Brace yourself for a rant

It’s been a while since I’ve gone all Serena Williams on a company or organization. Now that the Komen-Planned Parenthood debacle has died down, I’m in need of a new reason to rant.

Lo and behold, as I browsed the Sunday paper, a new rant fell right into my lap.

An ad for Dillard’s titled FI{gh}T FOR THE CURE has me seeing red, not pink.

“Help Wacoal KNOCKOUT breast cancer at a Fit for the Cure event,” reads the ad. It’s a simple idea: the bra maker will donate $2 for every woman who comes to the store to be fitted for a new bra during the event. And for every bra purchased, an additional $2 will be donated.

I’m all for donating to good causes, and I’m all for shopping. But I have 2 problems with this Wacoal campaign. First, the money is being donated to Komen “for breast cancer research and community outreach programs.” Come on, Wacoal — donate for something that will actually make a difference. We’ve all seen the pathetic Komen numbers on just how much (or how little) of these donations go toward research. Research that could potentially find a cure. As in Susan G. Komen FOR THE CURE. Or research that could potentially KNOCKOUT breast cancer, as in the Wacoal FI{gh}T FOR THE CURE slogan so tantalizingly states. Wacoal has donated $2.5 million to Komen from its FI[gh}T for the Cure events. Assuming that Komen continues on its current path, it will use 19 percent of that $2.5 mil for research. I’m no expert on medical research, but based on my own experience with my medical bills, I’m guessing $475,000 won’t go very far toward finding a cure.

Wacoal has a line of underthings called B.Tempted. Looks to me like it is aimed at young, beautiful women who like a little pizzazz under their shirts.

Nothing wrong with that, but when Wacoal uses its B.Tempted line to promote supposed good-works for my disease, then there’s something wrong. My message to the B.Tempted models and consumers is this: enjoy those perfectly round, nicely supported breasts now, because if you’re unlucky enough to be among the one in eight women diagnosed with breast cancer, you’ll never see the likes of those again. No, instead you’ll be facing something that looks like this:

The SCAR Project

Oh but don’t worry, that flat chest etched with red, raised, painful scars can be temporary. You won’t have to deal with the indignity of a being flat as a board in our breast-obsessed culture for long. Fleeting will be your struggle to find a bra that fits (whatcha doing about this problem, Wacoal?). Before long you’ll no longer spend anguished moments in your closet and countless dollars in your quest to find something to wear that doesn’t advertise your deficiency. If you opt to undergo even more surgeries to have reconstruction, that is. Then you might be facing something that looks like this:

The SCAR Project

There we go. All better now.

My second problem lies in the images Wacoal — and by default, Dillard’s — uses to promote the FI{gh}T FOR THE CURE. The ad in my Sunday paper was black and white, so not as eye-catching as the others, and it was a little less in-your-face overly sexualized.

A quick googleimages search, however, turned up some disturbing stuff:

One in eight women in the United States will be diagnosed with breast cancer. Some 40,000 women in the Unites States will die from this disease this year alone. Some men will, too. How many of the one in eight can identify with the sirens in the Wacoal ads? How many of the 40,000 would be happy about and grateful for this type of campaign?

I am one of the one in eight, and I can do neither. I don’t identify with these models, and I think this type of advertising is shameful. It appeals to the lowest common denominator, and Wacoal should be ashamed.

Do we really need Victoria’s Secret-esque photos to advertise a breast cancer fundraiser? Is it really necessary to have such unrealistic, uber-glamorized marketing to get the message across? Would the event not sell without the model looking like she’s more suited to a striptease than to a growing health crisis? Why does it have to be about the breasts instead of the cancer?

Questions abound.

My blog friend Nancy at Nancy’s Point has asked some of these same questions:

“What other disease has the afflicted body part(s) displayed on articles of clothing with silly, even degrading commentary?

When did it become more about saving breasts than about cancer and saving lives?

Have we lost sight of what the original intent of all this awareness was?

Has breast cancer awareness merely morphed into a big business?

Is breast cancer being used? Are women being used? I think they are.

How did we let this happen? How did WOMEN let this happen?”

I’ll tell you how women let this happen: by going along with things like Fi[gh]t for the Cure. By seeing glossy, photoshopped images of young, thin, sexy women in frilly & lacy bras and somehow conflating that with philanthropy. By allowing companies like Wacoal to dictate the face of breast cancer.

