Amidst all the pink pomp and circumstance, it can be hard to remember that October is the awareness month for other important causes, not only breast cancer awareness.
Now don’t get me wrong, if I ever sound resentful towards Breast Cancer Awareness efforts, it is not because I don’t think the cause in and of itself isn’t worthy or doesn’t deserve all the attention it gets. Breast Cancer Awareness Month and its awareness in general is immensely important. Cancer, of any kind, isn’t something I’ve yet had much experience with and I hope I will be so lucky to never have that experience! But I recognize that it is a real possibility that I won’t always be so lucky, whether because of my own experience and/or that of a loved one. I appreciate the attention to this cancer and the efforts and generosity so many people pour into supporting cancer survivors and cancer patients.
What I don’t appreciate is that it gets so much more attention than any other causes that try to raise awareness in October. Or really, Breast Cancer Awareness Month probably gets the most attention of all the awareness month campaigns. But let’s stick with October for a moment. October is also Disability Awareness Month. October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month too.
As a DV Advocate, I’ve always been frustrated by the amount of attention paid to breast cancer awareness over domestic violence, especially in October. I mean one out of eight women will get a breast cancer diagnosis (which is a lot!) in her life time but one out of four women will experience intimate partner abuse in her lifetime. With stats like that, why does our attention to partner abuse pale in comparison to our attention to breast cancer? I have a theory on this but more on that in a moment.
So every October is frustrating in this regard, but this year it is especially frustrating. Intimate Partner Abuse has been in the national spotlight for the past month. A young woman’s personal safety and dignity was immensely compromised, without her consent, and we used this violation of her privacy to have public discourse about DV, which has been both productive and counterproductive. The NFL was at the center of all this and now that it is October the players are not sporting purple for DV awareness but rather they’re sporting pink for breast cancer awareness. Their season is getting into the full swing and the concern about their players’ behaviors off the field is fading into the distance.
Maybe it would have been superficial if the NFL just jumped on the October is DV awareness month bandwagon in the wake of this horrific incident of violence. Maybe it would be a seemingly grand gesture that is actually nothing more than a PR move. Still. It’s incredibly disheartening that people aren’t talking about this. That seemingly no one is calling out the NFL for being so ignorant, condoning and careless about DV that they parade their players around in pink without any acknowledgement that oh, hey it’s also domestic violence awareness month. Even if it was a shallow publicity stunt, at least it would be some effort on their part to address this and send a message that this is an issue they won’t tolerate. At least then more people would be learning about this issue that impacts twice as many women as breast cancer does. At least then maybe half the amount of dollars that go to breast cancer care would also go to DV services. At least.
But instead our focus remains on women’s bodies and in particular, a hyper-sexualized part of their bodies. I can’t help but get the sinking feeling that the only reason breast cancer gets the attention it does, especially from the NFL, is because well, boobs. Boobs = sex = the only thing society deems women are good for. I mean, why would we invest in a cause like DV awareness that seeks to empower women, promote gender equality and increase women’s collective safety? Why would we do that when let’s be honest, far too many people aren’t interested in women’s true equality and still more people would rather just focus on them as sex objects. And if you’re guessing that this is my aforementioned theory, you are 100% correct.
And so October is breast cancer awareness month. But if you listen hard enough, you’ll hear the rallies for other important issues like disability awareness and domestic violence awareness. The focus on #whyistayed and the NFL’s and our society’s apathy towards DV survivors and women is fading to our peripheral vision. But if you look hard enough, you’ll see it’s still there. And if you care, you can use October and the months that follow to learn more and give women’s safety as much importance as their chests.