A few years ago, on TV there was a teaser for a sitcom. The scene involved a teenage boy and girl in an embrace, while a knuckleheaded parent walked in on them.The teenage boy’s pathetic defense for being caught with his girlfriend was an “innocent” blurt-out, “I’m just giving her a breast exam!”
The underlying implication was, of course, that he was checking her out for breast cancer while, well, checking her out. The writers must’ve thought that line was hysterical, and the audience’s laughter (or laugh track) seemed to drive that point home.
Except breast cancer is not funny. Ever.
Just ask those who have witnessed the suffering of their mothers, aunts, grandmothers, and friends; men who have seen their significant others and other women in their life die of this disease. Ask the children who are now motherless. Ask the 200,000 or so women who get diagnosed per year in this country if breast cancer is a joke.
Of course, you can’t ask 40,000 of them each year because they are dead.
Yet some organizations, TV shows, and obnoxious media personalities find it acceptable to sexualize this disease because its place of origin is in one or both breasts. And sexualizing this disease demeans women, and in sexualizing this disease, the guilty demean themselves.
No one makes jokes about oogling one’s ovaries or undressing one’s uterus, but when it comes to breast cancer, it seems the sexualizing is a free-for-all. We live in a breast-obsessed landscape, folks, and I don’t like the scenery.
Oh, and let’s please not forget the men — the one out of every 100 — who get breast cancer. Our society marginalizes them. We have tons of support groups for women, but very few, if any, for men. I was part of a support group who was “supportive” to each other — until a man who had breast cancer dared join the group. The women (not me, thankfully, although I am guilty by association) banned together to oust him from the group because he wasn’t a woman and supposedly it’s not the same thing for a man as it is for a woman.
No, it’s not. The affected men get to have breast cancer without society’s support and without awareness campaigns. Women have to put up with breast jokes and awareness campaigns.
Neither sex benefits as much as it could from research dollars.
And that is a shame.
Readers, please feel free to weigh in on the sexualization of breast cancer or on men with breast cancer. Any personal experiences you wish to share?