I’m all for fighting cancer but something about this breast cancer awareness activity doesn’t feel right. It could be the generation gap I’ve been fighting since my children became teenagers. Or maybe I’ve gotten older than I feel without realising it. All I know is this image of four young men competing against each other to eat a breast-shaped cake the fastest, hands free, to gain the title Boob King is discomforting. Partly, it’s the wrongness of all-you-can-eat food competitions. A quick Google search will return a host of them. But there’s another layer which bothers me. It’s to do with the signification of the words. This isn’t being pretentious about language; it’s the way media promote cultural ideology.
The female body is currently undergoing objectification in a way not seen since the 1950’s backlash against women. Rosie the Riveteer, the symbol of women’s liberation in WW2, was pushed back in the kitchen, her waist squeezed in, breasts stuck out and independence crushed under the weight of domestic appliances and patriarchal attitudes.
We see a 21st century version of this control over the female body with the cult of celebrity thinness; the promotion of unrealistic and false body images – most worrying is the current obsession with post-baby skinniness. It isn’t natural and ultimately it can be dangerous for your health.
Reading Man vs Boob in the Lincolnite http://thelinc.co.uk/nl2013/10/man-vs-boob/ made me realise I’m out of date on the charity front. Younger people reading this will think I’m out of date full stop, When I worked for British Epilepsy there were a handful of ‘big’ names. Content management systems mean smaller organisations with smaller budgets can now have a prominent web presence and it’s interesting to examine their ‘newer’ identities. The name of a leading charity for penile cancer is http://www.orchid-cancer.org.uk/ The Testicular Cancer awareness charity is http://www.yourprivates.org.uk/ Compare this to the name of charity behind the Boob King event http://www.coppafeel.org/ I know I’m years from their target audience of 18-30 year olds – I have children older than that – but I remember when the expression ‘copping a feel’ was something you wouldn’t hear anywhere other than behind the bike sheds.
I know about breast cancer and the importance of early discovery. If this event saves the life of one person it will be worth while. I’ve attended too many cancer caused funerals not to support anything which raises awareness of this devastating disease. If I’d passed the SU event I would have donated – but there ‘s still something about this which worries me. Of course, an equivalent held for Testicular or Penile Cancer awareness with four young women competing to eat the appropriate shaped cakes would be ok – wouldn’t it?