent women from suffering the same fate millions have.

    Hope to see you all at the next meeting!

    • that was inviting…

    • concernedstudent says:

      …what is CAC?… where and when do you meet? i’d be happy to show up and start a discussion regarding this, if you’re serious :)

      you need to seriously just consider the underlying messages that you’re spreading. gotta look deeper than the fact that you’re raising money for a great cause – and also think about the connotative messages that your campaign is relaying. Read this article for more info: http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2012/10/30/patients-decry-sexualization-of-breast-cancer/1630911/ … There are others who also agree that this is a problem, including breast cancer survivors and people high up in foundations like yours. Here’s what one survivor had to say, in case you choose not to take a little time out of your day to read through and consider that article: “Save the tatas? No, save the women. A lot of us had to give up our tatas to live.”

  9. I don’t even think it’s all that offensive or demeaning. I just think it’s fucking weird. Why are people sexualizing CANCER of all things? Cancer isn’t sexy. I’m sorry, but it’s not. Just because it involves a sexual area of a person, that doesn’t make it sexual too. If you show someone a picture of a woman showing her breasts, that doesn’t make people want to help breast cancer sufferers, it just makes them think, “Hey, that’s a hot picture.” What are they trying to get across. That’s cancer is hot? People who have cancer are hot? Being sexy and having cancer are two totally unrelated things. Sex sells, I know, but . . . it’s an illness that kills people, and in a lot of cases leads them to having to have their breasts removed entirely. Call me crazy, but I’m a little weirded out by the concept of raising awareness of that by showing a hot girl’s boobs seeing as how a lot of people with breast cancer don’t even have their own breasts anymore.

  10. arbuchinger says:

    I’m so glad to see some CMU students thinking about this topic. The sexualization of breast cancer (and the totally dehumanizing way the campaigns reach out to women–nay, reach out to women’s breasts) is disturbing and embarrassing. Screw tits; save the women and men affected by this.

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