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Take Down the Bras and Really Work for a Cancer Cure Take Down the Bras and Really Work for a Cancer Cure

- (Huffington) - 2 years ago...

Breast cancer? We're well-acquainted. In 2002, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. From there, it was six months of very aggressive chemotherapy, three big and a bunch of little surgeries followed by years of some chemo-related side effects. I also lead writing workshops for people living with cancer and other serious illnesses, and I've witnessed powerfully tender, humorous, heartbreaking and resilient stories of survivors, whether their cancer is long behind them or overtaking their lives. Yet every October when Breast Cancer Awareness Month takes hold, I see a massive disconnect from what breast cancer can do to a life, and the public campaigns of everything hot pink from scarves to cars, along with the new trend of stringing bras across large expanses. The pink doesn't bother me too much, although as a color so associated with girls in our culture, I worry that it tends to obscure the reality of men with breast cancer at the same time it conjures images of little girls in frilly dresses rather than women fighting for their lives. What drives me crazy is seeing bras everywhere: spanning across a bridge in my town of Lawrence, KS, as well as across bridges in many cities: Grand Rapids, MI; Moss Point, MS; and Pensacola, FL. Bras are in window displays of department stores and candy shops, and worn as head dresses for fundraisers. I just read about 10,000 bras strung across a highway in Minnesota, and a giant hot pink bra on display on Michigan Avenue in Chicago -- all tied to raising breast cancer awareness, particularly the importance of regular mammograms. I'm a big fan of the mammogram (and other technology to detect early signs of any cancer) because a mammogram, when I was 42, saved my life, but I find both the focus so much on early detection campaigns and the thousands of bras involved misguided for these reasons: 1. Bras Symbolize Boobs, Not Cancer: Bras don't symbolize cancer awareness to most of us. We're part of culture seasoned with plenty of sexism and misogyny in which most women are encouraged to show a little or a lot of cleavage, get boob jobs if they're going to be actresses or singers or others in the public entertainment eye, and festoon their breasts in enticing bras. Bodacious tatas, as one of my friends used to call them, are highly valued as symbols of beauty, attractiveness, and the feminine form. We are trained through impossible standards of beauty air-brushed on magazine covers and body-doubled in movies to prize a great pair of breasts. The bra speaks more to that symbolism than it does to mammograms and breast health. 2. Save the Woman (and Man), Not the Breasts: Bra displays focus on saving breasts, not the person involved. By focusing so much on bras, we're ignoring the biggest danger of breast cancer: death. So much effort goes into early detection, which is essential for us to know about, but far less campaigns -- taking over magazine spreads, store front windows, a...

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