Last year I wrote an essay for the Huffington Post titled, “Facebook Censored Breastfeeding. Sadly, I Wasn’t Surprised.” It was about a paid ad that included an image of a child latched on to a mother’s breast that was deemed unfit for social media due to its sexual implications. At the time, I remember being shocked by how something as pure as breastfeeding could be censored, while Kim Kardashian’s breasts could freely break the internet.
While Facebook censoring breastfeeding felt like an all-time low, we hadn’t hit rock bottom. Case in point: In order to get around breast censorship on social media, MACMA, a charity in Argentina, has created a video featuring a male model, also translated into English, to raise awareness of how women can check their breasts for signs of cancer.
Joaquín Cubria and Ignacio Ferioli from David, the Buenos Aires advertising agency that created the campaign, said: “It’s hard to get women over 25 to examine their breasts regularly to prevent breast cancer. But it isn’t hard to make them check their phones every five minutes. Therefore, we decided to get to them [on social media].”
So, to sum it up, because women’s nipples are censored on YouTube, Facebook, and Instagram, but men’s nipples are not, we now have breast exam tutorials featuring man-boobs (moobs).
And here’s the crazy part, as if substituting moobs for boobs wasn’t crazy enough, people are celebrating the switch for its ingenuity. Now don’t get me wrong—I’m happy that this video is getting around. And I will admit, it’s one hell of a creative solution. I truly hope that it ends up giving women the tools they need to detect breast cancer early.
But at the same time, I want to take a moment and really think about what’s going on here, because swapping out man boobs for woman boobs is, flat out, W-E-I-R-D, and I’m having a difficult time understanding what it means about censorship online.
I know that many of you reading this are wondering why a man would be writing this article, and my answer to that is, censorship brought men into this, so please hear me out. I’m a father of two little girls, and frankly I’m a little scared to think that my daughters might one day learn about checking for breast cancer by looking at a pair of large white hairy man boobs rather than a pair of real, relatable boobs because social media can’t handle viewing women’s nipples even if it saves lives.
Here’s the thing: On the internet, boobs serve a lot of functions, and 90% of them are to sell shit. But when it comes to their intended function, breastfeeding, or in the case of teaching breast self exam, keeping women from taking on a horrible illness (cancer), social media can’t handle it.
It’s sad, really, that we have reached a stage where the expectations of breasts are so twisted and sideways that we don’t bat an eye when breasts are used to sell beer, but their real, natural, beautiful, intended purpose has been shoved so deep into the shadows that we can’t stand to look at them, so we censor them. We shove mothers into bathrooms and cram children under blankets to keep breasts from appearing too practical, and when it comes to cancer prevention we use a man rather than a woman.
There is nothing sexual about checking for cancer.
So what are we preventing here? Are we keeping people from being offended? Get over it. This is bigger than you. Are we preventing men from being turned on? If you are a man online and your only option to find videos of women’s breasts is breast self exam videos on YouTube, then you need to learn how to better use the internet.
Are we protecting children?
We are not. We are restricting breast self awareness tools from being front and center online and perpetuating the unwritten reality that boobs are 100% only for sex and marketing, and nothing else. As a father of little girls, I’m not comfortable with that, and if you are reading this, I hope that you aren’t as well. Because what this company is trying to do by placing breast cancer detection front and center on social media is a noble effort, but to do it they had to make an outlandish change that they never should have been forced to make. Breast cancer awareness should have been front and center on social media long ago regardless, and moobs should have never been brought into the equation.
Those are the facts.
And if you have a problem with anything I’ve written here, I want you to share this essay online and tell all your friends about how much you hate it. Because here’s what’s going to happen: Someone in your social network is going to have been horribly impacted by breast cancer. And they are going to tell you as much, because according to the American Cancer Society, as of right now there are 2.8 million women with a history of breast cancer in the United States. This includes women currently being treated and women who have finished treatment. They also estimate that in the United States about 246,660 new cases of invasive breast cancer will be diagnosed in women during 2016. If that doesn’t give you pause, let me know, because there are more staggering statistics.
If this video has shown me anything, it’s that there is something wrong with censorship on social media, and it may just have life or death consequences. It’s time we stop getting all worked up about women’s nipples. It’s time we encourage early breast cancer detection by showing real women how to check for cancer using real breasts, because it will save lives.
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