Could Wacoal not get the message across by using a less-racy, less-sexualized image? How about something like this? She’s young, strong, fit, and wearing pink. Looks to me like she could KNOCKOUT breast cancer. There’s a hint of cleavage, a peek into the area of our discontent, without being so in-your-face. Why isn’t that enough? Would the public not be swayed by the campaign without the sizzle?

31 Comments on “Brace yourself for a rant”

  1. David Benbow says:

    Forgive a math-geek. Your message is spot on, but your math is a bit off. 19% of 2.5 million is $475,000, not 47K. A little better, but I’m sure there are other organizations that can get more milage out of your research dollars.

    You may resume your rant.

  2. Bobby says:

    I hope you are doing well and having a cathartic moment with your rant. Let it all out and speak the truth.

    Hopefully, we here at the Tennis Cumudgeons can provide a little humor and a distraction from harsh realities and make you smile or groan at our warped view of tennis? Come see the Tennis Curmudgeons; we’re starting to post again—maybe we can be a goofy counterbalance. We’ll be posting about tennis arms, aka, one armed Popeyes, shrieking and grunting on the tennis courts, and of course, Sergei Jerkhinov. We should have something up tomorrow.

  3. Christy says:

    Nothing more to say! You go get ’em, Nancy!!

  4. lLauren says:

    Yes yes yes yes.

  5. Yes, girl, yes! Rant away. If Wacoal used real women who’ve had breast cancer in their campaigns, I bet they’d raise a lot more money. I’d go in every day of the campaign and take my girlfriends with me.

    • mmr says:

      Yes! Perhaps if we had real photos of real women who’ve had breasts operated on in those ads, with their now ill fitting expensive bras, we could get a LOT of money donated to helping end this disease. The haunted eyes of the models, such as those in the Scar Project, would catch some attention and give a dose of reality. Women would want to prevent the real aftermath. But then I think that perhaps anyone who hasn’t had the disease doesn’t really want to be faced with the reality of it, and of course the retailers just play into that ( I’m pretty sure the people making up those ads haven’t had breast cancer). Like most who haven’t been touched by the disease they want to think it’s all pink and pretty and strong women kicking cancer’s ass, instead of women who are often sick and scarred and scared and yet still waging the battle. THAT is courage, not some healthy supermodel with pink boxing gloves.

  6. Using soft porn busty model pictures and breast cancer to sell outrageously expensive bras is just down right slimy.

  7. Eddie says:

    I believe Trinity River summed it all up very neatly. The campaign is not about breast cancer, it’s about selling bras. I’m quite certain the “donations” are included in the price of the bras so the company still profits. Pinkwashing continues and gets worse. I’m not currently in the market for bras, but Wacoal will always be on my “to be avoided” list now.
    Eagerly awaiting the next rant.

  8. Jody Hicks says:

    Hear, hear! Ditto to all of the above. Aside from the distasteful ads, the most important sentence in your rant is, “Why does it have to be about the breasts instead of the cancer?” I wish we could get that message out to the ad designers and store marketers, but they’re so driven to selling it might not wake them up – until it happens to their own wives or mothers.

  9. Nancy, my friend, I do enjoy a good rant! Well done! And thank you for mentioning Nancy’s Point. I just can’t figure out why we women have continued to put up with this stuff…

  10. A few years ago I worked in a building that also housed CanTeen – a children’s cancer fundraising/support charity. They do good work. I donate to them.

    One day one of the women that worked there stopped into my office and asked if I had a few minutes because she wanted my opinion on something. I said sure – and she pulled out a pile of images of children with cancer for me to look at. They ranged from ravaged toddlers with tubes going in and out everywhere, to sick but playing, on through to angelic blonde cherubs playing in the garden with no sign of disease.

    She wanted to know what my reaction was to the images if I saw them in a magazine advert or on TV. Which ones would I be most likely to look at and read the copy for. I’ve got to be honest – after a couple of the really sick ones, I just flicked through them – I did not want to look at them at all. My preference was the images that had mild suggestion of disease where the children did not look diseased – but not the cherubicly robust children as they seem out of place… as in a medic ID bracelet or a blurry background of hospital equipment was fine.

    That translates to how I feel about breast cancer images as well. Sorry, but while the scar images are real and true and valid – I don’t want to look at them. They make me turn away, not want to read further. I doubt I would go into a shop with a poster of one of the scar images in the window – it wouldn’t matter how much they were donating.

