Subtitle: (and I probably don’t want to hear it)
Note 1: NSFW-picture of my bare, cancer-scarred breast below
Note 2: Controversial and offensive content—something about a woman writing about feminist issues makes everyone lose their shit. Please read all the way through including the note at the end if you wish to send anger or hate, which will simply be removed—it’s my blog, my rules
Like I said in a previous post, there are many items to discuss in Telling Knots’ posts about the Larry Flynt event. Another aspect I’ve been pondering is the venom focused on Flynt alone. You know the sayings “spread the love” or “share the wealth”? It would be terrible if I bluntly said “spread the anger”, so I politely say I will distribute my crankiness around a bit more. Flynt is a small piece of a huge problem, and I just see too many other targets.
The Flynt event was not the first like it, nor will it be the last. One of the motivations for me to start blogging last fall was finally finding other bloggers that pointed out the ridiculous sexualization in breast cancer awareness. One post discussed an event that took place in Las Vegas, with a poster or ad that featured a woman’s bikini clad torso—no head of course—with some ta-ta type slogan. Is it on the same page as Flynt’s topless event? No, but it is in the same book. Hell, maybe in some ways it is a bit easier to understand such an event sponsored by the porn industry. When sexualization of breast cancer comes from other places, like especially a corporation that is supposedly a big supporter or partner with “the cause”, when these people start sneaking it in, it is unexpected, and maybe a bit more upsetting to me.
The point is there are lots of folks who find it acceptable to use suggestive photos of women/breasts in an ad for breast cancer awareness. There are lots of folks who helped Flynt pull that event together, such as partner organizations and his employees—I doubt he micromanages to the point that the event was all his doing; I wonder if it was even his idea, not that it really matters much to me. So, you see, I distribute my anger to all those willingly responsible for planning and executing the event. And I send my anger to the folks who put together that event in Las Vegas. And I’m saving a big dose for the large corporate organizations that partner with any breast cancer organization and use a flawless naked woman covering herself in those ads I see in major magazines. I assume it is supposed to be classy, no bikinis and no sexy poses, no hint of breast exposure at all really, but all I can think is, why the hell is she naked? I just saw one not long ago, and it is not even close to October; I mean I’m not even sure exactly what the ad was for other than general “awareness”, and I honestly cannot be certain which corporation was listed on it (one of the ones that does a lot with breast cancer organizations, nothing new)—the naked woman was just too distracting and I was blinded by rage. (So tired of the image for the breast cancer patient being a woman covering her naked self, or wearing pink and feathers and heels and the like—I faced cancer in yoga pants and baggy shirts, that’s the only way I wanna do it, dammit!) For the creators of these ideas, the people who approve their use, I have contempt for them all.
These events, posters, slogans, and even organizations’ names that irritate me exist because lots of people, breast-less & reconstructed breast cancer patients included, find this line of support totally acceptable. Their opinions, view-points, and feelings are all valid, but so are mine. The folks who participate in or financially support these events and etc. think it is a great way to “do something”, and why should anyone complain…people are being helped. But I find it difficult to be grateful for this kind of support.
BTW: I also acknowledge I benefitted from cancer care funded by things I find objectionable. Does NOT mean I do not want others to benefit. It DOES mean I’m asking for better ways of funding, for understanding (what breast cancer really does to a breast) of breast cancer to REPLACE awareness (pink fluffy plastic shit). I just want more and better everything. I ask this for future breast cancer patients who might feel as I do.
I wish I could express the social and psychological aspects of why sexualization of breast cancer is so infuriating as eloquently as Telling Knots and My Eyes Are Up Here, but I don’t have to because they already did.
You see, my issue with the sexualization is much simpler, much more self-absorbed, and far away from any moral high ground. It is personal and yep, selfish. Until now, I was afraid to admit it, because I know in comments I’ll just be told I need to “get help” to get over my body issues (please don’t send me that comment). But Cancer In My Thirties posted this recently: National No Bra Day & Breast Cancer Awareness Month — OR — Please Put that Pink Can of Soup Down & Put Your Bra Back On! I reblogged it earlier, or you can click to it via that link, but in case you don’t, here is the most important part:
“So the thought of seeing bra-less women flaunting two body parts that I have lost to cancer — more than I already see this on a regular day — does not feel all that supportive. In fact, it feels quite the opposite.”
