In recent years, the increasing frankness of breast cancer PSAs has been a bright spot of adult sensibility in what is Americans’ generally neurotic relationship to the female anatomy. Bear in mind that our national dialogue was brought to an inane standstill when Janet Jackson’s breast was briefly exposed during the 2004 Super Bowl halftime show. Compared to the “Save the Boobs” spot, Jackson might as well have been wearing a burqa.
Also, this ad — and a couple more like it — represent one of the few occasions when the male tendency to objectify the female body is put to good use, as opposed to selling beer and premium football cable packages. They seem to answer a question that must have nagged breast-cancer-awareness advocates: How to get men to care?
According to Cho, the group’s founder believes the PSA will encourage men to help their wives and girlfriends check for breast cancer — despite the fact that the ad never includes such a suggestion, even though it would have been easy to build in. (“Like boobs? Why not spend more time touching them? Help your girlfriend check for breast cancer.”)
But what really bothers me about the PSA, aside from the obvious — how problematic it is to sexualize cancer, the implication that only hot girls with nice racks are worth caring about — is its cynicism toward young men. Does Rethink Breast Cancer really believe that the only way to make guys care is to slap together a sexy ad with a boobs-to-information ratio that’s downright offensive? Is it impossible to believe that men’s interest in breast cancer research might go beyond the selfish desire to “Save the boobs”? I’m all for reaching out to get as many people involved in the fight against breast cancer as possible. I just don’t think insulting men’s intelligence is the way to do it.