    I agree that none of the 40,000 that died of breast cancer last year would have identified with the women in the ads, they are also not whom the ads are aimed at. Yes – turning the fight against breast cancer into something that is both sexy and fun, does seem strange. Yet, I did a photography shoot last year raising money for breast cancer in a high profile nightclub which was an eye-popping carnival, sexy colourful, loud – and it raised more than $50k. That was not intended for the folks who are suffering from breast cancer either… The local Diabetes Foundation holds a masked ball every year that is a who’s who event – they raise hundreds of thousands.

    I can grasp that for someone who has the disease this sort of advertising seems to diminish the reality of what they have experienced. But these campaigns are not intended for them – they are trying to raise money from the people who are NOT experiencing it and who want to help, but don’t want to know the icky details. People give money when something makes them feel good – they want the sizzle. They need the sizzle. If they don’t get it here, they’ll go where they find it and take their dollars with them. That’s how people are. And why the fundraisers are always separate from the fund recipients – they are in two entirely different businesses.

    Good rant though – got me going!

  11. One more thing – CanTeen decided to go with the images of very sick children in their campaign. Donations dropped by something like half over the previous year. The pulled it and substituted the more usual, mildly sick-looking photos instead.

    • mmr says:

      Thanks for the info. Very enlightening, and confirms what I thought about people not really wanting to see the truth. Unfortunately, it makes those of us who are scarred and ill feel even worse about ourselves. Once, before breast cancer, some of us were fun, and the life of the party, and had beautiful breasts. Now, no matter what, a sad knowledge has entered our life due to the cancer and we will probably never be proud to show our breasts to the world or to a lover. Most of us wouldn’t have shown the world anyway (though occasionally in life we are in a group setting when we must change our shirts), but for those 70% of women who divorce after a mastectomy I’m sure it’s hard to have to show their scars to a new lover.

  12. Nellie says:

    Who said anything about using disturbing photos for this campaign? All we want is a modicum of authenticity instead of models who clearly were not picked for their ability to fight anything.

    What if they used a survivor/celebrity like Sheryl Crowe? At least the ads would honor someone who did some actual fighting. What about using an actual breast cancer researcher?

    I also have mixed feelings about “save the tatas” and bracelets that say “boobies” – as if the women attached to them were irrelevant. We’re trying to save PEOPLE.

    Great article, and not even a rant.

    • Hi Nellie – it was mmr who suggested using the scar photos to get more attention… advertising often goes to the least offensive to be the most effective.

      It’s not that I disagree with anyone’s perspective that I have read here, and especially not anyone who has been affected by breast cancer or any other disease.

      But fundraising is about raising money. It’s not even necessarily about awareness. It’s purpose is to raise as much money as possible for a whatever cause they are supporting. And in our culture – it’s pretty people that sell things – pretty boobies, pretty babies, hunky men… And putting depressing images in shop windows will not lure customers in – plain and simple.

      Even using someone like Sheryl Crow, whom I adore, has a more limited appeal – to an older audience that most under 30s may have not even heard of.

      And at the risk of really getting myself into hot water… have you seen the so-called uniforms of women athletes lately? Crikey! Volleyball players and runners can only dream their uniforms were half as discreet as those knickers.

      I guess my attitude is that fighting breast battle is a pretty big battle. If the fundraisers seem a bit daft and making it a bit light – just take the money and run… it’s still a gift horse.

      • Nellie says:

        I know you are correct that hideous pictures turn people off. Some businesses don’t use plus-sized models to sell plus-sized clothes because the clothes don’t sell unless they are pictured on a Heidi Klum.

        Still, the whole campaign rings false. It’s a cynical pink moneymaker for the businesses involved, and very little of the money that is raised actually helps women. That’s frustrating, especially when you’ve seen the level of devastation cancer causes every day. I don’t have the answer but there has to be something better than using happy cancer delusionsto sell bras.

      • Nellie says:

        I know you are correct that hideous pictures turn people off. Some businesses don’t use plus-sized models to sell plus-sized clothes because the clothes don’t sell unless they are pictured on a Heidi Klum.

        Still, the whole campaign rings false. It’s a cynical pink moneymaker for the businesses involved, and very little of the money that is raised actually helps women. That’s frustrating, especially when you’ve seen the level of devastation cancer causes every day. I don’t have the answer but there has to be something better than using pink manipulation to sell bras.

