Have a Hunk Remind You to Feel Yourself Up

October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and that usually manifests in the bombardment of sexist and demeaning awareness campaigns like “Save the Ta-tas.” Don’t even get me started on the useless and idiotic Facebook memes. But there’s one surprising and, er, “exciting” new breast cancer awareness campaign this season. Rethink Breast Cancer, a Canadian organization that calls itself the “young women’s breast cancer movement,” released the Your Man Reminder app where sexy, half-naked men remind you to do breast self-exams. And to announce the app? A video. With stripping.

Yowza. Cold shower, anyone?

As far as the breast cancer message goes, I am glad to finally see a campaign that actually has an educational message. The TLC method (touch, look, check with your doctor) is an easy and simple way to approach self-breast exams, something we should all be in the habit of doing. The video also uses the word “breast” (instead of booby or “ta-ta”) and never once discusses women, breasts or breast cancer in a way that is disrespectful or patronizing. It’s sexy, but it doesn’t objectify women.

Of course, some may ask, is it OK that the video objectifies men?

Women know all too well the consequences of objectification. In our new world of female sexual empowerment, men are beginning to learn them, too. As men feel the pressure to conform to the standard of masculine beauty (six-pack abs, smooth skin, rippling muscles) increasingly found in the media, they are falling prey to eating disorders, spending their hard-earned money on hair removal and personal grooming products and most likely experiencing low self-esteem if they don’t measure up to the assumed female fantasy. Even if they do measure up, they must deal with the feelings of low self-worth that come from being treated as nothing more than a “piece of meat.”

I strongly believe that feminism is about fighting sexism regardless of which gender it targets. This video (I haven’t downloaded the app) uses an age-old “sex sells” philosophy and is in some ways reminiscent of traditional sexist advertising. But despite the shameless objectification at play, I don’t feel incensed or outraged by its use in this case. In fact, I really dig this video. It reminds me a lot of the recent Old Spice ad campaign, which owed its success in part to the number of people who enjoyed ogling the shirtless Isaiah Mustafa. There is a big difference between way that Mustafa and the men in the breast cancer video are objectified and the way that women are traditionally objectified in advertising, like for example, in this recent gem from JCPenny.

When women are objectified in the media, they are often done so in a way where they are silent, passive and submissive. In plenty of ads, women look drugged and posed in sexually submissive positions. This is a very different kind of objectification than the kind we see in this video, where the men are talking, teaching, leading and generally appearing as active, consenting participants in the whole thing. They are essentially objectifying themselves with a wink and a nod, acknowledging that this is all in good fun.

Occasionally, you do see this kind of consensual, participatory objectification with women. I’m thinking of Sofía Vergara’s ad for her new clothing link at Kmart, in particular.

Like Mustafa and the men of Rethink Breast Cancer, she’s an active participant, objectifying herself with a level of playful awareness that lets you know that she’s still in charge. (Not to mention the fact that she brings racial and body diversity to the table, which is excellent.) As a result, this kind of objectification feels okay to enjoy and participate in.

Maybe we should ask for an expansion of the app for lesbians that includes some hot, actively participating women teaching TLC. An app like this could also easily be altered to help remind gay and straight men, who are also at risk for breast cancer, about the importance of doing self-breast exams too.

As a hetero woman clearly in the app’s target audience, I’m considering downloading the Your Man Reminder app (available for the iPhone and Android platforms). It would be helpful to have a regular reminder to do self-breast exams and, if it comes from a consenting hot guy with his shirt off, so much the better. Still, it is always important to be thoughtful about media that objectifies men and women and consider the broader impact of images that promote an unattainable standard of beauty–masculine or feminine–even when we’re using them to do something good.

Photo by Flickr user Marco Gomes under license from Creative Commons 2.0

Comments

  1. juliemiche says:

    Very insightful. I’d also note that it does affect non-gender binary conforming individuals of all sexes, as we often forget them.

