September 6, 2010

Feeling Them Up

Until recently, I couldn't recall the last time I'd checked my breasts. I know it's important, I know it's quick and painless, and yet I never seem to remember to do it.

Until Friday.

My Twitter friends Carol Duncan and Sarah Pietrzak came up with a fabulous idea: 'Feel them up Friday' - a day to promote breast cancer awareness and encourage women to check their breasts. It went wild. Women all over the Twitterverse changed their avatars to pink in support of the day, and we all checked our breasts on Friday. It was easy. And for me, thankfully, all was good.

But then the storm broke. Melinda TankardReist, a self-proclaimed feminist and advocate for girls and women, took offence to Feel Them Up Friday. She claimed that the slogan sexualised breast cancer campaigns, and was offensive.

I was pretty stunned by this turn of events, and expressed my disbelief in a series of tweets. Melinda then posted about the issue here, specifically linking to one of my tweets here.

According to Melinda: “I do have an issue with the kind of language used in these campaigns because it emphasises the sexual desirability of breasts, especially as objects for male sexual gratification – and not a woman’s health and wellbeing. ‘Feel Them Up’ is associated with the sexual behaviour of some men. The phrase is linked with and suggestive of adolescent males groping girls.” She later goes on to state in bold: ‘The sexism of breast cancer awareness normalizes the view that women are sexual objects rather than subjects with agency and dignity’.

Okay, so let’s take the statement in bold. Let’s assume for a minute that 'Feel them up Friday' does sexualize breast cancer awareness (which I do not believe it does). This may normalise the view that breasts are sexual objects, but in no way normalizes the view that women are sexual objects. And here's the thing. Breasts are sexual objects! Breasts are sexually desirable! It’s true! Do we have a problem with this? Well, I don’t. Sexual desirability is okay, right? Sex is okay, right? Rape, of course, is not okay. Sexual assault, of course, is not okay. But sexual desirability does not equal rape or sexual assault.

Still, I do not believe that 'Feel them up Friday' sexualizes anything. From my point of view (and the view of the dozens and dozens of women who turned their avatars pink in support of the campaign), the slogan ‘feel them up’ is a wonderful way to make breast cancer awareness accessible. It is making what a potentially awkward and frightening and intimidating procedure (i.e. checking your breasts for cancerous lumps) non-threatening and simple by the use of colloquial language. ‘Feel them up!’ - we all know how to do that! ‘Feel them up!’ - it’s nothing! In fact, as one tweep pointed out, it also makes the process accessible and non-threatening for men: ‘Honey, it’s Friday - we’re not going out until you feel them up!’

Now, of course, in its traditional context, ‘feel them up’ can have connotations of a male fondling a woman’s breasts. However, by appropriating this term for breast health, we women are making the slogan our own. We are empowering ourselves. We are feeling ourselves up, for our health and well being. We are looking after our bodies. We are in control.

Melinda also makes reference to the women who have lost their breasts to breast cancer. The slogan, she felt, excluded them. “Many of the slogans used in breast awareness campaigns are about saving boobies/hooters/jugs. But many breast cancer survivors lose their breasts. What do these campaigns say about them? They survived, their breasts did not. Perhaps this is why survivors who have had mastectomies don’t feature much in breast cancer advertising.”

It took me a while to work this one out, but Melinda’s argument, I believe, is that such advertising implies that women who have lost their breasts no longer have sexual validity – or perhaps validity at all? The reality, of course, is that women who have lost their breasts will feel an impact on their sense of sexual desirability. This is well documented, and probably the main reason women seek breast reconstruction. This feeling is not sad or demented or abnormal, nor is it caused by breast cancer advertising. And nor, do I believe, is it entirely preventable. It is a normal response to losing one of your sexual organs. Obviously the ultimate aim of any cancer treatment is to save the patient’s life, but it is normal to wish to preserve organs and body parts, as their loss is a devastating outcome.

Melinda rages against the 'sexification of the breast', claiming that, amongst other things, this negatively impacts on breast feeding. So we have to stamp out the notion of breasts being sexual so that we women can focus solely on being mothers and breastfeeders? We can't be sexual and maternal at the same time? Well, that doesn't sound like a feminist notion to me.

Ultimately, I believe it is disingenuous and counter-productive to try to stamp out the association between breasts and sexuality. It exists and it is not scary or bad or disempowering to women. To me, what is truly disempowering is the attempts of commentators like Melinda TankardReist to place such restrictions on women, to impose such a culture of fear upon us, through the insistance that language that is even mildly sexual places us at risk. The implication is that if we talk about our breasts in anything but the most neutral, clinical terms, we are opening ourselves up to abuse and exploitation. But really, are we so vulnerable? Are we so helpless? Does the term 'feel them up Friday' invite sexual exploitation? Does wearing makeup or tight clothing invite rape? I don’t think so.

