I Don’t Want to Save Second Base

Tomorrow kicks off Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and I have one request: This October, let’s not save second base.

I know, I know, you probably think this month is a good thing. If not for all of those T-shirts demanding every female-bodied person to feel their boobies, or the bracelets simply proclaiming “I love boobies,” people with breasts might forget that they even have them, or at the very least might start to think that their breasts are their own business. But the female body seems to be an object owned by the public, so we must always be reminded that boobs exist only for others’ enjoyment.

And that’s precisely what so many Breast Cancer Awareness Month campaigns espouse: We must prevent breast cancer because a world without breasts would be terrible, unlivable. For the sake of everyone’s pleasure, we must save the ta-tas.

A world without women, though, is not such a terrible thought, which is why heart disease and lung cancer—the two leading killers of women in the United States—get so little attention. So what if a woman is 6.5 times more likely to die from a heart attack than from breast cancer? Clearly breast cancer is the biggest threat if it threatens to create a world of breastless women. We must have physically-appealing women or we can’t have women at all!

I’m not saying that breast cancer isn’t a serious disease. I’m saying that people living with breast cancer deserve much more respect than what they’re currently afforded by the general public. With 450,000 deaths and 1.4 million diagnoses each year, breast cancer is serious business. The Susan G. Komen Foundation identifies the biggest risk factors for getting breast cancer as “being female and getting older,” making it feel as though diagnosis is a question of when rather than if.

Try to put yourself in the shoes of a breast cancer survivor: You’ve undergone chemotherapy, radiation, a double mastectomy. You’ve spent months or years in and out of hospitals, left too sick and weak from your treatments to continue working. But you persevere. You fight like hell and you go into remission. You lost your breasts to cancer, but you survived and you have your life back again. And then October comes around, and everywhere you go, you see pink ribbons and slogans like “Save Second Base,” “I’m a Breast Man,” “Hello Titty,” “Fight for the Boobies,” “Save Motor Boating.”

How do you feel? Do you feel supported, like these people care about you as a human being and the struggle you’ve gone through? Or do you feel like society is telling you that you lost a vital piece of your humanness when you lost your breasts? Do you feel disgusted that not a single T-shirt says anything about saving a human life rather than a mere body part?

Maybe you think Breast Cancer Awareness month is still worth it because when you buy that T-shirt or bracelet (or pen or Swiffer or bucket of KFC or whatever it is) with the pink ribbon on it, that company donates money to breast cancer research. Wrong again.  We’ve let corporate America exploit the disease for monetary gain and a positive image. In the vast majority of cases, the actual donation that a company makes to cancer research is insignificant compared to the profit they make. Many people, including the creators of Think Before You Pink and the film Pink Ribbons, Inc. have criticized the abuse of Breast Cancer Awareness efforts for this exact reason, sometimes even selling products made with carcinogens under the auspices of funding breast cancer research.

It seems to me that the amalgamation of efforts that constitute Breast Cancer Awareness Month are a self-perpetuating orgy of misogyny, capitalistic exploitation, and straight-up slacktivism that do little more than remind everyone that it is indeed Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Perhaps we need a Breast Cancer Education Month instead, during which we dump the t-shirts, bracelets, slogans, and sales pitches in favor of solid facts about breast cancer prevention.

You want to make a difference? This October, let’s support human beings dealing with a life-threatening disease without amplifying sexism and materialism. The best way to help is to donate directly to an organization that does cancer research. A $5 donation is significantly more useful than the chump change any research foundation would ever get from a T-shirt sale, anyway.

Chelsea Broe ’14