This year the University of Minnesota Twin Cities’ breast cancer awareness event will be held on Oct. 25th. While this is for an admirable cause, the event itself is known through the problematic title of the ‘Save Second Base 5K.’
This is not uncommon for breast cancer-related events. Most groups and associations will use similar slogans such as ‘I heart boobies’ and ‘save the tatas’ to show support for breast cancer research. We see these phrases on shirts, bumper stickers, and nearly every breast cancer related awareness event. The idea behind this is to gain (predominately male) interest and support behind this topic through the use of sexual innuendo. While these tactics have been effective, they also draw attention away from the women who are cancer patients and instead place more importance on their breasts. This is not only insulting to women who have undergone mastectomy in order to survive breast cancer, but also to men who do not have any ‘tatas to save’ in the first place.
In addition, phrases like these often make people forget what is really important in the fight against breast cancer. In the spring of 2013 celebrity actress Angelina Jolie announced that she had undergone a preventative double mastectomy after she had discovered she carried a mutated BRCA1 gene, giving her an 87% chance of developing breast cancer. Jolie explained that this was a medical choice in order to greatly improve her chancing of surviving the possibility of breast cancer and other health complications.
Reception to this announcement was mixed. While there were many supportive messages applauding her bravery in the decision as well as choosing to write about it, others were not as pleasant. In particular the backlash on social media sites was vicious as men everywhere mourned the loss of Jolie’s breasts and her consequential fall from sex symbol status.
This sort of response revealed the viewpoint that phrases such as ‘save second base’ have fostered: that women are only as valuable as their parts. The culture around breast cancer has developed into one that revolves around trying to preserve breasts for male enjoyment rather than the lives of the cancer patients. When all the focus has been placed on the breasts and not the people themselves, it serves to imply they are only worth saving in relation to how they are useful to others.
It is certainly important to garner followers for this cause and to let breast cancer patients feel this support, but doing so through shallow gimmicks such as ‘save second base’ cheapen the gravity of the situation. It is difficult to take this condition seriously when it is being used as a flirty joke. Breast cancer is not sexy, but that does not mean we shouldn’t still care. We should certainly continue to show our support and help spread awareness for breast cancer, but we should also keep sight of why we are doing this. So for those planning to participate in the 5K this month, run for more than just second base.