I don’t want to impose that level of fear and restriction on myself. I want to be able to use colloquial language. I want to be able to feel myself up. And please goodness when I do, I will be staying healthy.

55 comments:

  1. As a person who has cancer I don't see anything wrong with #FeelthemupFriday

    As far as I'm concerened Melinda TankardReist is just another Germaine Greer & I don't like her views or thoughts so Melinda TankardReist is another one who is going into my "I do not like pile"

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  2. All I can say is how dare you and your friends come up with a brilliant idea, perhaps peppered with some humour, to encourage women to do something about their health and wellbeing and maybe even prevent them from going through something as horrific as breast cancer because they caught it early enough.

    As for 'sexual and maternal' you are clearly deluded. Or, um, human, you know with feelings and desires, and perhaps wanting to do fun stuff of the sexual nature with your life-partner without feeling all icky about it.

    I'll shut up now, before I go on a rant without having first finished my morning coffee.

    Well said, and awesome initiative :)

    xox

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  3. I didn't read her article but I heard whispers and saw the ripples of disbelief across Twitter yesterday. It seems whenever someone comes up with a good idea that will potentially have helped hundreds, maybe thousands of women, there's still always a 'knocker'.
    Excellent post Kerri, couldn't agree more.

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  4. Applause. Political correctness, taking a bland approach, non sexualisation will be the ruination of our country. Free speech is about expressing yourself. "Feel them up" is an inoffensive term in my world. As Kerri says - boobs, breasts, bosoms, whatever you care to call them - are sexual. Men love them. Women love having them. Making the checking of your breasts something you can have fun with is not a bad thing. If one woman was saved from potential life threatening breast cancer by "feeling them up" then I say a huge CONGRATULATIONS to Carol and Sarah for starting this initiative.

    If you don't like, don't participate. The world is a place for many, not just a few who want to put constraint on anything that might be a little bit too PC.

    I participated and in my opinion Feel the Up Friday was a success.

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  5. If we came up with a slogan for prostate cancer that might even things out ?

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  6. somekindofwonderfulSeptember 7, 2010 at 8:18 AM

    Brilliantly written! Hers was a mere attempt to jump on the bandwagon.

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  7. Mmmm #GropeBallsSunday, Barry you might be onto something.

    Great post Kerri. There's always one Sarah Palin type feminist in the room. They are generally someone with a freak flag but afraid to fly it.

    The #FeelthemupFriday project made me, for the first time in my life *gulp* do my own self examination. I was scared and moved my fingers like I was expecting to find glass. I felt so relieved having done the exercise. I hate my thighs but I have always loved my breasts.

    JG

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  8. Brilliant stuff.

    Other things I loved about Mrs Tankard-Reist was how she wrote 'bre-st' and 's-x' throughout the entire article. Because those words are heaps naughty.

    Or her claim that Sarah and Carol's promotion (Feel Them Up Friday) actually implied that small bre-sted women weren't worth saving compared to large bre-sted women.

    Now that is f-cking sh-t hot s-x right th-re.

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  9. Very well said.
    Next there will be a problem with "Squeeze a Sack Saturday"

    Early detection saves lives. The end.

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  10. Thanks Kerri,

    I was sent the link to Melinda's article yesterday, and hesitated as soon as I saw her use of the word 'campaign', as if a movement of twitterfriends was some kind of organised politico-health lobby. I'm flattered that she saw the enormous success of Feel Them Up Friday as to be worth of being called a campaign. It was, in fact, simply a happy accident one night on Twitter as Sarah & I chatted. Nothing more, nothing less.

    But let's speak of campaigns. Let's speak of the millions of dollars spent on advertising that achieves little result. Some advertising campaigns are enormously successful, I'd suggest the official Pink Ribbon campaign to be one of those, it raises millions of dollars for essential breast cancer research and awareness. But I wonder how many women check their breasts because they see a pink ribbon? This was not about raising money, this was about feeling your breasts for abnormalities.

    As this wasn't an official or organised campaign, I have no way (sadly) of quantifying how many women AND MEN took part by turning their avatars pink for a few days, but I would happily suggest thousands and I don't believe that would be an exaggeration from the feedback I personally received. Feedback from women saying it was the first time in years that they'd checked their breasts, feedback from men who had lost their wives to breast cancer, feedback from women who had lost their mothers/sisters .... and feedback from one woman who went to her doctor for a breast check and is now being sent for a biopsy to examine the lump found in her breast.

    Further, at no time did Melinda Tankard Reist contact me. I had only TWO direct Twitter contacts from women very politely expressing their dismay at the hashtag. I respect them very much for telling me their thoughts, but we have to agree to disagree on that one.

    Humour is a powerful tool. As is love and concern. I'm more offended by racism and bigotry and child abuse than I ever will be by a beautiful pair of breasts that have given their owner a sense of pride, or a smile, or her child sustenance, or her lover pleasure. Or her own.

