Save the Boobs, and whether humor has a role in breast cancer

Last year it was the “Save the Boobs” video. This year it’s the “I (Heart)Boobies” bracelets.

Some people were very offended by the video’s slow-motion close-ups that were more reminiscent of a beer commercial. Now, some schools are banning kids from wearing the bracelets. And in a recent post on Salon, Tracy Clark-Flory made the eloquent case that we’re more than the sum of our body parts, and recounted her mom’s battle with metastasized lung cancer.

I agree completely that we’re more than the sum of our breasts or whichever body part has been affected by cancer. I’m less in agreement that a humorous approach isn’t the way to go. Isn’t the point of any messaging to tailor it to the audience?  Humor is a way to reach people who may be turned off by traditional public service announcements. We may be getting some people to think about this for the first time.

And yes, it’s abstract for them in a “Save these,” not “Save her” kind of way, but life-threatening illnesses are abstractions for most of us until we’re faced with them. That’s even more true of the young. Does humor work better getting abstract concepts across to this audience? Just asking; I have no clue if there’s research out there to support how well humor works in an awareness campaign.

I’m not sure I see a lot of difference between the “boobie” bracelets and women sporting T-shirts that say “Yes, these are new boobs–the old ones tried to kill me” or “Save the TaTas.” Personally, I wouldn’t wear the bracelets or the shirts. But I appreciate the humor, just as I appreciated the approach of the Save the Boobs video. I thought the way they subverted the genre was genius.

I ‘m a firm believer in the power of humor, and I leaned on it pretty heavily while I was undergoing treatment. Sometimes the cancer journey is so absurd all you can do is laugh. Other times it flat-out sucks. At those times, humor is one of the few weapons we have.

Jackie Fox is the author of From Zero to Mastectomy: What I Learned And You Need to Know About Stage 0 Breast Cancer, and blogs at Dispatch From Second Base.

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