By Elaine Schattner, MD|April 26th, 2012
I’m not sure what to make of Boobstagram. The French company breaches most cancer culture norms, if such exist. A headline in the UK’s Daily Mail reads: Women capture their cleavage on Instagram to raise awareness of cancer and encourage regular exams. And that pretty much sums it up.
The idea is for women to take photos of their breasts, send them in, and raise awareness about the importance of healthy breasts.
You can look and “like” Boobstagram on Facebook. Over 20,000 have registered their appreciation for the site, so far. The timeline reveals that Boobstagram opened a FB account last November and first uploaded images late in February. The About page starts with this message: Send us your boobs at boobstagram@… When I visited yesterday, at around 7PM EST, over 9,000 people were “talking” about Boobstagram on FB. Boobstagram’s Twitter following is on the small side, relatively, perhaps because it’s an image-oriented source of awareness.
Instagr.am, for those readers who use Blackberries or might be otherwise out-of-the-loop, is a phone app that lets you take and share photos in a flash. Coincidentally, Facebook recently purchased Instagram for $300 in cash, plus.
On its main website, the company’s tag line is translated into English: “Showing your boobs on the web is good, showing them to your doctor is better.” The explanation continues:
…The fight against cancer is long-standing…We cannot all become doctors or surgeons. But we can all take part in prevention, for ourselves, for our friends and family and for others. But how?
…How to avoid the pitfall of moralism ? How to build a popular communication matching with the up-to-date scientific knowledge ? And how to create a rather fun prevention campaign when most campaigns use fear ?<sic>
Capiche? Not sure I do. (Please forgive me if I mix languages and messages, for the moment.) This topic’s ripe, pre-blended. And sort-of fun, as things go here.
Fact is – once I’d narrowed the post topic selections to either Boobstagram or a recent report on 10 distinct genetic breast cancer variants, I chose Boobstagram. The Nature paper is very important work. Fox News called it a landmark study, correctly from what I’ve read elsewhere. I should read up on the new genotypes, and learn how those relate to old-fashioned BC subtypes, and the prognosis and potential for targeted therapies directed to each. And so should, I suppose, breast cancer patients and their loved ones who wish to make informed decisions. Practicing oncologists should know all about that paper by now, digested it entirely.
Business Insider covered Boobstagram, but overall there’s not been a whole lot of attention in the U.S. HuffPo U.K. was on it, but not here, where I might post if I choose. I’m not sure if I will, or should -
This company, founded by two men, seems to be having some fun with cancer, women’s breasts and phones. Is it exploitative? I’m not sure whether to laugh, cry, or blow it off as boys behaving badly. Or girls behaving badly. Or both, together, normally.
It’s sexist, yes – but so’s an ordinary half-time show during a football game, or a pair of 4-inch heels. Besides, many tolerate infantilizing and commercializing events in the context of BC awareness, as Gayle Sulik points out. Those campaigns – some tawdry, some tasteful, and usually bright pink – rake in money for research and patient care. Is Boobstagram so different? Strictly off-limits?
Seriously, what if the website brought in 180 million Euros through ads next year, and the company founders gave it all to the IARC and a few really solid cancer research agencies? Maybe next year their American friends will open a similar platform to raise money for the strapped NCI.
Are we too uptight? Or is the problem simply that the French website lacks meaningful relevance to any cancer cause?
The almost-obvious, pat and probably correct answer, would be to call out Boobstagram for what it’s worth: a farce. There’s no hint that this company has a specific plan or funds to support cancer research or help patients in any meaningful way. I can’t support it. But maybe – and this is a stretch – in the long term cultivating love, or admiration… of women’s breasts raises their value, and reminds us of the tragedy that is breast cancer.
Prevention would be a lot better than cutting, or lopping them off.