    No apologies from me.

    Oh, and Barry ... did you miss the Little Prick campaign from the Prostate Survivors Alliance? Wait until you see what I've got planned for testicular cancer!!

    Thank you to every woman, and man, who went pink for a day or two and encouraged a woman they know and love to feel their boobs.

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  11. Great article, Kerri!

    Breast are sexual and they feed babies. They are multi-use. Tankard-Reist and her followers seem to miss that point. (And I won't even write about the other crap Tankard-Reist espouses!)

    Humour reaches a far wider audience than the traditional "Check Your Breasts" message. I have breast cysts, and lots of them, but needed this extra reminder to check them. I'm embarrassed to admit that it's been a while since the last time I felt them up. The "Feel Them Up Friday" campaign fixed that, though.

    Nice job, Carol and Sarah. Great article, Kerri.

    x

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  12. @anidledad

    For the record, Crikey, where Melinda's piece was published, is mainly an email service. The censorship is not because Melinda is that prudish but because writing br_ast and s_x ensures Crikey avoids spam and content filters.

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  13. Kerri, thank you. I spent yesterday wondering if I should write a response to Ms TankardReist, but as she hadn't had the courtesy to even let me know she was taking me to task in a public forum I decided not to bother.
    What you say here was coherent, articulate and correct. Breasts are sexual objects, they also provide nutrition and can on occasion, prove deadly. By acknowledging that yes, they are multi facteted "objects" is important.
    I completely disagree with Ms TankardReist's on much of what she said, but mostly that she thought our "campaign" (a late night twitter conversation equates to a campaign these days, who knew?) focused on breasts as objects for male sexuality.
    Here's the thing. By taking that viewpoint I interpreted it as her saying that I wasn't smart enough to differentiate between a tongue in cheek punchline that highlighted a serious issue.
    I am.
    The vast majority of women and men who took part in our "campaign" were too.
    We had hundreds if not thousands of women who freely admitted they hadn't done a breast exam recently check for lumps.
    And because of that I slept well last night.
    My friend who started chemo yesterday probably didn't.
    I stand behind, in front of and beside #feelthemupfriday for that reason.

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  14. Wow, it's amazing what people will espouse in the name of feminism. Thanks for putting perspective back into the day Kerri :)

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  15. Hi hon. Well said. Agree with everything.

    Quite frankly, I think Melinda has too much time on her hands. But if any good can come out of her comments and article, it's that more women may be made aware of #FeelthemupFriday and decide to 'feel them up'.

    Brilliant 'campaign' in my opinion. Carol & Sarah should be nothing short of proud of themselves for sending such an important message to the online world. The idea that it might save at least one women's life is incredibly wonderful.

    x

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  16. Well said Kerry. Young women often think breast checks are only something you have to do in your 50's or 60's so the language of feel them up friday not only adds a somewhat younger language to the issue, it also is active in that it's giving women something to do (feel them/check them!)that is achievable. I think it's a brilliant campaign and would recommend the cancer council take this serioulsy and introduce a targeted younger market (20-50 year olds) campaign.

    Cancer may be serious, but frightening people and not allowing people to talk freely and with relaxed language only intimidates and isolates.

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  17. Brilliant post, Kerri. I think you brought perspective back into the discussion, which Ms TankardReist was busy trying to bundle up and kick out the door.

    Awareness of an issue changes lives, saves lives. Being the funny little creatures we are, we humans often like to dress up our fears with a veneer of humour. Will any of us old enough to remember ever forget Siimon Reynolds' notorious Aids-awareness commercials of the 80s with the Grim Reaper indulging in a little ten-pin bowling with human lives as pins. It took a marginalised 'gay disease' to the forefront of the Australian consciousness, and I am sure the statistics reflect the impact it had in slowing the spread of the condition through the general population. Farkin funny, that.

    Last week, during 'campaign conversations' prior to Feel Them Up Friday, more than one of us said that if just ONE woman did the examination and it had the potential to change or save her life, it was worth it. As Carol has told us above, one woman has already been sent for a biopsy as a direct result of the 'campaign'. FTW.

    As for this sexualisation nonsense - my breasts have served me well, and been well served. I fed my little boy for 4 years with them, putting up with the occasional askance look (mainly from women, go figure) as I 'revealed' them in public.

    Thanks to breastfeeding, I have a cleavage for the first time in my life (subject of another Twitter conversation right there), and I am revelling in newly revealed aspects of my sexuality. I am wrong? Should I be embarrassed? Should I be apologising to smaller-breasted women (remember, I was one not long ago) for brazenly taking such enjoyment from my boobs? I think not. I think I'll continue to talk about them, celebrate them, share them and feel gratified by them until they are sliding down my chest in a last concession to gravity.

    And thanks to #feelthemupfriday, I'll now be checking them regularly, too.

