Is breast cancer awareness being exploited?

Congratulations. You made it to November and, if you’re a football fan, through the pink barrage that was the National Football League’s attempt at breast cancer awareness.

I am all for more education about the ruthless disease that affects the lives of millions of women and their families. A bridesmaid of my wife’s wrestles admirably with the cancer. I have known those who have fought and won and those who have fought bravely in defeat.

Yet, the skeptic in me can’t help but curl an eyebrow at the NFL’s relatively newfound sympathy.

“Isn’t this really just about getting more wives and girlfriends to let their husbands and boyfriends watch more football? Wouldn’t head trauma research be a more fitting cause?” I ask myself.

A modern media mantra states that all publicity is good publicity. In that vein, the more pink, the better. Still, I don’t like to see causes get hijacked. I don’t like immaturity undermining noble purposes. That’s what I see happening with breast cancer awareness.

Teenage boys and quasi-men wear wristbands that read, unabashedly, “I LOVE (enter slang term that rhymes with ‘rubies’).”

The first place I saw this fashion statement was on an employee at a rental car place. I couldn’t help but tell the manager I didn’t think the look would impress many customers.

Then, at the pool last summer. My elementary son was playing catch in the water with a young teenage boy. The teenager had on such a bracelet.

When I noticed his wristband, I asked his mother to ask him to remove it or turn it inside-out. I proceeded to state my opinion that teenage boys are already thinking enough about sexual things and probably don’t need a reminder on their wrists.

The mother, slightly miffed that I would make such a request, explained that the boy’s grandmother was dying from breast cancer. I kindly extended my condolences but retracted neither my request nor my assertion.

She ended up asking the boy to hide the message from my son, and, on her way out, told me she agreed with my perspective.

Largely through efforts like Texas-based Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure, breast cancer awareness has never been higher. But neither has breast awareness. How much the two are intertwined is difficult to estimate.

It is not difficult to estimate how much women are objectified in our culture. A short safari into the World Wide Web or a click through cable TV will provide the answer, if a grocery store check out doesn’t give it first.

Exploited Hollywood starlets act ever more bizarrely. Miley Cyrus, for example.

Each iteration brings more squinting of the eyes, more wrenching of the gut, more sorrow in the soul. All the while tens of thousands of impressionable girls absentmindedly follow their destructive lead.

So, when the NFL dots its fields with pink, fields encircled by busty bimbos wearing less than sports bras and not exactly leading cheers, the cause seems conjured, cleverly calculated by a well-paid public relations firm.

The NFL campaign and the “I LOVE RUBIES” bracelets may raise funds that researchers would never have come across otherwise. But I’m not convinced overall women’s health has been best served.

Kevin Thompson writes weekly for The Boerne Star in the Texas hill country. Follow him at

1 Response to “Is breast cancer awareness being exploited?”

  1. 1 jessestroup November 26, 2013 at 15:29

    Thanks Kevin for writing this.  You run risks and are articulate – that’s attractive.  And the truth is seen better and has a voice when you finish.  Jesse

      Jesse R. Stroup Director of Spiritual Care Lifeline Chaplaincy 511 N. Akard suite 202 Dallas, TX 75201

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