"When it comes to boobies, Americans completely lose their composure."
Out of all the diseases in the whole entire world, breast cancer is the one that is inevitably either trivialized or sexualized. Why? Because it's about boobies, and apparently when it comes to boobies, Americans completely lose their composure.
In the latest round of "we can't just act like this is a disease like any other," we have an iPhone app that reminds you to check your breasts for lumps. Using pictures of hot guys without shirts. What? I know. I don't really get it, either.
This is a great example of something that a dude would dream up. It presumes that women only want other men feeling their breasts, or that feeling your breasts is obviously just a sexual activity. What about when you get dressed in the morning, or when you're washing in the shower? Nope, that kind of regular everyday maintenance is invisible.
Life with breasts is about a lot more than rubbing them and cooing at male models. It's about having to adjust your bra strap at the least convenient times. It's that stealth move where you readjust the side band and get a quick scratch in one fell swoop. It's about stuff accidentally falling in your bra. It's about providing food for an infant. Monthly achiness. Summertime prickly heat.
But culturally, the panoply of what Ken Burns would probably call "the breast experience" gets flattened to either LOLBOOBIES or PINK.
So what's the problem? The problem is that this is the kind of thing that kept breast cancer from being taken seriously for so long. It's also the kind of thing that leads to hysterical overreactions to mothers breastfeeding in public. And by wrapping a plain old body part up into all this complicated nonsense, it only makes it harder for girls and women to come to grips with their own bodies.
And on the flip side, it makes it even more difficult for us to publicly deal with prostate cancer. Breast cancer forged the path of silly sexualization, so where does that leave the fellas? No one wants to "go there," and so we don't discuss it at all, and thousands of men die from it every year. (An estimated 33,720 men will die of prostate cancer this year.)
You don't see this kind of nuttiness over, say, skin cancer. Skin cancer is something we take seriously. We get messages not to sunbathe, to wear sunblock, and to keep an eye out for irregular moles. Can you imagine such sober, non-insane dialogue happening about breast cancer?