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  18. I'm so glad you wrote this. The whole storm surrounding FTUF depressed me. A fun, positive movement was twisted into something depraved. And by another woman.

    There is a dark side to everything, I agree, but occasionally the lighter side is the better approach, particularly when it comes to something as confrontational as cancer.

    Berating a movement created by women as detrimental to women and sexualised advances nobody's cause except the so-called expert who made the comments. Publicity for her, check. Assistance with breast cancer awareness, not so much.

    If this campaign was so offensive, why did so many women laugh and jump on board? Oh wait, it's to do with our brainwashing in a patriarchal society, right?

    Or perhaps the fact that it was a good idea, and it worked.

    Thanks Kerri. You said everything I wanted to say but was too damn annoyed to say.

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  19. Good work with this idea/campaign/whatever you want to call it - if it helps, then what's the problem?

    My mother had serious breast cancer when she was MY age - 42.

    It had already spread to her lymph nodes. The lump was lodged in a part of her breast that was difficult to get to - only a careful and thorough breast examination would have picked it up.

    And back then - the 80s - there wasn't a lot of awareness re checking your breasts.

    My mother came close to losing her life.

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  20. Kerri, I think you've missed the point a little.

    Melinda is not claiming that breasts aren't or shouldn't be sexually desirable. The problem with feel them up friday, but more so with other breast cancer awareness campaigns that objectify women which she highlights on her blog, is that the constant sexualisation of the breast takes the attention off the fact that real women's lives are at stake.

    What Melinda queried was the language used, the response from you guys was to go on the attack. It's fine to disagree, I wish we women could learn to do that without becoming hysterical and nasty.

    In any case, the constant focus on women's breasts as sexually desirable does have a negative impact on them, this is well documented in research.

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  21. Got to love those anon ones. At least have the big hairy balls to represent your own views. (Sorry, trust me to lower the tone)

    I for one, felt up my boobs. Something I deliberately put off because it scares the living shit out of me to find something that would halt my life and possibly take me away from my children. Because as mother who has a paternal grandmother who has had a double mastectomy, it is ever present.

    But, if turning our avatars pink, having a chat about breast CANCER and having so many share their stories is making sexual objects of ourselves, then I am Elvis Presley and it's my second coming.


    If anything, it made me realise, should ever there be a problem, I think I may well have found one of the best support groups around.

    How can anyone find fault with that?

    Oh that's right, because they make it their mission in life to do so. Chillax, bigger issues.

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  22. Bravo Kerri- not only do you write funny, you also write SMART. Brilliant piece! I was so dismayed to open up my homepage this morning (The Age) and find a link to a thread on Essential Baby where women are falling over themselves to decry Feel Them Up Friday... but then I came to Twitter and saw this and Carol's and Sarah and Bern's responses, and An Idle Dad's blog and felt much better about the chances of humanity.
    Great stuff. FTUF was a great initiative with its heart well and truly in the right place, and with a bit of humour to move things along. It may even have saved lives- what's not to love?

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  23. Yeah. What you said.

    (And thank you for saying it.) I think all this has been *ridiculous*. However, maybe, just maybe, the extra publicity spread the ultimate message even further.

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  24. Yes Kerri - and while we're at it, let's let PETA off the hook for showing naked women in cages, naked women with parts of their bodies labelled like cattle, and get women to pose nude in calendars - so long as it's for charity, it's all great, right?

    who cares that women and girls are repeatedly bombarded with images that teach them to equate their self-worth to whether or not they are sexually desirable.

    we can justify anything so long as it's "for a good cause."

    the fact is that "cop a feel" and "feel them up" *is* the type of language associated with sexual harrassment. please don't pretend you're trying to reclaim it and empower women in this one-off non-movement (as you are claiming, this was not a "campaign").

    you are trivialising a language of sexual assault, harrassment and violence. there are other ways to spread your message effectively.

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  25. Didn't want the last comment on this post to be a negative (and ridiculous) one, so longtime lurker, first time poster here!

    I was amazed to read about 'Feel Them Up' Friday - something so simple, and it's actually what I've always called it anyway, mainly to lessen my personal embarrassment at doing a self exam. Its something that needs to be done, and done regularly, and if this helps, brilliant! Surely when using the language about what you're doing to yourself it's not sexual harassment?! Some commonsense needed here people, let's save the hysterics for more important matters - like whether white chocolate is in fact, chocolate :)

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  26. Opinions and all that...Lets throw some numbers in here instead.

    Women who performed a self-examination because of this hashtag: 100's (maybe more)

    People offended by the hashtag: Estimated dozens.

    People sexually assaulted by the hashtag: 0.

    Some people were offended - you can not ignore that. What they have ignored though is the 'sexual assault' does not have a monopoly on this language.

    In life, some times things offend you. Think about if that offence makes any difference what so ever, and then act accordingly.

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  27. Well I'm the one who posted as 'anonymous' not realising that I could post with just a name. I'm not in the habit of posting comments with an account and only now saw the option to post with a name.

