Captivating eyes. Plump cherry red lips. Facial features that resemble those that only mythical goddesses are renowned to have. A physique that young girls could only wish for. An Academy Award winning actress, a role model to mothers around the world and, of course, a sex symbol. Angelina Jolie revered as a standard. She is someone, women endeavour to be like, although they often feel that they fall short in comparison to her fame, good looks, fortune and her seemingly ideal family. But what happens when headlines hit the media stating that this icon has had a double mastectomy to lower the risk of breast cancer? What happens to the title of ‘sex symbol’?
When raising the question ‘what defines a woman?’ Responses vary from one extreme to the next, and it is undoubtedly evident that appearance to some is what defines a woman. From eyes to legs and of course breasts.
Within in the media there is the idea and social norm that ‘sex sells’. Therefore in any campaign varying from selling a sports car, to perfume or even campaigning for charity, women in some cases are present in a matter which shames the identity of a woman in order to appeal to a wider range of people. Whilst this can be beneficial in extending ties with the opposite sex, it can be degrading in ways it may present women or in some cases through the accompanying slogans.
It is common that women identify their breasts as a symbol of femininity. An article ‘The Breasts – The ultimate symbol of femininity’ describes breasts as being apart of womanhood; “beautifully set breasts emphasise the harmony of the female body… and create a secure and sensuous well-being in the relationship with the partner” (Plastic-surgery.klinik-am-ring.com, 2016). As each female is vastly different to the other, I think that this idea of the breast as a part of identity separates how the sexualisation of breast cancer awareness and the stigma of the ‘sexy disease’ affect women. Angelina Jolie had made the decision to undertake a double mastectomy to prevent breast cancer. Whereas an article from ABC explains how 36-year-old Elisha Neave passed away, due to delaying her surgery due to becoming reluctant to remove her breasts (ABC News, 2014).
Breast Cancer has subtly gained the stigma of the ‘sexy disease’. While awareness is key in prevention and increase in awareness, sexualisation for such a widespread and serious disease detracts from the severity. #NoBraDay is an awareness strategy for breast cancer, although has been deemed for ‘sexualising’ and ‘objectifying women’ (Moss, 2015). Feminist blogger Louise Pennington shares that these campaigns “reinforce the hyper-sexualised objectification of women’s bodies” (Moss, 2015). Save the Ta-Tas is a breast cancer awareness campaign, whilst its intentions are clear to raise awareness for woman diagnosed with breast cancer. Its forefront tends to detract from the disease, as well as imply offensive connotations to those who are suffering from the disease.
In order to demonstrate the extreme cases of the sexualisation of breast cancer, USA Today released an article stating “an online porn site this month has been using breast cancer to increase its web traffic by offering to donate 1 cent for every 30 views of its videos (Szabo, 2012). This is a controversial example, although highlights the lengths people explore in order to gain awareness but also how the cause is ‘used and abused’.
Awareness is key in achieving maximum attention to the cause as well as raising funds in order to support those who suffer from the disease. While the sexualisation of breast cancer is a current and controversial topic, it is a disease that affects one in eight women throughout Australia (Australia, 2016). By attaching a negative stigma to a serious cause often detracts from the harsh reality the thousands of women face globally.
If you have any thoughts on the topic feel free to leave a comment!
- Plastic-surgery.klinik-am-ring.com. (2016). The Breasts – The Ultimate Symbol of Femininity | Breast. [online] Available at: http://plastic-surgery.klinik-am-ring.com/index.php/en/Brust/die-brust-zeichen-der-weiblichkeit.html [Accessed 18 May 2016].
- ABC News. (2014). Cancer sufferer who delayed preventative surgery dies aged 36. [online] Available at: http://www.abc.net.au/news/2014-05-01/cancer-patient-elisha-neave-changed-the-lives-of-so-many-people/5422846 [Accessed 18 May 2016].
- Szabo, L. (2012). Sexy breast cancer campaigns anger many patients. [online] USA TODAY. Available at: http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2012/10/30/patients-decry-sexualization-of-breast-cancer/1630911/ [Accessed 18 May 2016].
- Moss, R. (2015). #NoBraDay: ‘Going Without A Bra Isn’t The Reality Of Breast Cancer’. [online] The Huffington Post UK. Available at: http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2015/10/13/no-bra-day-slammed-for-sexualising-breast-cancer_n_8284482.html [Accessed 18 May 2016].