  13. Amy H. says:

    Waycoal ≠ Way Cool

    After personally seeing scars associated with this disease, I, too, feel the Scar Project does a great job of presenting reality. I know it doesn’t sell bras, and some people might consider it gross, not pretty at all and better left unseen, but what I have personally seen represents a beauty that cannot be replicated. The Scar Project says so much through their photos about life, bravery and beauty. Plus, it makes me truly aware of the fight that has been battled and won–and so I see so much beauty in that. I view the scars, then look up and see the person’s face who I love so much and who has trusted me with a view that is now the fabric of her body-her new normal–and not one she chose or wants. I don’t find them offensive at all but have a hard time convincing her of that fact! These scars were not her choice and it’s shameful that the public’s ignorance of the disease and what’s truly involved in her fight can cause her to feel rejection because of them. She knows that much of the general public is either unaware, aware but blissfully ignorant of the true reality (probably where I was before I got “up close & personal” with this disease) or aware but chooses to ignore the reality. Kind of ironic that some of these models probably have scars of their own that have now helped them to get in these ads because of the results of elective surgery. And I am NOT saying that I disagree with elective surgery to enhance your body, I’m just saying it’s just a skewed reality when one set of scars results in rejection and other similar scars result in adulation.

    • mmr says:

      Well said! Thanks! I like what you said about public ignorance– that’s where all of us were too, before the disease slapped us in the face. I’ve felt, ever since, that the picture the public often gets from these campaigns such as Wacoal’s is misleading and hurts those who have the disease. I’m sure several others got responses to their diagnosis such as “oh, breast cancer, it’s no big deal with all the advances”, etc. They probably think that women still look like those models after the battle.

      But I do understand Storyteller’s response about donations. On so many more levels than I used to. And they still make me sad.

  14. […] Brace yourself for a rant […]

  15. diplomom08 says:

    The only disagreement I have: I very much wanted to save my breast. It was a working breast (I was still nursing my son) and very much in need. It should not take removal of a loved and needed body part to get rid of the disease.

    So, I may be the odd (wo)man out, but to me, losing my breast was horrific. Being mutilated by the breast surgeon in order to save my life, yet losing my breast made my life miserable. I also lost 4 lymph nodes and a nipple on the very poor advice of my surgeon.

    I may be in the minority, but I am very angry that I had to have my breast removed and put myself at risk for other diseases just to save my life when I did nothing wrong in the first place. Just my opinion….(though, yes, I loathe those ads and pinkwashing).

    • mmr says:

      Please don’t feel bad that you wanted to save your breast. I haven’t met any person yet who has had a breast or two removed who has said they wouldn’t want the old one(s) back. Just without cancer. Today my lymphedema therapist told me how she had cried for days and couldn’t stop after her mastectomy. I did my share too, once the morphine wore off. So you are not alone! And I very much understand your anger. One year out and I still have anger too, though it has gotten better. And I like that you are strong enough to use the word mutilated. Only one of my friends, older–and wiser– than me, one of those true friends who actually sat through dr. appointments with me, used the strong word “mutilation”. And I still love her for it. Because she understood. That’s what it is. Mutilation to save your life, and nobody would choose it if there was another option that worked. And other people see only what we allow them to see– they see that after implants or with prosthsesis we fill out our shirts okay. But they don’t see the lack of nipples, the saggy skin in our armpits, the scars on our bodies and souls, the pain that we have, and the fear. We hide that, because we’re embarrassed and feel ugly, and this stupid Wacoal campaign doesn’t help– I and most of the women I know who are survivors don’t go around looking beautiful and self confident with our pink boxing gloves or sexy bras. But we can still be beautiful inside. You are a mom who loves her son. So you are beautiful!

  16. I’m so angered by those provocative images, my blood is boiling. I don’t know why our society is so fixated on breasts. My sons say I just don’t get it because I’m a woman, but still… Thanks to you, Nancy’s Point, and others for bringing this important issue to the blogosphere. XX

  17. Trevor Hicks says:

    I’m not bothered by an underwear company using such images to sell sexy underwear. But I agree that this glamorization of breast cancer is harmful to its victims. And make no mistake, this campaign is clearly just a promotional tool to sell underwear, not to fight breast cancer.

  18. I love this rant! Sexy breast cancer is helping to trivialize the disease and turn the cause into a lifestyle. I agree with your commenter that offering “a modicum of authenticity” would go a long way toward helping society to get real about breast cancer.

  19. […] between some ranting of her own the Pink Underbelly has found time to post the cutest thing I’ve seen all week on […]

  20. […] last two are my favorite. The boxing girl, who I’ve written about before, because the idea of being a fighter when it comes to breast […]

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