    Anyway, the intent of the campaign, is great. Encouraging self examination is important. But I believe that people need to really think through the language they are using for health campaigns. Melinda has provided other examples of tacky breast cancer awareness campaigns, which undermine women's freedom and equality while raising funds. You shouldn't have to harm women in one way, to help them in another.

    To give another example, there was another campaign a while back called 'bugger off mole' for skin cancer. Tacky, using language usually associated with bullying women and girls.

    I don't buy the line that 'anything that creates awareness is good.' Dwight mentioned PETA who often use this as defence of their misogynist campaigns.

    Make public health messages accessible, yes, make it simple, yes, but lets also make it respectful.

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  28. oh boy, just posted my comment and saw there was an anonymous who posted just before me. That's *not* me, i'm further up the page.

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  29. Thank you Kelly !

    To the other anonymous poster, you claim:

    "People sexually assaulted by the hashtag: 0.

    Some people were offended - you can not ignore that. What they have ignored though is the 'sexual assault' does not have a monopoly on this language."

    Nobody is saying that people will read "feel them up friday" and immediately go out and sexually assault someone. That is ridiculous. What we are saying is that this kind of language- discourse, rather - contributes to a culture that enables sexual assault and harrassment to occur. It normalises an attitude of the "boys will be boys" variety. It is shaping a culture into one where sexual assaults and harrassment is minimised, trivialised, and to some extent, expected (eg "why was she wearing such a short skirt, surely she is asking for it!")

    recently my brother in law expressed outrage at the whole David Jones' sexual harrassment debacle. the problem? "it's not like she was raped. so the guy felt her bra strap from behind- so what?"

    this is serious. he's not the only one who doesn't 'get it.' our language shapes our understanding and our way of thinking. it shapes cultural attitudes. saying "sexual assault does not have a monopoly on language" is ignoring the real impact our language has on shaping our reality.

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  30. I think anything, anything that can be done to help women be more aware of the risk of breast cancer is worthwhile. I don't find the use of 'feel me up' offensive and I think in fact it is a light-hearted way for women to embrace the issue.

    As someone with a friend who has just finished six months of chemo, followed by bouts of radiation and invasive surgery as her breast cancer was not found until it was advanced - I am all for this initiative. Well done to all involved.
    www.wastyle.blogspot.com

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  31. As a child/adolescent psychotherapist I and many Aus/NZ principals are increasingly alarmed by the amount of 'sexualised' language in society that even adults have become numb to.

    As women we need to be the ones teaching and standing up for our young girls. Teaching them that they are more than just their bodies or more than being the focus of jokes that make fun of women's sexuality,.(no matter how humorous). We need to model to our daughters that they are above using traditionally ‘guys language' to ridicule women's bodies, as if it were ok.

    Let me ask, how would you explain the term 'feel them up' to a teen or pre-teen girl? When women model sexual harassment terms to girls, as if it is normal language, our young girls are disempowered in their corridors and playgrounds when guys approach them using such terms.

    So yes, I believe that, as women we should band together and support each other in breast cancer awareness. We should model to our young girls that sex and their bodies are awesome. But they are not there for ridicule or someone else's use.

    What happens when some guy at a party's idea of 'feeling up' is not the same as a young girl's? Our teen boys get just at confused at the mixed messages being sent. Why is an ad about ‘feeling up boobs’ ok, but it is not ok for them to say it?

    This is for the kids that don't get to speak for themselves!

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  32. Excellent point Voice4Life and I agree with you.
    BUT...this was adult conversation for adults in an adult environment.
    I know plenty of people who swear in general adult conversation but would never swear whilst talking to children or even teens.
    It's all about time and place...and being grown-up enough to understand the difference.

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  33. Jeez, talk about people getting their knickers (and in this case, bras) in a twist. I went pink, I copped a feel (from myself), and I have you dudes to thank for the reminder :-D

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  34. Long before FTUF I made a decision to go to my GP each year around my birthday and have her "feel me up" inside and out (pap smear and breast exam). The words are used here and elsewhere in regards to breast exams and work because that is what you have to do - "feel them".

    Also agree with previous poster that this was done in an adult forum for adult eyes and ears. But regardless I would be happy to explain to a teenage girl the difference between the positive and negative conotations of the phrase.

    Honesty and humour are powerful and positive when used this way.

    All strenth to Carol and Sarah (and Kerri for defending their honour and that of the "campaign!!)

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  35. Kerri, awesome words, as usual.
    This hashtag was born out of an evening Twitter coversatiion between two friends. I know this, because I watched it evolve.
    Cancer, in it's various ugly forms has pretty much touched the lives of everyone. The best cure, the only cure at the moment, is prevention and any way to make the public aware of ways to check themselves, can't be a bad thing.

