A few days ago I started seeing women posting heart (❤️) emojis as their Facebook statuses. I didn’t really think much of it, I don’t even know half of the viral Facebook trends these days. However, a good friend brought to my attention that the heart emojis symbolize, well you guessed it, breast cancer awareness.
I want to preface this post by stating that social media trends are often difficult to define, as they are as fluid as they are inconsistent, and flexible to each individual participating in the trend. That said, after doing some research, the heart emoji trend started as a movement to spread awareness about “breast cancer prevention week” (which I can’t confirm is actually a thing). Women will either post the heart emoji on a female friend’s Facebook wall, or simply post the heart emoji as a Facebook status, to ultimately encourage their female friends to book a mammogram appointment and evaluate their breast health. In addition, women sharing the heart emoji will privately message their female contacts asking them to “check their boobies,” post the heart emoji, and forward the message. As a kicker, women participating in this trend are supposedly not to reveal this trend to their male counterparts, in support of some female solidarity against breast cancer.
I will grant the movement credit where its due in saying that fundamentally, the encouragement of female solidarity against a disease that otherwise strips women of their femininity is noble. However, the heart emoji trend’s grade school level maturity and childish execution unfortunately causes women participating in this trend to miss a fundamental point.
Sharing a heart emoji on Facebook is simply another gimmick that misses a critical message about breast cancer — the movement dances around the harsh reality that if you don’t get your breasts checked, you could die. Breast cancer prevention isn’t a game, it’s a tumultuous fight for survival that tens of thousands of women in the US every year experience.
The purpose of this post isn’t to mount my metaphorical high horse and speak condescendingly about the women participating in this new social media trend. Rather, I want to shed light on a new narrative — a narrative that is not adequately represented in heart emojis, or pink ribbons for that matter. Until we realize that breast cancer awareness isn’t a cute and sexy trend (boobies, check your boobies!) we will continue to ignore the severity that breast cancer plays in our modern society.