Is there a “sexy” cancer? Breast cancer vs [insert other type of cancer here], is one “sexier” than the others or even sexy at all?
I was making my typical rounds on the net this morning, checking email, facebook, twitter etc. when I saw that the standard email update from Twitter giving me a heads-up that there are others who have tweets for me (well, not just for me, or even me specifically but you get it), so I look and just above Ellen DeGeneres’ comment about non swimming ducks, there it was. Someone finally saying what I was just thinking the other day (and have been off and on for months), that the focus on Breast cancer has taken an almost disturbing shift. Why, it seems almost unfair that Breast cancer gets all the attention when any kind of cancer can kill. Now, before I go any further I need to preface this blog by saying that I’m not proud of some of the thoughts I’m about to share with you all, but they’re real, they’re strong, starting to fester and I have a feeling I’m not the only one that feels them, so I’m going to let them out…
This “ChemoBabe” hit the nail on the head and just look at her. She’s speaking from the horse’s mouth (breast cancer survivor), obviously lovely, tastefully dressed and is attractive without being in your face/bawdy about it. Believe me when I tell you that I wish that the Breast cancer foundations get tons and tons of money and that no funds are wasted or absconded, but go to help find a cure and that wish extends to every kind of cancer foundation/research that exists or ever will, but like I’ve seen with certain TV series and growing companies when they are too eager to compete with the big dogs or to re-surge the waning momentum of their popularity. When the known sources for accolades and funding are running dry they tend to cross the line from their original, authentic intent to one of straw grasping and pandering to the lowest common denominator. In this case, the pandering goes to men and their instinctive urge to objectify women (and before you shout, I don’t mean that in the feminist “how dare you, you pigs kind of way). Sure, you can guilt a man into donating to your cause by making him think of his mother, his sisters, his aunts and daughters and the terrible experience they either went through or could potentially go through, but that’s not nearly as effective as appealing to their primal nature by flashing some cleavage in front of them and implying that if you want more of this you should donate to this cause to ensure continued supply of the yumm drug. It’s brilliant campaigning when you think of it. You think I’m kidding?
Ok, you know I’m a freelance photographer and I cover soccer matches up in LA. Well, I recently covered one on a fan appreciation night and out front by the entrance was a booth hosted by these lovely, young women with tons of pink ribbons to clip on to the fans as they entered the stadium. I’m ashamed to say this part, but I passed them by. I may have even sneered thinking/half muttering “I’m so fking sick of pink”. I felt bad afterward and then realized it was a wasted opportunity for collaboration. If I hadn’t been such a sour puss, I could’ve gone up and said “I’ll trade you the ribbon for the book”, handed them a copy of The C Card and Me along with the pile of bookmarks (that I always keep in my purse) to pass out. Instead, I acted the disgruntled fatty that I am and not only passed them by, but when a fan was clearly trying to get my attention with the pink ribbons she’d pinned to her tee shirt like stripper tassels, I pretended to look right through her like she didn’t exist. I was once again, that chubster, flat chested pre-teen who resented the popular, shapely, attractive girl and all the attention she got.
Down on the field I saw pink posters hung by effected fans and pink clad players on the field. Everywhere I turned I saw pink. Even the digital screens that surround the field, blasting advertisements was blazing pink. Beck showed it in his shoes while Saunders, the goalie looked like he was doused in Pepto-bismol. I wondered just how many of them were feeling like they were caught up in a machine rather than a cause.
I wondered if they’d ever know that when they wear blue I secretly choose to think of it as them showing their support for the C Card and me along with all the non-sexy cancer survivors and cancers out there like mine (colon).
I wondered if the boy-teen who was interviewed by the commentator in front of all the fans realized what he said when he smiled at the noting of his pink scarf and proudly announced “that’s right. I’m here to support breast cancer!”
My cynicism kicks in as I wonder how willing they’d be to support the “True-Blue” mentality when it didn’t focus on a part of the female anatomy they are drawn to. When it doesn’t even focus on female anatomy at all since cancer is NOT gender (or race) specific.
I worked for a global marketing company once. As an IT Director, but I worked closely with the teams and I picked up a lot of marketing education along the way. A rule of thumb when marketing a product is you need a hook. You can use guilt (save the children, animal rescue), love (hallmark), coolness (Tom’s shoes), humor (Etrade, Doritos) and sex (I love boobies campaign). There isn’t a guy I know that wouldn’t buy one of those tee shirts. Are you kidding? He gets to shout out large as life what he desires without being called a perv? Oh yeah, brilliant strategy~ And let’s not forget the latest Superbowl commercial with Beck posing in his namesake briefs for H&M. I wanted to buy them and I don’t even have a man to buy them for. Like I’d hold on to them and as soon as I have one say “Here, honey, I got these for you. Well, I got these in anticipation of you. Ok, you got me. I didn’t get them with you in particular in mind, but you know that Superbowl ad, and if you wear them I’ll fantasize that your Beck and well, you can guess the rest (wink, wink, nudge, nudge say no more ;)”
Sex sells, pure (or not so) and simple (or not so). It’s simple that sex sells. The intent isn’t always pure and the process isn’t always that simple. By making Breast cancer sexy, you are opening a floodgate of opportunity to cash in on it, or for a nicer phrasing, to reap the monetary benefits that can be turned into support for patients, survivors, research and prevention. Do these patients, survivors, researchers and preventionsists need the money? Yes. A thousand times yes. Could we get them the amount of money they most assuredly need without using sex as a motivating factor and remaining focused on the authentic intent to raise awareness and find a cure so that no more women have to lose their breasts, their hormonal balance and their precious right to flirt and show off their cleavage?
I decided to reply to the tweet and pose the question to chemo babe when two things happened. The latter was that I ran out of room and was unable give a complete response, because you’re only allowed 128 characters in a tweet (I don’t even think I know how to greet someone in less than 128 characters). The first, was the image she had plastered on her page. My brain whirled around as I tried to reconcile the image with her tweeted protestation. Last time I checked, holding a whip and wearing a dog collar were considered sexy. I get that it’s a dominatrix kind of thing as in “I’m making cancer my bitch”, but it bears a kind of conflicting message. Like someone who leaves an open wallet full of cash in the front seat of their unlocked car at a Detroit mall then complains bitterly when someone steals it. Or like when I complain about how slowly the chemo weight is coming off for me when I sit on my ass in front of my computer for hours and hours while I stuff my gob with Italian Twinkies. Oh, wait…
Well, there I go digressing again. If you’re reading this C.B., I’m not knocking you. You are gorgeous, strong and cancer should be afraid of you. It clearly made a mistake knocking on your door (as it did with mine). I think I get what you were trying to get into the 128. It’s ok to be sexy. It’s not ok to make a disease more palatable by sexifying it. Like, when it was really cool to be someone who checked themselves “into rehab” comes to mind. At least, that’s what I saw in the tweet. Feel free sister to use as many characters as you like in the comment field below to correct or clarify if I didn’t quite get it right.
Let me end with posing the question to those of you reading this. Do you think it’s wrong to use sex to motivate people to contribute to the fight against breast cancer, or any cancer for that matter (though I’m not sure how we could ever make colon cancer look sexy…), do you believe that the people who need it will get the money to fight/prevent/cure it otherwise and then if so, how do we turn it around and bring the focus back to it’s original and authentic intent?
While you’re thinking on your response another realization is coming to mind…why exactly did I pick blue as the color for my book? Was it a subconscious effort to create a contrast to the massive infiltration of pink (and ask Skye if you like, pink was never a color I’ve been particularly fond of)? Am thinking and typing on the next page as speak…