    If someone doesnt believe in something, like #feelthemupFriday, don't participate. It wasn't compulsory. And then to dis it publicly, was SO uncalled for (I'm trying to not swear).
    Even if it helped one woman, #feelthemupFriday was a success.
    I'd like to know how Mel buys chicken bre-st, if she can't type the word, how can she say it???

    N x

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  36. I have watched this debate with interest.

    I don’t think anyone is disputing that it is important that all women check their breasts and I applaud people and groups who encourage women to do so.
    Cancer is huge in my family and having lost 2 aunts in 3 years to cancer, I am a great supporter of early detection and treatment.

    I do think the Feel me up Friday idea was undignified and degrading and could have negative repercussions as discussed and pointed out by other bloggers on this site and others.

    Working in an organisation which is campaign driven, I understand the need to come up with catchy lines, slogans, taglines, etc. And there is a pressure to do so – but this is a process that is needs to be well thought out.

    The term to ‘Feel me up’ is known for its sexual tone, we all know that right?
    One just needs to venture out on a Friday and hear ‘Give me a feel’ ‘Get yer tits out’ ‘Let me check your cup size’ (maybe it’s just in the suburbs I live in!)

    Urban Dictionary captures youth-isms and gender issues well, and a great place to check out wording before anything is linked to a campaign or ‘idea’. The meaning you propose is not the meaning for everyone. I am sure the ladies who put this together were aware of this?

    Should you want to check out the meaning of ‘FEEL UP’ you can go to www.urbandictionary.com and type in feel up– please be aware that the wording for this is explicit.

    There are 101 ways in which this idea could have been expressed differently. Feel me up Friday could sadly be used this weekend when the lads are out on the town ‘Hey its feel me up Friday, how about it?’

    Cancer is an important issue, something that impacts many of us, but let’s keep degrading sexualised language out of it for the safety and the well being of women.

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  37. I think many people have misunderstood melinda t-r's point... and sone confess doing so without even having read her article (which us disappointing).

    I have read it & my understanding is that she is completely in favour of getting women to do self examination & talking openly about breat cancer

    BUT... she is expressing concern that the slogans being used to promote resort to the degrading portrayal of women primarily as a set of breasts (she cited the 'save the boobies' slogans etc).

    As a woman I would like to think that we can get attention to the important issue of breast cancer without resorting to sexually loaded slogans.

    AND What does it say about our society if we can't!?

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  38. While I feel that Melinda has every right to choose to feel offended by the "FeelemUp" slogan; she must also realize that not everyone will share her views. I LOVED the Feel Em Up idea! It was easy to remember, it wasn't as scary sounding as 'Breast Exam' and best of all? I got my partner involved.

    Like Kerry, I also could not remember the last time I gave myself a breast exam...I mean, felt them up. Sure, my GP does it for me once a year, but lets be honest, he probably get to feel LOTS of boobs and so may not pick up on a subtle change. My boyfriend however, well, he's a lucky guy, he gets to feel them up fairly regularly! By teaching him what to look for, it is possible that he might pick up on something *I* miss.

    Besides, once the serious stuff is out the way...you can really 'feel them up' *nudge nudge wink wink*

    To the ladies that started the campaign...there will always be people who take offence to SOMETHING. Don't let them get to you. This Friday I will SO be turning pink and Feeling them Up!

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  39. Have been out and have been intrigued to come back and see how the conversation is progressing.

    Still taking potshots at each other eh?

    FYI - Crikey is the one who censored the words such as 'breast' into 'br-ast' to avoid being caught up in people's spam filters. If you check out Melinda's other articles you will see that she doesn't shy away from anything.

    And, it's not about being 'offended.' I know my feelings aren't 'hurt,' I am not weeping into my coffee. I, like others, have valid concerns about the way breast cancer awareness is promoted. If you don't agree..fine! But watching some of these defensive responses is like witnessing notes being passed in class.

    I'd like to know what Kerri thinks about the other campaigns Melinda has mentioned in her blog. What do you think Kerri?

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  40. Hi Kelly, thanks for the question (and you're right, it's been fascinating watching this unfold).
    Some of the campaigns Melinda mention:
    Help The Hooters’, ‘Save The Jugs’, ‘Don’t Let Cancer Steal Second Base’, ‘Cop a Feel’, ‘Save The Tattas’, ‘Save The Boobies’, ‘Save The Headlights’...
    I honestly don't have a problem with them. Please be aware I don't use ANY of those terms myself for my breasts (except perhaps 'boobies' when talking to my toddler). However I am well aware that other women do, and relate to their breasts in these terms. Less colloquial, more prosaic language such as 'Check your breasts monthly' is simply not as likely to speak to these women and serve as a call to action as these more familiar terms. This is my belief.
    As for the ad with the woman sauntering through the pool area? I don't like it. I just don't think it reminds anyone to check their breasts (or feel themselves up). It doesn't get the message across. You watch it and think... what on earth is this advertising??? So no, I don't think it's effective at all.
    Thanks again,
    K

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  41. Just another idea to consider. If "Feel Them Up" is a sexual slogan then isn't encouraging women to be comfortable touching THEIR OWN bodies a really good thing? Whether it be for pleasure or as a health check we should all be comfortable touching ourselves.

