Friday, May 8, 2009

Civil Society and the Over-Sexualization of Activism

I try to keep myself from sounding "old-fashioned" here, but my most recent experience with the use of sex as a selling point for a social movement has gone too far. Today, at a booth for Relay for Life, an event meant to raise money to combat cancer, I saw a number of t-shirts reading "Save Second Base" and "Copping a Feel Never Felt So Good." They were referring specifically to breast cancer, as was obvious by the slogans and by the material at the booth.

Since when do we need to use sex and not-so-subtle references to intimate activity to support a social movement designed to help save women's lives? Now, apparently. I had already argued against the t-shirts used by my College Democrats at GW while I was a student "In the House, On the Floor, In Any Position: Democrats Do It Better!" but I could ignore it. This new manifestation I feel goes too far. I am not here for a moralistic rant, but to simply ask is it really necessary for sexual references to pervade EVERY domain? Do we have to sell a social movement to save women's lives as though the most important aspect is to save their breasts?

In addition to my personal moral and ethical issues with this practice, my opposition is also practical. Civil Society should be as inclusive as possible in issues that affect all of us, like cancer. By turning an issue related to cancer into a sexual issue, we are excluding a large proportion of society that feels uncomfortable with this characterization. Additionally, I feel that this particular campaign's focus cheapens the entire concept and movement. Instead of the discussion being focused on what breast cancer does to families, what it costs our society, or how to support sufferers, we go and make it about how women's bodies are less physically satisfying for their partners if they get breast cancer. Civil Society movements need to be inclusive and focused, not on sex but on the issues they are attempting to resolve.

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