In spirit of today being International Woman’s Day, and the recent feminist movement surrounding the Women’s March on Washington, it’s important to remember this question, posed by writer and blogger Nancy Stordahl, “Where is the feminism in breast cancer awareness?”
The pink ribbon itself is rooted in an antiquated depiction of feminism. According to this exclusive feature in the New York Times, the color pink creates this expectation that breast cancer recovery involves breast reconstruction surgery to, according to medical sociologist Gayle Sulik, “restore the feminine body.”
My post from a few weeks ago began to explore how breast cancer awareness has become sexualized in popular culture. In spite of all the awareness that we’ve raised about the disease, as a society we’re still pretty hung up on the notion that to be a woman, quite frankly, you need to have tits. But what if you can’t save your tatas? Are you less of a woman? No one would ever directly say that to you, but if we’re marketing this idea of saving them so heavily, can we not bear the thought of women without their breasts?
Rethinking breast cancer awareness can fall in line with the goals being set forth by the contemporary feminist movement. Against all odds, we’ve been able to work on uniting women, slowly but surely, together in the face of gender discrimination, regardless of our collective differences. The common bond that holds us together is recognition that our strength doesn’t lie in our physical features, but in our courage. So then, why can’t we fight the sexualization of breast cancer? Why can’t we rebel against this outdated idea that feminity only exists within our physical beings? Why can’t we help women that have undergone mastectomies and breast reconstruction surgery feel like the women that they are?
Women should never feel that they need to reclaim their feminity. We’re all incredibly different, but we’re all women, breasts or no breasts, pink or no pink.