    And, Kelly, your post is by far the most defensive here with it's talk of 'potshots' and 'passing notes in class'.

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  42. All I can say is that the campaign did for me what it intended, reminded me to check my breasts. Does it really need to be any more or any less than that?

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  43. #GropeBallsSunday is GOLD!

    I can't believe there's been a backlash against Feel em up Friday!

    What is more important issue here - Educating women about the early detection of breast cancer, or political correctness?

    If this campaign helps one woman, just one then it's been worth while ...

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  44. Trolls in feminist clothes?

    Anyhoo, I thought it was brilliant. And I did feel myself up good and proper. Maybe we should have all got in a big line and felt up the lovely in front of us. Like a grope conga.

    I know folks who would pay good money to see that ; )

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  45. I liked #Feelthemupfriday but I did have a friend who's nickname is Muppet, she thought I was writing Feel the Mup Friday and since it was her birthday she thought I was honouring her :)

    Moment of 'fun' over. The tag didn't offend me and I don't get why people can't live and let live. Some mightn't like the tag but the underlying message of check yourself or get someone you trust to check for you is a positive one and that's what should be focused on. M'eh, the fuss is beyond me but I'll be pink again next time and gladly :)

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  46. good god yes we should be allowed to feel ourselves up ! Some peeps get worked up about the wierdest things!

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  47. I was offended by the phrase. I know you're trying to do a good thing, but I was still offended. It must have been unofficial as the whole ing is a bit ameturish and is a reminder that some people aren't as professional as they make themselves out to be. Bit disappointed as usually love your work.

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  48. good god yes we should be allowed to feel ourselves up ! Some peeps get worked up about the wierdest things!

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  49. Hi Kelly, thanks for the question (and you're right, it's been fascinating watching this unfold).
    Some of the campaigns Melinda mention:
    Help The Hooters’, ‘Save The Jugs’, ‘Don’t Let Cancer Steal Second Base’, ‘Cop a Feel’, ‘Save The Tattas’, ‘Save The Boobies’, ‘Save The Headlights’...
    I honestly don't have a problem with them. Please be aware I don't use ANY of those terms myself for my breasts (except perhaps 'boobies' when talking to my toddler). However I am well aware that other women do, and relate to their breasts in these terms. Less colloquial, more prosaic language such as 'Check your breasts monthly' is simply not as likely to speak to these women and serve as a call to action as these more familiar terms. This is my belief.
    As for the ad with the woman sauntering through the pool area? I don't like it. I just don't think it reminds anyone to check their breasts (or feel themselves up). It doesn't get the message across. You watch it and think... what on earth is this advertising??? So no, I don't think it's effective at all.
    Thanks again,
    K

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  50. I have watched this debate with interest.

    I don’t think anyone is disputing that it is important that all women check their breasts and I applaud people and groups who encourage women to do so.
    Cancer is huge in my family and having lost 2 aunts in 3 years to cancer, I am a great supporter of early detection and treatment.

    I do think the Feel me up Friday idea was undignified and degrading and could have negative repercussions as discussed and pointed out by other bloggers on this site and others.

    Working in an organisation which is campaign driven, I understand the need to come up with catchy lines, slogans, taglines, etc. And there is a pressure to do so – but this is a process that is needs to be well thought out.

    The term to ‘Feel me up’ is known for its sexual tone, we all know that right?
    One just needs to venture out on a Friday and hear ‘Give me a feel’ ‘Get yer tits out’ ‘Let me check your cup size’ (maybe it’s just in the suburbs I live in!)

    Urban Dictionary captures youth-isms and gender issues well, and a great place to check out wording before anything is linked to a campaign or ‘idea’. The meaning you propose is not the meaning for everyone. I am sure the ladies who put this together were aware of this?

    Should you want to check out the meaning of ‘FEEL UP’ you can go to www.urbandictionary.com and type in feel up– please be aware that the wording for this is explicit.

    There are 101 ways in which this idea could have been expressed differently. Feel me up Friday could sadly be used this weekend when the lads are out on the town ‘Hey its feel me up Friday, how about it?’

    Cancer is an important issue, something that impacts many of us, but let’s keep degrading sexualised language out of it for the safety and the well being of women.

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  51. Brilliant post, Kerri. I think you brought perspective back into the discussion, which Ms TankardReist was busy trying to bundle up and kick out the door.

