10. {ReThink Your Pitch} Q&A With A National Brand Over Breast Cancer…

Kate-Madonna Hindes is an industry leader and national author and speaker on emotional integrity and authenticity in today’s online media. Her columns are regularly published in the Minneapolis Star Tribune, Women of HR, GirlmeetsGeek, Brazen Careerist and JobDig. With 15+ years of combined, published, experience for news media, state government and Fortune 500 businesses, she regularly covers national Social Media Technology events from an HR / Recruiting perspective. “{ReThink Your Pitch}” was originally published on GirlmeetsGeek on September 24, 2011. With permission, Pink Ribbon Blues is honored to publish a shortened version of the essay here.

I received a very strange email a few days ago. Press Invites/Releases make up about 30% of my email inbox. Often, I’ll do a skim and delete, or I’ll contact the sender for more information. The pitches are usually meaningful and as a journalist, I appreciate the time a decent release takes. However, the heading on this one truly truly was hard to miss: “Hot Men Want You to Touch Your Boobs this October.” You can read the entire press release here: http://www.girlmeetsgeek.com/reverb-media-press-release/

The first thing I did was the check the sender, (Reverb Media) and make sure that someone hadn’t accidentally hacked their account. About 3 seconds later it dawned on me: Someone is actually using this headline for Breast Cancer Awareness Month. I found out it was a phone app that reminded you to be screened for breast cancer, with ‘hot men.’ That’s it. Three things immediately went through my head:

  1. Someone’s going to get fired.
  2. Can you imagine a mastectomy survivor reading this and knowing that yet again, someone else is trying to push breast cancer only involving the …breast? Can you imagine her outrage wishing that she still HAD her breasts?
  3. They must be joking. It must be a catchy headline, (worked for me!) I’ll open it, a heartfelt apology will follow and they will be donating a huge amount to a well-known organization.

I decided to dig deeper. The release was crafted by two entities: John St. and Reverb Media. I’ve heard of John St. and have a lot of respect for their craft, unfortunately that’s no longer the case. I’ve also heard of Reverb, most recently because of their 2010 lawsuit claiming that they were paid to falsify reviews in the Itunes Store. Then there’s the product. One click on the RethinkBreastCancer.com website tells you exactly what they’e after. In fact, in the press release itself, under “Save The Boobs!” the link pulls up a Youtube video that requires you to “sign in to verify that you are of the appropriate age” to view it. After I sat with my mouth gaping open, I decided to screenshot this gigantic mess in its disgusting, man-centered glory. If you’d like a play by play on the video and its falsified statistics, visit here.

Save the Boobs! Video by RethinkBreastCancer.Com

I asked for a few questions to be answered about the mobile application the press release was pitching. The following is the completely unedited Q&A:

Questions to MJ DeCoteau, Executive Director of Rethink Breast Cancer:

  1. Why did you choose a phone app instead of ipad?
  2. Since this is launching to women, (young and old,) do you have any concerns over the ‘sexualizing’ of the disease that has been written up recently in Forbes, the NYT and the Washington Journal?
  3. Although early detection is important, there are many other factors that can save lives such as environmental, genetic, etc.
  4. How does this engage with the survivor population?
Answers:
  1. As ‘Your Man Reminder’ is the first Rethink Breast Cancer App we wanted to focus on iPhone and Android, as they are mobile devices that women carry with them at all times. iPad, and other tablet devices, are certainly a great way for us to reach women with our early detection message and its definitely on our minds for Phase 2!
  2. The use of “hot guys” as a reminder for women to be breast aware is actually a clever twist on the typical sexualizing of the disease. This is not the usual “booby” campaign that is emphasizing women’s breasts as sexual objects. Both approaches, if done with humour and sensitivity, can bring attention to early detection and help save women’s lives.
  3. Although early detection is important, there are many other factors that can save lives such as environmental, genetic, etc. The app is one of a host of Rethink Breast Cancer’s education tools and resources, including ones that focus on risk reduction through lifestyle changes. In our efforts to empower young women, Rethink encourages women to know their risk for developing breast cancer as well as strategies to reduce their risk and to be breast aware and know the importance of early detection. The app is a great example of one of our bold efforts to help young women take charge of their breast health.
  4. How does this engage with the survivor population? Many breast cancer survivors (of all ages) have embraced our creative, and sometimes irreverent, education and early detection initiatives. Many of the young women in our breast cancer support programs are excited about this app and will help us spread the word about it through social media. They think it’s critical that young women know their risk for breast cancer and believe this app can break through the clutter of young women’s busy lives and help take some of the fear out of using early detection methods.

