It’s October—Breast Cancer Awareness Month—and pink is everywhere. Pink yogurt lids and cold cut packages fill grocery store shelves. Pink AstroTurf lines professional football fields. Fast food companies even deliver fried chicken in pink buckets.
Despite all the pink, some people are seeing red over the onslaught of sexualized breast cancer awareness campaigns.
Russell Moore, who leads the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, believes the effort to raise breast cancer awareness began as a noble cause, but the demand for attention on the subject, in a sexualized culture, is the root of its southward spiral.
“The motivation is to get the attention of people who aren’t personally suffering or love someone suffering with breast cancer,” he said. “Unfortunately, we live in an age where sexuality is the only way people know how to get attention. The same phenomenon is at work when an actress or pop star begins to fade in popularity—she kicks the sexuality into overdrive.”
One of the latest campaigns, promoted on Facebook, involved circulating a photo with a message encouraging women to go braless on Oct. 13 to bring awareness to the disease.
Another Facebook-driven campaign went viral in 2010 when women were simply posting colors—of their bras—in their status updates to keep the perplexed male population guessing.
When people found out the meaning behind the posts, it raised awareness—just not the right kind, according to one breast cancer survivor.
“I really don’t see how we could fight breast cancer by giving men mental images of their female Facebook friends wearing bras,” said Rhonda Harvell, a 10-year survivor, who was shocked that many of her Christian Facebook friends participated.
Moore discourages Christians from participating in such campaigns because they debase sexuality and demean women: “When cancer is sexualized, it is trivialized. Long term, this does not help the cause.”
Harvell added that it doesn’t help comfort the sufferers: “When you are diagnosed with cancer, you aren’t just ‘touched’ by it; you are punched in the face with it. Why do people want to make a lewd game out of this disease?”
Social media games are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to sexualizing the second leading cause of death for women in the United States. The porn industry has its own campaigns.
Just last year, one of the busiest porn sites pledged to donate 1 cent to breast cancer research for every 30 clicks on certain videos. Another porn website ran a campaign in which it promised to donate $1,000 to breast cancer research for every 50 topless photos women submitted of themselves.
Instead of participating in sexualized anti-cancer campaigns, Moore believes Christians should engage the issue with hope for healing: “Christians should stand behind breast cancer awareness in a way that communicates the gravity of the issue, along with the hope and the optimism of treatment without degrading or demeaning women. Human sexuality should not be a marketing mascot.”