Save the Boobs campaign

Perhaps you’ve heard of this campaign.

Two opposing views of it..
First, the LA Times.

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?

Now Broadsheet:

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.

Thanks, J-Bro and Jender-Parents!

13 thoughts on “Save the Boobs campaign

  1. 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.”)

    That would be pretty pointless, given that many things that appear in breasts, benign or no, are not detectable by a manual exam anyway.

  2. I wouldn’t think it would be pointless. Some things do show up that way, so some would be caught that way. Still, it would be bad if people thought that was all they had to do.

  3. Here is the Dutch version of the pink ribbon campaign ad.
    The commentary is told as if it is a fairy tale of two girls hanging out together (that pun works in Dutch as well) and experiencing all kinds of things and hoping to stay for ever to the very end.
    I think it is a lot more stylish and completely lacks the sexualisation of the American ad, even though it has actual naked boobs in there (that’s why it was removed from youtube… *sighs*).

  4. On the one hand, that the negative critique seems unfair. It is a standard kind of ad, where the visual-to-explicit-content ratio can be very high.

    On the other hand, the problems may be deeper. One thing that’s working here, it seems to me, is the American sense that (women’s?) validation lies is the look of others,both men and women. That’s in dramatic contrast with the Dutch video, which, while much more revealing in some sense, is much more respectful. Or so it seems to me.

    What do you make of the fact that the central person is the only very full busted woman in the video? At least, I didn’t see any others.

  5. I don’t think the negative critique is unfair. Just imagine that they’re advertising hot-dogs. The exact same ad would work for that. There is nothing in the ad, except for the very end, that would suggest that this is an ad to prevent breast cancer. It seems like they were using breast cancer as an excuse to use sexist imagery in an ad that would have us screaming otherwise.

    In advertising, the audience is crucial. Breast cancer happens mostly to women. I am not sure how many women will find this ad convincing that we should take care of our breasts – I’d rather avoid stares and cat-calls. And how will this ad motivate husbands/boyfriends help their partners take care of their breasts? They’ll just be drooling over the ad and not get any specific information on what to do – staring at them doesn’t prevent breast cancer. (And I’ll leave aside the couplism in the assumption that the only way men & women relate is in a couple…).

  6. Rachel, I misspoke or typed or something. I meant that specific criticism about text to image was unfair. It is an ad and it is doing it the way ads do. In fact, there’s some empirical evidence that verbal content in ads is counterproductive.

    I do think the video is highly problematic, and it reinforces all sorts of bad stuff. It’s an interesting question of whether it will raise any male awareness of the vulnerability of the female body. I don’t think we should assume it won’t, though my worry is that it calls on its male audience to indulge themselves in distracting stereotypical behavior.

  7. To be quiet frank, I am a man, but I can tell you that this is the only thing that work. We like looking at breasts. Simple as that. You must remember that all humans are stupid, and men are just stupid in a different way.

    So, save the boobs is the only hope to save the breast cancer awareness movement as far as us males are concerned.

  8. I think this only highlights what’s been happening under the radar for years with the pink campaign. Painting the disease pink has such strong connotations of girlhood that it seems clear to me that the implication is weakness. Of course the campaign talks about “empowerment”, but that color so feminine-izes the issue that it is, to me, completely contradictory. I think there is a larger problem of gender stereotyping in the whole “awareness” campaign, so maybe this explicit statement will finally make people recognize how ridiculous it is to cast this disease as the disease of the weaker, prettier sex.

  9. I’ll bet a man wrote the first article and a female wrote the second XD. Hey what do you know, I’m right!

    I’m all for this type of advertising, I think the only effect it can have is positive. As I heard someone say, “Sex has been used to sell products for years, why not use it to spread awareness for breast cancer.”

    Judy Berman (second article) writes “..how problematic it is to sexualize cancer, the implication that only hot girls with nice racks are worth caring about..” This girl’s rack is actually lopsided, the right one is larger than the left. They’re still great tits, but this is just a normal woman, she’s not a swimsuit model.

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