Volume 93, Issue 78

Thursday, February 17, 2000


Editorial Board 1999-2000

True beauty lies outside fashion

Editorial cartoon

True beauty lies outside fashion

Though it's true society's image of women has certainly changed throughout the years, it's equally true the image of a woman's breasts has not.

Since the first images of women, society had placed a large emphasis on the idea that a woman is only as beautiful as her cup size.

A recent advertisement campaign, spearheaded by the Breast Cancer Fund in San Francisco, attempted to change these ideals while highlighting awareness of breast cancer – that is until the images were deemed potentially frightening to women and children and were pulled from some American cities.

The ads satirized the Western ideal of a beautiful woman by placing women who had mastectomies on the covers of various spoof magazines, such as one entitled "Mastectomy," which imitated Cosmopolitan.

Although blunt, the objective of the campaign was two-fold. First, it served to act as health ads, reminding women to have regular check-ups with their doctors. More importantly, however, the ads attempted to defy what society has deemed "womanly" and portray breastless women on the covers of popular women's magazines.

The fact the ads were pulled in some cities suggests they uncovered an aspect of reality which society was not prepared to deal with – mastectomies. The procedure and breast cancer itself are not topics of conversations in today's society – the same society which places such a high value on the beauty of a woman's breasts.

Women are defined as women largely because of their breasts – this is a social construct. We see it everywhere from subway billboards, to men's magazines. Breasts are glamorized and glorified, therefore women who do not have breasts are made to feel less womanly. It is the fashion industry which dictates to us what makes a woman. This month it's the waif, the next, the hour glass. A woman should not be made to feel like less of a woman because she lacks a breast, or because she does not conform to the standards of the "ideal" woman. The ads attempted to broadcast this very point.

The intent of the campaign was not to characterize these women as grotesque creatures by drawing the spotlight onto their missing breasts. If that was the case, they would not have portrayed them in a glamorous, magazine-esque manner.

As a means of opening the doors to dialogue, The Breast Cancer Fund's strategy proved effective. Not only did the campaign warn women about the dangers of breast cancer, but it did so by allowing society to see that even though a woman may lose her breasts to the disease, she can still be beautiful and glamourous.

It's too bad all of society wasn't ready to talk about it.

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