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The Boob Tube: The problematic new ad from Rethink Breast Cancer

By October 8, 2009 18 Comments
A frame from the new Rethink Breast Cancer commercial

A frame from the new Rethink Breast Cancer commercial (full video is on the jump)

Rethink Breast Cancer has released a new ad that they hope will catch the attention of heterosexual men and increase awareness of breast cancer as the leading cause of cancer death in young women ages 20 to 59. But though they may have the best of intentions, this ad is liable to do more harm than good.

We’ve all seen the “pinkified” ads for breast cancer awareness and research. They usually focus on women as mothers and daughters and frequently feature emotional music, pastel colors, and a plea for support. It’s no doubt time for a new approach, but the ad recently created by Rethink Breast Cancer is a big step in the wrong direction.

The video opens with a shot of a pool party, with a crowd of women and men enjoying themselves in the water. Then, to the amazement of all the men, Aliya-Jasmine Sovani (a host for MTV News Canada) walks onto the scene, wearing a small white bikini. The video is slowed down and cropped to showcase Sovani’s breasts, and reveal the motion of her breasts with every step she takes. The men at the party are excited, while the smaller-breasted women surrounding them look on in envy and disapproval. The caption reads, “You know you like them. Now it’s time to save the boobs.”

Apparently, to the makers of this advertisement, the ability to look at breasts is the only reason men care about women. It would be impossible to appeal to them as lovers, fathers, sons of women who are affected by breast cancer. No, best to keep it simple for the dudes: “If they lose their boobs, we can’t ogle them anymore!” (And that’s not even taking into account the other women in the ad; clearly, women with smaller breasts aren’t worth saving.)

This ad not only reinforces the objectification and valuing of women based solely on bodily perfection, but it degrades men as well, portraying them as incapable of seeing beyond their own desires to the concerns of women they care about. Real men care about the women in their lives as full people: minds and spirits, as well as bodies. When a husband loses a wife to breast cancer, it’s not the loss of the breasts that he is mourning, but the loss of a woman.

While getting men concerned about the dangers posed by breast cancer is an important goal, ads like this will only serve to remind women that their value in the eyes of men is determined by the perceived perfection of their bodies.

Contact Rethink Breast Cancer and let them know that advertisements like this are not the way forward for women.

–Elizabeth