I’ve been brooding on this topic for many months, just have not had time or energy to reach conclusions so I can write about it. The issue of whether or not those of us with scars from breast surgery should post photos of said scars on the internet pops up from time to time. Sometimes it is in the form of Facebook users objecting to the pics, or there is discussion about the “arty-farty” photo exhibits of women baring their chests or whole bodies after mastectomy—and whether this is a whole new level of objectifying “boobies”.
I’ve been contemplating and re-evaluating my decision to post my own picture recently, in light of all this discussion. I’ve wondered if I’ve objectified myself—certainly some of the comments I’ve received have been strange, but mostly I ignore it.
I’m still not prepared today to delve into my thoughts and feelings surrounding the objectification, the idea that this rash of photos of women baring their scarred breasts may be supplanting the image I hate: the bald, smiling, pink feather boa-wearing warrior woman—and I indict myself for my contribution to that. I’m still sorting out my thoughts and feelings on it.
But I was pulled into mulling it over today when I saw some disturbing comments on I Had Cancer’s Facebook posting of Stupid Dumb Breast Cancer’s photo of her bare chest, her scars. Most of the comments run the usual way—you go girl, badass, warrior, strong, beautiful, all that. But every so often one of those upsetting (to me) comments popped up. Someone said it was sad, a few others—weird. And the worst: a suggestion the image would scare women out of getting mammograms.
I strive to be compassionate, to have empathy, to always try to see things from others’ point of view. But this is one area in which I utterly fail in understanding another POV. These scars some of us chose to show—this is what happened to us, and what happens, and will happen to many, many women. It is a result of having breast cancer. Denying it, or wanting it to go away, just seems insane to me. Not looking at these images, wishing them away, will not stop the march of breast cancer, and the results of treatment.
I’ve mentioned in MANY posts my dislike of the warrior/battle language in cancer. I cannot help but notice the irony that for all the battle language that exists, I don’t think people actually know what it means. If a person has to “battle” cancer, a person must understand all the outcomes, the casualties, if you will. Does a general devise a battle plan without knowing and understanding the terrain and landscape into which soldiers are being sent? No, all possible aspects are considered: landscapes, dangers, projected life loss, captures…and I don’t know what all, I’ve never been a soldier. So why not know what is involved in the “battle” of breast cancer? I get that not everyone objecting to the pictures engages in warrior language, but I’ve seen a few comments from self-proclaimed warriors who do not seem to want to know anything other than happy, perky, pinky, positive stuff, because the “downer” facts make the battle harder. I just cannot understand this. That will always be a failing of mine, and I am sorry for my lack of empathy here. But I just will never be able to understand that mindset.
When I faced my surgery, I was still an internet idiot about social media in regards to cancer communities (I used the internet for work and hated using the computer in what little downtime I had, so no blogging back then). I only saw a few medical, informational pictures of what my result might look like. I had to deal with the emotional fall out on my own. I had no examples of the sort of “realness” Ann Marie’s photo, or my photo, provide. When I decided to get a decorative tattoo, rather than a reconstructed nipple with tattoo coloring, I had no idea there was this whole movement, like P.Ink, that did that kind of thing. I discovered it as I began researching ideas for my own tattoo.
And I felt so MUCH better once I found these websites, social media outlets, these pictures of reality.
While I still grapple with the objectification issue, the idea that topless scar pictures are being absorbed and used in the Pink propaganda, I cling to the notion—for now—that all these pictures are good. People who don’t want to see what happens to a breast when it gets cancer, well, look away. Keep your heads in the sand, that won’t change the reality of what really happens to breasts when a person gets breast cancer. My picture remains here for now, for the woman who is going through what I went through then—who needs an idea, an example of what her reality will be.
This post is where I am on this subject today. I will revisit it again, later.