Oct 8, 2010

Facebook, Handbags, Breast Cancer, and Sex

Apparently, October is breast cancer awareness month. I had no idea such a thing existed until I received a message asking me to announce in my Facebook status where I like [to put] my purse when I get home. The word purse was to be replaced with the word it. Already, statuses like "I like it on the kitchen table" or "I like it behind my door" were popping up everywhere.

Said message was mailed out to women only. It explained how the initiative was modelled after similar previous campaigns. Last year's task, for example, asked female users to give away the colour of their underwear in the name of breast cancer - in order to make "men wonder for days what is with the colors and make it to the news"...

I hadn't partaken in that campaign either, but I saw the relation between a bra and a breast. This year, however, all that came to mind was a recent magazine cover where a purse was photographed to look like a vagina. But no matter how hard I tried to establish a connection between the places I like to have sex, my bags, and breast cancer, it didn't work: Since when do we like to have sex where we place our handbags? Why don't you just post information on breast cancer if you want to raise awareness of it? So instead of participating in the campaign, I changed my status to:

Annina Luzie Schmid will have to say that she finds this year's "secret" status campaign just as sexist and shallow as last year's. You're all objectifying yourselves, girls!


I was fully aware that this was a provocative announcement. In fact, I was hoping for a vivid discussion of sexism. And whew, what did I get! 37 comments, 7 likes and 4 referring blog posts*.

While some friends shared my opinion that the campaign wasn't raising awareness of anything but the rise of a so-called raunch culture, others - mostly those women who had participated already - felt offended. They felt accused of being sexist, and didn't agree with my suggesting they were objectifying themselves. In fact, they said, they were seizing the opportunity to talk about sex openly.

Do we really need a PR company to give us an opportunity to talk about sex openly? Can we not just admit that we've had it at least once when we didn't really feel like it? Or say how we REALLY like it? A friend who "likes it wherever she can't find it" wasn't even aware the initiative had an underlying issue. Her reasons for participating were "being silly because Facebook allows for silliness and the strange sense of belonging to a "community" even if it is silly".

And what about the men? Aren't they affected by breast cancer as well? Don't some of them own purses, too? Like Phill put it: "The assumption is that all women have purses and/ or sex. Not all do. You don't have to be having sex and/ or own a purse to be a woman. It'd be more obviously wrong if the game was to say where you like to store your dish-cloth. That's what's objectifying." 

Excluding men from the beginning and reducing them to horny lechers is sexist the other way round. I also don't think "guys are generally afraid of thinking about diseases and prefer to not be aware of them", as another discussant put it. After all, men can get breast cancer, too.

Some said I spoiled the joke. But don't we all agree that neither sexism nor breast cancer are jokes? I assumed that everyone was fully aware of the pseudo-provocative nature of this campaign. Naturally, there would be reactions. My own just wasn't of the typical "LOL, really, do you? Can I come over?" kind.

Whenever you voice your opinion, chances are that people will reply. Sometimes, to make yourself heard, you must be forthright. What I said was neither meant to be offensive nor bullying. What I said was just my opinion. There are other ways of raising awareness of breast cancer in your Facebook status. Need an example?

Ladies, drop what you're doing and check your breasts. Have someone help you, if you must. But do it. Now!



* Interchris, Phill, and Insatiable Hee, and Interchris' reply to Insatiable Hee's post. They all make valid points, check them out, if you still have time.

4 comments:

  1. good effort annina. I was surprised to see this still going this morning. I've added another follow up post over at VP, but I think the issue is losing some steam now anyways.

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  2. Thanks for your comment, Phill. It was important to post an article regarding the issue here on GCB as not all of my readers are my Facebook friends, and not all friends of my friends who were interested in the origin of our discussion were able to read view my profile.

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  3. The best opinion and analysis I've read so far on that subject.
    My new facebook status states:

    "I like to look at them on the street or when I should not in awkward situations. I like to grab them, play with them and genlty bite them when I have sex. I like to having my nipples licked. The best way to fight brest cancer is early detection"

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  4. Thanks so much, Antoine! It makes me really happy that so many of my male friends are getting involved in this discussion.

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