It was the answer to question #2 that stopped me dead in my tracks. This particular sexualization and (including men) is just a “clever twist.” So what does the app do? A few good-looking men remind you and your girlfriends to get screened, which has been done by how many other “clever” campaigns? To speak to younger women, Ms. DeCoteau, you don’t need hot men or a history of sexualizing the population of MTV video watchers. When you equate beautiful breasts to beautiful women and breast cancer to fear, you are in fact telling young women: “All that matters is that you look great in a bikini, get checked!”

Forget these sexy attempts at so-called ‘prevention’ through early detection. It’s time for a cure.

Further reading:

For more consciousness raising essays, check out “30 Days of Breast Cancer Awareness.”

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4 comments to 10. {ReThink Your Pitch} Q&A With A National Brand Over Breast Cancer…

  • Mary

    Groan, this reminds me of an email I received from breastcancer.org advertising their Christmas “Baubles for Boobs” fund raiser. When I emailed my displeasure over the title, the reply assured me that the fund raiser was a tasteful event and that the title had been suggested by a “survivor”.

    The implication, hey a survivor suggested it so it must be OK. I’m a “survivor?” so how come it is NOT OK with me? A little more back and forth and they have assured me that they are considering changing the name of that fund raiser. We shall see as Christmas gets closer.

    PS The founder of the site, a radiation oncologist, refers to a woman’s breasts as “the girls”, and has written a self help book about them. Another groan from me!

  • Thank you so much for posting my article, Gayle. I’m honored. I hope it sparks many more conversations and a needed culture change. I embrace a cure, not pink.

  • This is such perfect timing. A friend had just forwarded me this YouTube video earlier today. I couldn’t quite put my finger on why I found it so creepy, until I happened to be listening to a Breast Cancer Action webinar later with Gayle, where this post was mentioned. This now explains exquisitely why the sight of those “hot” young men (and even the doctor!) dancing away in their underpants raises the cringe factor for me (well, that, and also I’m quite clearly NOT in the demographic of young women that Rethink Pink is targeting).

    Thanks so much for putting into words so succinctly the dismay I was feeling inside!
    Cheers,
    C.

  • This makes me want to hurl. And not because I just completed radiation therapy, either.

    Yes, I’m a survivor without boobs. And yes, this is disgusting.

    To purposely target young women with this app, they must think that young women have no sense!

To speak her truth, she needed to give her words and identity away, to a trusted poet and friend @stevedavenport breastcancerconsortium.net/ov…

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* GAYLE IN THE MEDIA *

"Seeing clearly through the pink haze" Toronto Sun

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Your Fun 'No Bra Day' Photos Are Overshadowing Terminal Breast Cancer Patients Broadly

Backlash against “pinkwashing” of breast cancer awareness campaigns BMJ

Breast Cancer to Rise 50 Percent by 2030? Hey, Not So Fast! Health News Review

Breast Cancer: The Flaws in the Cause iafrica.com

How to Make the Biggest Impact With Your Breast Cancer Donations Money

The Very Pink, Very Controversial Business of Breast Cancer Awareness Racked

NFL, Pink Ribbons Not Enough to Win over Women CNN

3 Questions We Need to Answer for Breast Cancer Awareness Month Chronicle of Philanthropy

The problem with National Breast Cancer Awareness Month Women's Health Magazine

Pink Ribbon Envy: Living with an Uncool Cancer The Nib

A Year After Bombings, Some Say 'Boston Strong' Has Gone Overboard NPR, All Things Considered

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Time to Debunk the Mammography Myth CNN

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The Pink Backlash Orlando Sentinel

Why Jolie's Test Costs So Much CNN

Preventative Mastectomies: Disease and Deception BlogTalkRadio

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Our Feel-Good War on Breast Cancer The New York Times Magazine.

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The perils of pink The Daily

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Gayle Sulik named #7 in SharecareNow’s Top 10 Online Influencers in Breast Cancer

Breast cancer cancer causes so easily derailed Philly Inquirer

Komen Charity Under Microscope for Funding, Science Reuters

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Susan G. Komen For the Cure defunds Planned Parenthood. In Deep with Angie Coiro

Amid Breast Cancer Month, Is there Pink Fatigue? NPR's All Things Considered

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The Big Business of Breast Cancer
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Does Breast Cancer Awareness Month Crowd Out Other Diseases? Slate

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