  2. All of this might be relevant if: a) regular, routine breast self-exams were even being recommended by doctors anymore (they’re now beginning to discourage them in favor of generally “knowing your breasts” to the point where you notice any changes in them) and b) this same organization (Rethink Breast Cancer) hadn’t already launched itself with a video that objectifies women in the classic old-fashioned “save the boobies” way. For me, it’s just more misogyny dressed up as caring about women.

  3. I like the concept. It’s different. It’s a humorous take on a serious subject. Not impressed with the models they chose though. They seem to be all the same type, and just dressed differently to represent different personality types. Might be even better if women could upload a picture of whomever they wanted to pop up as their reminder guy (or girl).

  4. I like being objectified in a way that’s empowering. The pursuit of complex subjectivity for women in the post-modern world involves reclaiming our bodies, and in this way being sexy–because it’s fun and empowering–can put us more in touch with ourselves. I loved this commercial. I agree that the men featured in it are objectified in an empowering way. It’s valuable to note the subtle differences in empowering vs. disempowering depictions of bodies. When we own our bodies, it feels awesome. When we don’t, we can’t even move.

  5. I love it! So much better than the other silly campaigns. I never like save the ta tas. I don’t like too serious but I don’t like goofy either. Men reminding me & other women is a nice alternative…love it!

  6. I don’t like it. I get the humor of it & still think it’s not the best idea to objectify anyone. That said, I won’t lose any sleep over it. They’re all willing adults.

  7. I’m appalled that a Ms. blogger would actually think this commercial is okay. This is why feminism is such a crock – exploiting women is bad, but exploiting men, especially if they’re stereotypically hot, is A-OK! Not only that, but this campaign just assumes that women are shallow – that we need stereotypically hot men to remind us to do things. It’s just an extension of the thinking that women need men to shelter and protect them – oh, and to take care of their breasts now, too, apparently.

  8. The begining few moments of the commercial (where it is assumed the audience is hetero female) IS problematic.

    But after that, it was actually okay. The script stops flirting.

    It even recognized that men also needed to seriously be aware of and check for breast cancer. So the commercial was gender-bending.

    It was actually halfway decent, again compared to the other breast cancer paraphenelia like buckets of fried fast food chicken…etc which is not at all beneficial for fighting cancer.

    If they tweaked the commercial, it would be great to air on TV

  9. I don’t like it. I mean, of course I like those handsome sexy men, but I agree with Jacqui, I don’t understand why the author thinks that this ad isn’t objectifing men. What if women would have done this ad? We wouldn’t agree that women would have been objectified as usual?

  10. I’d like to point out that one thing no one pointed out particularly is that this ad is extremely heteronormative.

  11. Jeannettics says:

    Love it! I downloaded the app today and shared with all of my friends.

  12. Not only is it directed only towards white hetero females (some diversity would be nice), but it indeed objectifies men for the reasons mentioned in the article where men are increasingly starting to feel inadequate if they don’t have the typical muscle building body. And i find it kind of annoying actually simply because I don’t like men telling me what to do even if it’s for my own good and they are supposed to be caring men. And I mean this sort of in a humorous way but it’s true. It just rubs me the wrong way. And it would make me feel like the female version of a sexist pig as well. I know I wouldn’t be too happy if my man had an app on his phone with some stereotypical sexy white blonde woman with big boobs reminding him to check his balls for ball cancer. So why would I do the same?? It seems hypocritical to me.

  13. I know this is an older post, but since I’ll be modeling for a similarly “good cause” in near future I’ll post my two cents. I can see where Michelle and others are coming from and it might just be hypocrisy, and yes – it may add to more men feeling inadequate about their bodies in the same manner as women. I’ve been thinking long and hard about this, and whether I want to participate in something that just may contribute to male body dissatisfaction. Heck, I even felt it myself, being relatively fit already it was a weird feeling being told by a panel of women during the audition that I’d had to lose body fat to be considered.

    Still, in the end I’ve decided to participate, because, as Leah says it, the objectification is different than the usual objectification of women. The guy does so willingly and he plays an active part in his role, although admired for his looks it’s not the only reason he’s there. Also, I’ll do it for an important case so it’s worth getting “ripped” to help out.

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