Immodest Proposal Day

I’m just gonna copy and paste a 4 year old blog post here, I’m not gonna do much actual writing or work. Why is the Cancer Curmudgeon such a damn broken record? Because people don’t change, won’t GROW THE FUCK UP about breast cancer.

Well, some stuff changed. I’m kinda not raging about No Bra Day here so much as the fact those Facebook secret status games are popping up and annoying people. Not me–most of my FB friends are other cancer patients who hold my views. I’m not being superior–I just don’t make friends easily and my cancer tribe is small, but I love them fiercely. (Y’all know who you are.)

So yeah, I once suggested instead of no bra day how about what cancer really does to breasts day–baring one’s scars I guess some would consider immodest. Not me, I don’t care really.

I re-read this rant and was like, geez, I threw everything but the kitchen sink in here. I even see that I was toying with the warped warrior metaphors in cancer-speak. I don’t think the warrior language commonly used is realistic in actual military sense–but I’ll expand that notion later, I swear, I’ll get around to it soon.

But the 2 things I wanna highlight right now especially those newer in CancerLand–don’t be alarmed by all the women in “awareness” ads with strategically placed arms over their HEALTHY, non-cancer, breasts. Culture demands women be sexy in awareness ads, but women with scars cannot be sexy, they are reduced to being brave-strong-warriors with beatific smiles. Gag. Second thing, there will be a day again this year like last, a reality check day, we are planning, details coming soon. We WILL inject some reality into the fantasy our culture keeps insisting upon.

How About a “What Cancer Really Does to Breasts Day”?

I wasn’t going to write about No Bra Day, because 1) so many other blogs I read have said most of what needs to be said, 2) why should I give it more exposure and attention, and 3) I wrote an overly long, overly wordy piece this summer already, back when there was this other No Bra Day (how many are there?!). The earlier piece, I Don’t Want to See It, is mostly crap I wish I had not written, only the final 5 or so paragraphs are worth reading, and some of the sentiment of those will be repeated here.

I changed my mind because as I started mentally ranting I realized that ignoring it won’t make it go away any more than giving it more attention will (more on this theory, keep reading). It deserves all the outrage that can be had.

Who the hell organizes these No Bra Days? There is no organizational name on that graphic (everyone has seen it I’m sure), so I guess it is just some idea someone passed around on Facebook (sorry, I still cannot have a FB page for personal, non-cancer related reasons, so I’m dim on Facebook things). How the hell does it benefit anyone? Don’t bullshit me and say it raises awareness, especially when the top line of the graphic reads “support breast cancer”. Sounds like the purpose of the day is to increase the incidence of breast cancer—the graphic doesn’t even bother to discuss support for patients in any way.  It’s just another excuse to sexualize a disease, and to be childish and talk about boobies. Again.

What I am saying is divisive and angry; I know and do not care. I am so fond of the quote “just because you’re offended, doesn’t mean you’re right,” (Ricky Gervais) and I know that just because this event and the participants offend me, I’m not right. Lots of folks, including breast cancer patients, think all this is just fine, so it is doubtful that this event will cease to exist. But I AM offended and right or wrong, I’m going to gripe about it.

Setting healthy ta-tas “free” doesn’t support this breast cancer patient, again, not that this event even bothers to pretend to support any patients, it is supporting breast cancer, remember? It just reminds me of what cancer did to my breasts, and to other breasts. The scars, the ugliness, the pain and surgery. Need I go on? While I can begrudgingly accept that people who donate or participate in Pink have good hearts even if I hate Pink, I have NO appreciation for anyone involved in No Bra Day. Do NOT expect any gratitude or applause for the participation from me. I’m glad that these women are still healthy, still have breasts unmarred by cancer, but I really do not want to be reminded of what I lost. To those who organized this No Bra Day, I consider you insensitive, thoughtless jerks.

I know this day, the participants, and whoever organized it will get praise from many corners—but a quick scan on Google and other blogs gives evidence of some criticism about this event. I wish there more outrage about it. While I have no hope these days of the Pink machine slowing down, I yearn for more concrete ways to express my extreme dissatisfaction. This No Bra Day is one of the most egregious examples of how a disease has become the plaything of an adolescent, boobies obsessed culture.  If I were rich, I’d buy a million very covering and very supportive bras and throw them—well, somewhere, since there is no physical headquarters for this idiotic nonsense. Maybe I’d just scatter them about a big city street, to stop traffic and get everyone to see how at least this one breast cancer patient really feels. Sure, that would just be me throwing a childish tantrum—but the organizers have proven that they are not emotionally or intellectually adult enough to understand the lengthy, smart essays criticizing the event.

Source: etsy
Source: etsy

Why doesn’t someone come up with a “What Cancer Really Does to Breasts Day”, gathering and presenting all the pictures of so many bloggers (myself included, I would do this) in various stages of lumpectomy/mastectomy, reconstruction or no reconstruction? There are certainly plenty of said pictures on the internet. I get why established groups or projects cannot do this—with establishment comes the need to “play nice”.  Being a socially awkward, complaining Curmudgeon—in real life and in the blogosphere—means I seem unable to play nice.

