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Breast cancer beyond the boobies


By Erin Chapman




The newest ad out of a Toronto-based charity would make any marketing director salivate.

It features scantily-clad women, an MTV DJ and a final frame that looks like something from a “Girls Gone Wild” video. What were they advertising? Not beer or baseball, but a breast cancer charity event.

At latest count the video had about 265,000 YouTube views, and it was even featured on VH1’s “Best Week Ever” and CNN.com. The video depicts a woman, MTV Canada DJ Aliya Jasmine Sovani, strutting by a pool in a skimpy two-piece while the pool-goers gawk at her half-exposed chest. The final frame flashes the words, “Now it’s time to save the boobs.”

When did breast cancer (emphasis on the breasts) become so sexy?

Even though the intention of this ad – raising awareness about breast cancer – is positive, the ad itself does nothing good for women or their “boobies.”

The problem with ads like this is that they send the message that the boobs – not the woman – are desirable. How can a message like that do good things for sufferers of a disease that often destroys women’s breasts?

Ads that use bikinis and boobs to push products are nothing new. What is so interesting about this one is that it is selling something more compelling than booze or big trucks. Because they are promoting cancer research – a cause that hardly anyone opposes – this particular pair of bouncing boobs is harder to write off.

If sex does in fact sell, why not let it sell something worthwhile for a change? If breasts are always going to be used to make us gawk, shouldn’t we at least be gawking for a good cause?

It’s Machiavelli in a string bikini: Do the ends justify the scantily clad means?

Even though it is hard to argue with promoting awareness about cancer, these ads hurt more than they help.

The truth is that many women who have breast cancer must have one or both of their breasts removed, and mastectomies cause painful physical and emotional scars.
So if a woman in a skimpy swimsuit with protruding breasts turns heads, what does that mean for the cancer survivor who had both of her breasts removed? Will she ever be able to turn heads?

Not to mention that ads like these make cancer into something we have to “sell” to people.

If a disease has to be sexy for it to receive money and awareness, what happens to the 42,470 people who were diagnosed with pancreatic cancer last year?  Are they supposed to suffer because “save the ta-tas” looks better on a T-shirt than “save the secretion”?

This whole business about selling cancer is a twisted byproduct of our consumer age. Why isn’t the fact that in 2005 (the most recent year with available numbers) 41,116 women and 375 men died from breast cancer enough for us to pay attention?

Must every worthwhile cause come dressed up in a swimsuit for us to take notice?

Ads like this might be saving boobs, but they are destroying much more.

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