So, I only lost a nipple of one breast, but in the eyes of society, I’m damaged goods. The sight of me topless would not raise money for the charity events mentioned above. I’m sure an economist could more accurately explain what I’m trying to say here: society puts value on things like beauty and naked breasts are a commodity. Now that mine are wrecked, what does that say about how society values me? NO I do NOT just think of my self-worth in terms of my breasts, but it is just bull-headed denial to not realize how women are viewed/valued. **Please read note at the bottom of this post before reacting with a comment. And my image AND my failed mammography story sure as hell is not a story that pink would use.
Those first months after the disfiguring surgery, before I decided on the tattoo, I had white hot anger and resentment. It’s not like I wasn’t aware of the way women are dressed in commercials and TV shows, the existence of Hooters and so forth, but I was hyper aware after cancer. I thought if I saw one more woman in a low cut blouse on TV I’d lose it (how is it men wear all these suits and women wear skimpy outfits on TV? Either one of them has gotta be really hot or the other freezing cold). Sometimes I bitterly thought, “yeah, flaunt ‘em while you still got ‘em honey, ‘cause look what happened to me.” I got better, more tolerant of this constant influx of breast imagery, but I draw the line at having to tolerate looking at healthy bare breasts to fundraise against a disease that cost me and so many others what these healthy women still have. Flaunt them for commercials, porn, whatever, I don’t care, but I don’t want to see it for cancer.
To those so eager to bare all for “a good cause”, even in those “classy” major corporations’ ads, I repeat: I don’t want to see it. I know some of these women angrily defend their choice, accuse those who dislike the sexualization of being selfish, but it seems little thought is given to how a patient whose ta-tas (yuk, that word) have not been saved would feel about seeing those un-diseased breasts. Which is astounding really, in my view, because as I write it now, I realize how cruelly insensitive such action is. Did this not occur to anyone before stripping, or posing in a pink barely there bikini top? It’s like that t-shirt slogan I don’t especially care for, but it makes sense here, the one that talks about how the wearer has fake breasts since the real ones were murderous: why would anyone think all breast cancer patients would like to see healthy, non-homicidal ones? To those so eager to bare all, especially those who loudly point out how they do it to benefit breast cancer patients, stop expecting applause (which is so clearly wanted, given the loudness of the defenses—guess there really is no such thing as a selfless good deed), stop expecting unanimous gratitude, cheers, and kudos from all those you claim to want to help. Some will appreciate the action. I don’t, and I suspect I’m not the only one.
Before you comment to me:
I’m not interested or capable of getting into a discussion about sexism, portrayal of women and their bodies in the media, or any of that. I will not engage in such a discussion. Just reading the comments on feminist blog posts on HuffPo prove to me that those discussions go nowhere, everyone has their mind made up and no one gives an inch (is it just me or aren’t those comments accusing the writer of being shrill….just shrill?). I am a flaming liberal feminist, I think there are problems with the way women are shown in all aspects of the media, I’m NOT against all nudity and sexiness and many other things, and probably hold not so feminist views on porn, definitely I’m not a good feminist when it comes to my tolerance for misogynist lyrics in hip-hop, a genre of music I love. Human sexuality is a tricky deal, and I’m not equipped to address it. I’m only saying here what I feel as a woman, a breast cancer patient who had disfiguring surgery, as a human. I post pictures of myself, with the caption that my breast is not sexy to make just that exact point, to show others facing similar surgery what might be in store. I post my post-tattoo picture because for me it is positive, I really like it. If you don’t, don’t look at it. I’m sure it doesn’t make sense, I’m sure I contradict myself, I’m sure I am a hypocrite. Humans are consistently inconsistent, and I’m a great example of that. No apologies.