Thursday, 2 December 2010

Guest Post: Compassion FAIL

A new low in breast cancer marketing

Having now reached my 30s I am obviously too old for NZGirl which seems to be an online version of the Cosmos and Cleos I used to read in my 20s. For a start, I am comfortable calling myself a woman. But I also wonder what the hell they are putting in the water in the online magazine's office to think that 'post your pictures so that everyone can vote on them' does anything to celebrate women's health nor celebrate women's bodies of all shapes and sizes.

Because what I do see is multiple pairs of breasts (which happen to be the same size and belong to 20-something women form whom gravity and hasn't yet worked its magic) used to sell all manner of things: clothes, sports teams, cars and yes even online magazines

But as I said, I am just not hip and cool and down with the 'girls' these days.

Did the editorial staff of this site stop to think sufferers of breast cancer facing of mastectomy, lumpectomy, radiation or chemo might feel as women with two breasts in presumably in perfect health 'raise awareness' about breast health by posting pictures of their breasts on their website. I am thinking not.

Because if they did, the experience of actual women with cancer would have not been lost amongst the dozens of pictures of twenty-something breasts vying to be best boobs on the site. How to do a breast exam and where to go for help would get as much bandwidth as this competition and most importantly the stories of 50 women lost to this cancer, the daughters, sisters, mothers, grandmothers and aunts would be there.

But they aren't. In fact this company didn't even bother to speak to any suffers, survivors or their family let alone decide which charity they were going to donate $5000 to before launching this campaign.

Think before you pink and American-based NGO has come up with a list of 5 critical Questions to Ask Before You Buy Pink. I think they should be compulsory for anyone trying to run a breast cancer 'promotion.'

1. How much money from your purchase actually goes toward breast cancer? Is the amount clearly stated on the package?

2. What is the maximum amount that will be donated?

3. How are the funds being raised?

4. To what breast cancer organization does the money go, and what types of programs does it support?

5. What is the company doing to assure that its products are not actually contributing to the breast cancer epidemic?

I am sure I will be called a grumpy old feminist for pissing on the younger 'girl's' fun. Quite the contrary. If women want to flash their breasts in public, more power to them. But if the women posting their breasts think they are doing it in order to improve women's health and celebrate acceptance of breasts in all their shapes and sizes, then they are sadly deluded.

Because it's not the societal acceptance of twenty-something breasts that is the problem, it's that the society doesn't value the lives and bodies of the women whose bodies are no longer deemed useful to sell things. Hell the fact that NZGirl probably just had its biggest day ever on the basis 50 pairs of boobs shows that society doesn't really give a stuff about the 'perfect ones' either, we don't see their hands, their faces, their legs. Just the breasts, because hey sex sells.

thanx to stef for contributing this post. see also boganette's excellent post on this issue, as well as scubanurse (and this one with trigger warning for the pictures), queen of thorns, and rachel hansen.

Update: Read this post from Kylie at A Lump at the Road: Insensitive.
My real beef with it is that it doesn’t help those of us that are currently battling, or who have battled this disease. It is hard enough trying to feel good about yourself with a giant scar in place of a boob, and only enough hair on your hair for a very bad combover, without having lovely perfect pairs of titties on display.


Boganette said...

Great post Stargazer. Thank-you so much. I've been trying to say the same thing but everything I write comes out as snark as all this makes me so fucking angry.

stargazer said...

it's stef's post, & yes, i agree it's a great one! and snark is good too.

Boganette said...

Oops sorry - Thanks Steph!

Monkey Boy said...

I agree - but as I've remarked previously this appears to be the tempo of the times - a subject doesn't appear to have any currency for some unless it can be marketed in some flawed 'cutting edge' sort of way often filed under 'sexy'. Is it the 'post-feminist backlash'? Is it a misunderstanding about what 'empowers' women abetted by media and marketing, or is it perhaps about about the decreasing ability of society to engage in subjects or issue at any sort of 'depth', because people lack the vocabulary required to engage in the discourse..

Trouble said...

I think of it as sort of wider capitalist culture co-opting feminism and selling it back to women wrapped around their own product. It's hardly new - one cigarette brand had an ad "You've come a long way baby." Not quite backlash, and actually almost flattering when you think about it. Still wrong, though.

Giarne said...

Its a really revolting site! There was an interesting discussion on Afternoons on Nat Rad yesterday ( with Rosemary McLeod actually getting stuck into the editor of NZGirl and calling her a twit she was so upset.

I've never really like McLeod much but yesterday she was fabulous. As was the educator who spoke at the beginning.

I think its at the beginning of part 2 of the panel podcast (Thu 2 Dec at 16:34)

FletcherB said...

Without wishing to detract from the point of your complaint (because I dont disagree)...

When I had a quick look at the site, there were many "nice pairs" that were not chosen by a marketing department, and at least a couple that had been through a mastectomy and those ones in particular had many votes of support.

It seems to be validating for at least some victims.

Boganette said...

To be fair - those photos were added after NZGirl called for people to ad them. I'm sure some women did find it empowering to take part in the campaign. But that doesn't change the criticisms I have or other people have. On my blog I had women who have breast cancer commenting about how upset they were by the campaign. As much as NZGirl's frontwomen want to claim all women with breast cancer think and feel the same and have the same opinion on this campaign - they don't. Some like it, some don't. Some - like those that commented on my blog - were very hurt by it. Kylie at A Lump in the Road spoke about her feelings on it if you're interested.

Boganette said...

Oops I'm sorry - I see you've already linked to Kylie's blog.

Breast Cancer Action said...

Thank you for drawing attention to the dreadful NZGirl "awareness" effort. To clarify, Think Before You Pink is a project of Breast Cancer Action, so the critical questions were developed by a single group.