This October 31, many people will eye-roll at the parade of lost objectified souls who drunkenly teeter around the city dressed as Slutty Mouse, Slutty Nurse or Slutty Hungry-Man Dinner. I’m less (as in not really) bothered by that, mainly because dressing up provocatively on Halloween is at least honest about what it is.
What I find more concerning and dishonest is the annual spectacle of objectification that is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, where we women buy ghastly pink-themed and carcinogen-laced objects, Run for the Cure and allow our bodies and ourselves to be positioned as sexual objects.
We’ve gotten to the point where we contest “rape culture”, “victim-blaming” and “slut-shaming”, but somehow the boys’ locker room lingo of “Save the Ta-tas” and “Run for Boobies” is perfectly acceptable when it’s done all in the name of “raising awareness”, especially when that awareness translates into money being funnelled to breast cancer research organizations.
I’m not going to get into the politics of how research money gets distributed here; instead I want to raise consciousness about how the sexualisation of breast cancer makes visible how Breast Cancer Awareness™ has co-opted women’s health and disempowered us by positioning patriarchal capitalism as our only salvation.
This week, the so-called Nice Guys™ from Simple Pickup, a website designed to teach hetero men how to refine their “pickup artistry” skills, made a video expressing outrage that the $2000 they raised from their “Motorboating for Boobies” video (it’s now private) had been rejected by the U.S-based Breast Cancer Research Foundation who asked them to refrain from associating themselves with the organization and using their logo.
In the video, the group of young men approached women in public spaces and offered to donate $20 to breast cancer research in exchange for the experience of aggressively shoving their faces in the women’s breasts. While some of my friends expressed outrage about why those women would participate, it seems not at all surprising to me that some would, since they deployed the rhetorical strategy of “raising awareness” as a scheme to bribe women into objectifying themselves “for the greater good”. I’ve been that feminist who resists, refuses and retaliates, and it doesn’t sit well with everyone to be that bitch who has ruined it for everybody. Compliance means that you are a woman who cares about breast cancer enough to take a joke while critique positions you as a humourless harpy who doesn’t.
This trope can be found in Simple Pickup’s video response a few days ago (see also Exhibit A).
Kong, one of the leaders of this website, lashed back at what he characterized as a “small minority of haters who thought that this video was ‘offensive’” and were “completely out of line”, as if the likely sizeable group of dissidents were the ones who had broadcast such a spectacularly sexist video in the first place. This is part of the same reverse discourse that says that pointing out sexism (or racism, homophobia, transphobia, classism, etc) somehow makes you the sexist. Read more