    Awareness of an issue changes lives, saves lives. Being the funny little creatures we are, we humans often like to dress up our fears with a veneer of humour. Will any of us old enough to remember ever forget Siimon Reynolds' notorious Aids-awareness commercials of the 80s with the Grim Reaper indulging in a little ten-pin bowling with human lives as pins. It took a marginalised 'gay disease' to the forefront of the Australian consciousness, and I am sure the statistics reflect the impact it had in slowing the spread of the condition through the general population. Farkin funny, that.

    Last week, during 'campaign conversations' prior to Feel Them Up Friday, more than one of us said that if just ONE woman did the examination and it had the potential to change or save her life, it was worth it. As Carol has told us above, one woman has already been sent for a biopsy as a direct result of the 'campaign'. FTW.

    As for this sexualisation nonsense - my breasts have served me well, and been well served. I fed my little boy for 4 years with them, putting up with the occasional askance look (mainly from women, go figure) as I 'revealed' them in public.

    Thanks to breastfeeding, I have a cleavage for the first time in my life (subject of another Twitter conversation right there), and I am revelling in newly revealed aspects of my sexuality. I am wrong? Should I be embarrassed? Should I be apologising to smaller-breasted women (remember, I was one not long ago) for brazenly taking such enjoyment from my boobs? I think not. I think I'll continue to talk about them, celebrate them, share them and feel gratified by them until they are sliding down my chest in a last concession to gravity.

    And thanks to #feelthemupfriday, I'll now be checking them regularly, too.

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  52. As a child/adolescent psychotherapist I and many Aus/NZ principals are increasingly alarmed by the amount of 'sexualised' language in society that even adults have become numb to.

    As women we need to be the ones teaching and standing up for our young girls. Teaching them that they are more than just their bodies or more than being the focus of jokes that make fun of women's sexuality,.(no matter how humorous). We need to model to our daughters that they are above using traditionally ‘guys language' to ridicule women's bodies, as if it were ok.

    Let me ask, how would you explain the term 'feel them up' to a teen or pre-teen girl? When women model sexual harassment terms to girls, as if it is normal language, our young girls are disempowered in their corridors and playgrounds when guys approach them using such terms.

    So yes, I believe that, as women we should band together and support each other in breast cancer awareness. We should model to our young girls that sex and their bodies are awesome. But they are not there for ridicule or someone else's use.

    What happens when some guy at a party's idea of 'feeling up' is not the same as a young girl's? Our teen boys get just at confused at the mixed messages being sent. Why is an ad about ‘feeling up boobs’ ok, but it is not ok for them to say it?

    This is for the kids that don't get to speak for themselves!

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  53. Thanks Kerri,

    I was sent the link to Melinda's article yesterday, and hesitated as soon as I saw her use of the word 'campaign', as if a movement of twitterfriends was some kind of organised politico-health lobby. I'm flattered that she saw the enormous success of Feel Them Up Friday as to be worth of being called a campaign. It was, in fact, simply a happy accident one night on Twitter as Sarah & I chatted. Nothing more, nothing less.

    But let's speak of campaigns. Let's speak of the millions of dollars spent on advertising that achieves little result. Some advertising campaigns are enormously successful, I'd suggest the official Pink Ribbon campaign to be one of those, it raises millions of dollars for essential breast cancer research and awareness. But I wonder how many women check their breasts because they see a pink ribbon? This was not about raising money, this was about feeling your breasts for abnormalities.

    As this wasn't an official or organised campaign, I have no way (sadly) of quantifying how many women AND MEN took part by turning their avatars pink for a few days, but I would happily suggest thousands and I don't believe that would be an exaggeration from the feedback I personally received. Feedback from women saying it was the first time in years that they'd checked their breasts, feedback from men who had lost their wives to breast cancer, feedback from women who had lost their mothers/sisters .... and feedback from one woman who went to her doctor for a breast check and is now being sent for a biopsy to examine the lump found in her breast.

    Further, at no time did Melinda Tankard Reist contact me. I had only TWO direct Twitter contacts from women very politely expressing their dismay at the hashtag. I respect them very much for telling me their thoughts, but we have to agree to disagree on that one.

    Humour is a powerful tool. As is love and concern. I'm more offended by racism and bigotry and child abuse than I ever will be by a beautiful pair of breasts that have given their owner a sense of pride, or a smile, or her child sustenance, or her lover pleasure. Or her own.

    No apologies from me.

    Oh, and Barry ... did you miss the Little Prick campaign from the Prostate Survivors Alliance? Wait until you see what I've got planned for testicular cancer!!

    Thank you to every woman, and man, who went pink for a day or two and encouraged a woman they know and love to feel their boobs.

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  54. Brilliant stuff.

    Other things I loved about Mrs Tankard-Reist was how she wrote 'bre-st' and 's-x' throughout the entire article. Because those words are heaps naughty.

    Or her claim that Sarah and Carol's promotion (Feel Them Up Friday) actually implied that small bre-sted women weren't worth saving compared to large bre-sted women.

    Now that is f-cking sh-t hot s-x right th-re.

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