Rethinking “Think Pink”

This was a letter written by Shelby L. Burton, a member USM Feminist Majority Leadership Alliance.

October finds us surrounded by pink t-shirts, bracelets and water bottles in the name of Breast Cancer Awareness. Happily, this easy activism has brought much attention to the cause and is met with enthusiasm from retailers and consumers alike. Unfortunately, I find that many of the mediums that tout awareness are in fact lacking true compassion.

You can walk into any store and find at least one item emblazoned with the slogan ‘Save the Boobies’ and stamped with some vague statement about supporting breast cancer research. I find this message extremely damaging, both as a woman and as the niece of a breast cancer survivor. The ‘Save Second Base’ culture may be attention-getting and easy to sell, but it is devaluing to the person attached to the breasts in question.

It is my experience that the loss of one’s breasts due to cancer is an extremely traumatic event and can lead to a tremendously damaged sense of self worth. Many women with breast cancer have to receive mastectomies (the surgical removal of the breast tissue) as a part of treatment, which is a large enough challenge.

The emotional fallout of such a procedure leads many women to experience depression and body dysphoria due to the implied loss of their femininity. Now we take that person who has survived the former death sentence of cancer and surround them by t-shirts that only care about what they lost, not the beautiful, whole life they preserved.

The focus of breast cancer awareness campaigns should be the women and men who fight this disease every day, not on their bodies. The ‘Save the Boobies’ campaign may have its heart in the right place, but I wholeheartedly believe that we should be fighting to save the women and not just second base.