Breast cancer has been one of the most recent battles women all over the world are facing. Along with women uprising in Arab and Muslim countries, anti-sexual harassment campaigns in Egypt, fighting to change the body image concept that is being sold to young girls in music videos and on magazine covers and calling out for Equal Pay. Breast cancer, however can be considered one of the most groundbreaking female topics in the modern times. With women being more outspoken, more courageous about showing the changes in their bodies and breaking the female body taboo where it is more damaged than a temple of divine perfection yet still retains its beauty. Breast cancer awareness campaigns vary from the pink ribbon, to making strides against breast cancer but the most recent and -as expected- very controversial campaign would be the “Pinktober” campaign where famous brands from all over the world (think KFC, Avon, Marc Jacobs, etc), major companies like United Airlines and even sports celebrity teams like the The Indianapolis Colts are going pretty in pink for breast cancer.
Well what’s bad about a touch of pink, and all in collaboration with the American Cancer Society for the benefit of cancer research (a high percent of the proceeds of this campaign go to the Breast Cancer Alliance)? But how about the darker picture, the part that these flowery, beautiful campaigns do not focus on, parts that projects like the SCAR project and the Naked Truth Campaign in New Zealand shed a light on? We are talking here about images of breast cancer survivors, posing naked for fashion photographer David Jay (SCAR) and showing off their uncomfortable bodies and allied breasts after having had mastectomy and being rampaged by chemotherapy and radiation therapy. The “Naked Truth Campaign” on the other hand, focuses more on women who have been recently diagnosed with breast cancer, showing their altered breasts, inverted nipples, breast dimples and lumps. The Commercial Approval Bureau in New Zealand refused to have the photos and ads published without hiding the nipples as it was strictly forbidden to show nipples on national TV. Still that didn’t stop the campaign from being bold, creative and raw, something that Pinktober apparently lacks.
Who is to judge? Survivors of breast cancer, of course, as well as their friends and families, have expressed their feelings either of excitement or resentment at the commercialization of the ordeal. In The Guardian, Emma G Keller has simply put it straight that she considers it “dreadful” to read about breast cancer –being a survivor herself- in all forms of consumerism, even if it is well-meant. She spoke her mind and wondered,
I wonder why “my” disease has its own month and color, when heart disease and ovarian cancer don’t.
Pretty in Pink or SCAR, you pick your method of putting the spotlight on your topic. Breast cancer awareness has been growing and taking its own path in the last few years and women have become more confident about their bodies and more inclined to share their stories of battling the horror with us. Personally, I go for the darker side, I don’t want to munch on fried chicken from a pink KFC bucket or buy a $1,000 Manolo Blahnik and convince myself that I am honoring Breast Cancer Alliance. I want to see and hear women’s testimonials and go to photography exhibitions where I can witness how resilient and beautiful the human body is, despite its scars. Still I kinda feel doubtful about hating the pink ribbon when –shameful as I may sound- it got me deeper into the topic when I first saw it, five years ago while surfing a blog. To put it more blatantly, every survivor has her own way of telling the story, even reading fairytales could have both sides, you either pick the R-rated Brothers Grimm version or you watch the animated Disney fluff-fest. It is your battle and your choice. Just remember that we are all on your side, pink lipsticks and ribbons aside.
Written by: Jaylan Salah