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Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Deflating the "Save the boobies!" campaign

The other day my oldest sat next to a kid wearing a "Save the Boobies" bracelet for Breast Cancer Awareness. Aside from the fact that yeah, I kind of want to keep my beloved child as pure as possible for as long as I can LOL (I know, a daunting task) it struck me how sexualized the very nature of this campaign is.

Sure, it grabs attention. But attention to what?

I've passed those cars on the freeway with a cartooned version of two breasts on the back or whatever it is. All in the name of breast cancer awareness. But I think they have missed their mark, in a big way, and it is to the detriment of those who want to also promote breastfeeding awareness and how important it is (for several reasons!).

While there is already ongoing battle over the "proper" use of breasts in our society, this one seems to be a virtual tug of war between two advocacy groups, and one is definitely gaining more traction than the other - and trampling on the others' ideals at the same time.

Raising awareness about breast cancer is certainly important, but two things bother me: how most awareness sites mention nothing about how breastfeeding can lower risk among certain groups, and how sexualized some campaigns to raise awareness is.

It's perfectly okay to make off-the-cuff remarks about "boobies," but the minute you are seen nursing your child in public you are the target of public scrutiny. You can sit next to someone on an airplane wearing a tight t-shirt emblazoned with "Save the Boobies!" in huge letters and people might smirk, but won't take issue with it because "it's for a good cause, after all. I guess I can live with that." But if you're nursing a child on that plane, giving your little one the best milk nature can make, as well as reducing your chances of breast cancer all at the same time, you're virtually vilified and treated like an outcast.

As if that wasn't bad enough, now in some areas nursing a child past the age of two is considered a "crime." In a suburb of Atlanta, the city has passed an ordinance that makes publicly nursing a two-year-old fall under the umbrella of "public nudity." 
Forest Park's attorney said the law isn't about breastfeeding. He said it's about stopping the crime that surrounds other forms of public indecency.
Because I'm sure you know that so many women are so willing to get naked in public that they just grab up any old toddler they can and nurse them as a way of legitimizing showing their breasts off. Right? Sounds perfectly reasonable.

The ordinance, however, states that exceptions to the rule include:
children under the age of ten, legitimate live performances like plays, and breastfeeding any child under age two. 

Legitimate live performances, huh? I'm sure the debate over what's "legitimate" is questionable, and because of everyone's differing opinions on what's acceptable, they won't touch that one with a ten-foot pole.

With the eye-catching shock value of "save the boobies!" it only furthers the sexualized nature of breasts and completely illegitimizes what their primary focus should be: to feed a baby (or toddler).

Interestingly, another site (that I think is affiliated with the Save the Boobies crap but can't really tell) is telling you to "bare all for breast cancer." I will never know for sure, though, because guess what: my internet filter blocks it as "nudity."

When I went to the Save the Boobies FaceBook fan page, the first thing that came up were women in bikinis, a woman with very large, probably very fake, breasts giving herself an "exam" (which looked more like soft porn than anything else), and some close-ups of women with large chests. One person even commented,
"All of the boobies in this album are fake, saving boobies is about the real ones. How about some love for those?"
I agree. (Apparently two other people did, too.)

Apparently this is
someone's idea of
a breast exam.
From the Save the
Boobies FaceBook
fan page. 
Just based on the content of this page, I think their motives are anything but altruistic and appear self-serving, at best. Many of the photos posted on the page feature close-ups of cleavage and women in suggestive poses. And I'm sure if I commented on her page, I'd get lambasted by the tons of people who comment on the site that are only there to see one thing. And it's clear that FaceBook, and society in general, have no problem with seeing naked breasts plastered all over the place, but if you attach a baby to that breast, it's "public nudity."

Isn't this the very thing breastfeeding women and advocates are trying to avoid, and educate others about?!

A few months ago I was shopping at Jo-Ann Fabrics and noticed one of those Nurture Nest nursing pillows that you can cover yourself. At the bottom, in tiny print, was something like, "All proceeds benefit Breast Cancer research." I thought, "Are you kidding me?!"

When I did a search on the National Breast Cancer Foundation's website for "breastfeeding" I got this answer: "Your search did not return any results." So why is the maker of a breastfeeding pillow willing to send money to an organization that clearly wants to distance itself completely from breastfeeding? I'm not sure who manufactures it, but it seems clear that really they're only donating money because it's the cool, "in" thing to do.

According to some studies, women who have a family history of breast cancer can lower their risk substantially just by breastfeeding. How is it that popular breast cancer advocacy groups don't know this, or won't mention it?

In my opinion, I believe they dance around the topic because of one thing: they don't want to offend those women who either "can't," won't or have trouble breastfeeding. Women who work, have difficulty or whatever the reason constantly beat themselves up over it, and sometimes pro-nursing advocates tend to be a little harsh in their approach. That said, no one here seems to be telling women one thing they should know: that your risk can be greatly reduced.

Perhaps those women who feel scrutinized should grow thicker skin; I don't know. Perhaps they should be more educated from nurses, doctors and lactation consultants just how important it is, but that it doesn't make you a "bad mother" if you tried and it didn't work. While I can't understand those who just don't want to and never really made an effort, I can't help but wonder if our totally messed up view of nursing is largely contributing to their reasons for not wanting to, and I find that unacceptable. All I know is, people like the Susan G. Komen Foundation and others don't want to get involved in a mommy wars battle, doing us all a great disservice.

Approaching it in a loving but educated way is probably the best solution, but ignoring the benefits - or making them seem dirty and sensual - might send more at-risk women to the grave than they realize.

More reading:
It takes nerve to breastfeed in public. Time to get out the mummy-guns
Susan G. Komen for the Cure isn't curing anything - Just West of Crunchy, one of my favorite blogs
Best for Babes


Dana @ WhatWereWeThinking? said...

Forest Park is getting rid of that section of the ordinance (if they haven't already) due to public pressure.

The "live performances" clause protects strip The Pink Pony South...located in...

*drum roll*

Forest Park, GA

The Deranged Housewife said...

Nice. :/ Why am I not surprised?

StorkStories said...

Very good post with excellent points and info... Thanks- I am sharing!