We’ve seen various campaigns in support of breast cancer awareness, but the latest to join the bandwagon is a rally organised by leading garment brand Marks & Spencer. The rally invited women to post selfies with their bra strap showing in order to raise funds for breast cancer awareness. However, this hasn’t gone down well with breast cancer survivors — they feel the campaign is over-sexualised, insensitive and ironic considering the brand’s lingerie doesn’t fit those with prosthetic breasts.
The retail brand’s own model Rosie Huntingdon-Whiteley showed off her bra strap in a selfie she posted — Game of Thrones star Maisie Williams took to Twitter to post a selfie as well. But some say, “Who on earth at @marksandspencer & @breastcancernow devised the #showyourstrap campaign? It’s humiliating & insensitive,” and others retaliated by launching their own campaign #Show-yourscar. Cancer survivors posted pictures of the surgery’s scar, in an attempt to say that reality helps, not glamour.
Leading breast cancer consultant at Apollo Hospitals, Dr. Uma Krishnaswami says about the campaign, “Most of my patients wouldn’t appreciate this initiative — they’d find it intrusive. Campaigns have to be created for the socio-cultural world we live in, certainly not to offend anybody’s feelings.” She asserts that Indian women accept breast cancer gracefully, and just the support from their family and friends is sufficient, as opposed to awareness from external sources or rallies.
Socialite and breast cancer survivor Vimmi Deepak, feels that while awareness on breast cancer is beneficial to those recently diagnosed, revealing your bra strap is unnecessary. “I don’t think there is any harm in campaigning for breast cancer awareness. It will in fact encourage women with this condition to come out and get the right treatment and moral support they need. I’ve gone through this myself, and it was only support from my loved ones that got me through it,” she says adding, “However, adding sensuality to breast cancer doesn’t help — revealing a bra strap won’t do any good.”
“Women haven’t been portrayed aesthetically in most Indian ads, and I feel campaigns like these will instigate people wrongly,” feels Uma Rao, a Bharatanatyam dancer. “I would say this rally made sense if pictures were published in women-centric magazines or on breast cancer awareness blogs, instead of a social platform like Twitter or Facebook. Right now, it just seems like an insult to us cancer survivors because people don’t understand the physical and emotional pain we go through while getting treatment,” she says, having undergone chemotherapy and a mastectomy herself.
“People need to formulate campaigns that should help women who want to help themselves, in a sensitive and sensible manner,” she adds. Jayanthi Gururaj (name changed on request) who’s a breast cancer survivor and a silent activist also feels that the selfie campaign was derogatory. “Women going through this situation do not need to be publicised on social media platforms. They’d much rather receive the love and support of their family than men or women who do not understand head or tail of breast cancer and Lymphedema (potential side effect of breast cancer surgery and radiation therapy). The campaign may have been for a positive purpose, but comes off as vulgar,” she says in conclusion.