I’m sure many would find a “What Cancer Really Does to Breasts Day” objectionable and offensive (see this is where I can use the Gervais quote to my advantage). But here’s the thing: not wearing bras, or even those “tasteful” Pink ads featuring topless, strategically covered, healthy-breasted models for that matter, do nothing to make anyone understand the reality of breast cancer—other than show off what to those who objectify boobies will be “missing” should cancer afflict any of these women. The current socially acceptable image of breast cancer is the bald-headed woman in a pink t-shirt at a run or walk, smiling and being strong. To me it’s like a sick before and after scenario: women before cancer can be sexy and flaunt naked breasts for cancer awareness, women after breast cancer surgery need to keep covered, need to become unsexy soldiers to admire for bravery, but not to be desired.

Seeing what breast cancer is capable of, and what women who’ve had scarring surgery are capable of, seems more logical and helpful to me. On a personal level, it certainly would’ve helped me when I was recovering from surgery and follow-up radiation, wondering what to do. Instead I saw bikini clad women in ta-ta breast cancer ads, and felt horrible, my emotional wound constantly re-opened.

I loathe the battle language in cancer, as I’ve mentioned often enough throughout my posts. What I hate most is that it is used mainly to blame “soldiers” who’ve “lost their battle with cancer” because they “didn’t fight hard enough.” I rarely see war talk applied in terms of a grand battle plan. Why isn’t it applied here? A good general goes into battle prepared, knowing as much about the enemy as possible—their weapons, strategies, the size and the location of the enemy, and what the enemy does to prisoners. Would it not make sense to show what the “enemy”, breast cancer, does to these “soldier” women? How can this proverbial “battle” be fought if everyone is refusing to acknowledge the “battle scars”? Oh right, we’re not supposed to be victims or prisoners, cancer happens to us, but there should be no lasting mental effects, and no one wants to see the scars (as the summertime fracas with Facebook and the surrounding conversations proved)—we either win or lose, and it’s all on us, even if the weapons (medicine) fail the soldiers, no matter how hard we fight. Yes I’m being sarcastic.

This mass delusion of only showing healthy breasts in regards to breast cancer has got to stop. Yes, it is good to think positive, to dream, and to champion the bright side of life—even if a Cancer Curmudgeon just won’t do that. But to completely ignore the reality, to not face the ugliness or pain cancer brings, I assure everyone, it doesn’t make the ugliness or pain cease to exist. Furthermore, wouldn’t seeing pictures of women ALIVE after scarring surgery be, I don’t know, positive? I remember being told on HuffPo this summer that these scars should not be shown. Hope she never has to go through it, hope she never has to see that ugliness in the mirror, hope she never needs to see my example of one who turned an ugly scar into a triumph.

I prefer to know what I’m up against and I’m tired of a socially acceptable conversation about cancer in which everyone covers their eyes and ears, singing “la la la”, like nothing bad ever happens.  Sometimes, ignoring the bad stuff only results in a sucker punch later.

Only three types of people tell the truth: kids, drunk people, and anyone who is pissed the fuck off.” –Richard Pryor

Sometimes people don’t want to hear the truth because they don’t want their illusions destroyed. –Nietzsche

 

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Author: Cancer Curmudgeon

Oct 2010 diagnosed with Stage 3, HER2+ Breast Cancer. Completed treatment Jan 2012. Waaaaaay over pink. Applying punk rock sensibility to how I do cancer.

4 thoughts on “Immodest Proposal Day”

  1. “Sometimes, ignoring the bad stuff only results in a sucker punch later.”….. that resonates with me. I was aware of cancer, of course but it wasn’t until I became a permanent resident of Cancerland that we learned the realities…. *wow*…. I understand why some want to celebrate “survivorship” but forgetting the reality is not okay. I too cringe when I hear ‘boobies and tatas’. We’re adults, right. And doesn’t that make it difficult for males with breast cancer to feel part of the community? I will never understand women who have gone through the journey and still want to “save the boobies”…. isn’t it supposed to be about saving lives?????

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  2. Thanks for your posts, always refreshing. I have chosen to wear no prosthetic breast after my mastectomy. Which means that I walk around with 1 solo D cup. Not because I am innately a bad ass, but because I wasn’t a good candidate for reconstruction, and the boob in a box was too upsetting. The message from all the sexual campaigns seems to be that helping women hide there disfigurement after cancer treatments is the number one priority.

    Last year I was in a parade in my little town as part of a float for a worker owned business I am a founding member of. I was dressed as a Beauty Queen. It was really empowering to basically declare myself sexy one breasted and all.

    It is not always easy being so visible in my asymmetry, but I rise to it because I think maybe it will help other women, especially those who hate their bodies, even when they are unmarked and whole. I want to be a visible reminder that even scarred, even one breasted, it is possible to be whole. I wish sometimes that more women who are one breasted felt more comfortable being visible with it. I wonder how much shame is involved in pursuing symmetry. I love the idea of a day in which we celebrate and acknowledge that being amazing is not the absence of scars, or despite scars.
    Occasionally I notice people noticing my chest and then seeming uncomfortable, in 3 1/2 years no one has called me out to my face for being publicly gross or anything. Honestly most people don’t notice.
    It would have been easier for me to have lost a breast if I had seen any visible sign from the many women who have let me know in whispers that they too went through breast cancer. Knowing that there are millions hiding scars saddens me. I wish I felt more solidarity, but their sisterhood is hidden from me. I have often thought if all the women who have had breast cancer were more noticeable for even one day, there wouldn’t need to be any more “breast cancer awareness” campaigns. Maybe all that effort being spent saving Tatas could go towards empowering and supporting people, or better yet shining awareness on all the chemical shit that is causing cancer in the first place.

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