To hell with the woman, save the boobs

Is a sexy new breast cancer PSA offensive ... to men?

Published September 24, 2009 1:25PM (EDT)

You've seen this ad a million times before: There's a massive pool party going on, but one poor, timid dude is floating, alone and forlorn, on an inflatable raft. Suddenly, a bikini-clad hot chick makes a grand entrance, her ample breasts jiggling with every step she takes. Everyone -- men, women, a perplexing group of guys in sailor costumes who seem to fit a particularly offensive gay stereotype -- pause, mid-conversation, to gawk as she passes. The words "You know you like them" flash across the screen. Finally, the girl stops in front of the lonely guy, leans over, and shakes her boobs in his general direction. "Now," we learn, "it's time to save them."

That's when we realize that this isn't a Budweiser commercial, after all. It's a PSA called "Save the Boobs" (posted below) for Canada's Rethink Breast Cancer charity. The clip ends with the words, "Breast cancer is the leading cause of cancer death in young women ages 20-49" and then a quick, wet T-shirt contest-inspired shot advertising an event called "Boobyball."

"The goal is to get men to care about breast cancer," says Alina Cho at CNN (video) of the ad, before confidently editorializing: "This certainly will be effective in that realm." She reports that Rethink Breast Cancer's founder hopes the ad will reach younger men. "Young people," she says, "are picking up pamphlets with a 65-year-old woman on them, probably tossing them out." (Because, hey, no one gives a shit when some old hag gets cancer, am I right?) "She says this is a bold and fun way to communicate the message that will 'stop them in their tracks.'" According to Cho, the group's founder believes the PSA will encourage men to help their wives and girlfriends check for breast cancer -- despite the fact that the ad never includes such a suggestion, even though it would have been easy to build in. ("Like boobs? Why not spend more time touching them? Help your girlfriend check for breast cancer.")

But what really bothers me about the PSA, aside from the obvious -- how problematic it is to sexualize cancer, the implication that only hot girls with nice racks are worth caring about -- is its cynicism toward young men. Does Rethink Breast Cancer really believe that the only way to make guys care is to slap together a sexy ad with a boobs-to-information ratio that's downright offensive? Is it impossible to believe that men's interest in breast cancer research might go beyond the selfish desire to "Save the boobs"? I'm all for reaching out to get as many people involved in the fight against breast cancer as possible. I just don't think insulting men's intelligence is the way to do it.

By Judy Berman

Judy Berman is a writer and editor in Brooklyn. She is a regular contributor to Salon's Broadsheet.

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