Baila posts an interview with her friend, Nitsana Bellesohn, who directed a short film to call attention to the fight against breast cancer. Entitled “FLAT,” it’s up for the Amazing Grace Award. Warning: The film contains images of exposed breasts.
Go here to see all the films and vote for your favorites.
The film asks the question: What would the world be like if women didn’t have breasts, and children had to go to a museum to see them? What if breast cancer became so prevalent that girls began taking hormones to keep their breasts from growing?
Unfortunately, the film views breasts, and by extension women, as sex objects for men. Most of the film’s footage shows men ogling breasts and recalling to their young sons how pleasurable it was to watch and hold breasts.
I am not sure what hyper-sexualization of breasts has to do with breast cancer. Breasts are part of women’s bodies and are biologically intended for feeding and nurturing babies, not for titillating men.
Girls don’t even appear in this film, unless you count the token woman who rolls her eyes at the men’s reaction to the “artwork.” Women’s feelings about the existence of this museum are never addressed.
Is reminding men that they might lose their playthings, as it were, the only way to get them interested in breast cancer? What a shallow portrayal of men. What a sad commentary on our culture’s attitude toward women’s bodies.
Breasts, Breastfeeding and Cancer
I would have stopped here if the film hadn’t mentioned breastfeeding at all. But since it did, I’ll add some thoughts on breasts, infant feeding, and cancer.
The film’s only indication that breasts have a biological function is when a boy comments on a picture of a baby breastfeeding. His father tells him, matter-of-factly, that that was how babies used to eat. The son says, “Gross.” I think the idea is that boys think breasts are gross because they have never seen them. Although breasts are visible everywhere today, selling products, plenty of people still find breastfeeding disgusting. Just look at any debate about public breastfeeding. The son’s reaction did not seem futuristic to me.
In the film, the environment is blamed for the increase in breast cancer rates. But what about the connection between breastfeeding and breast cancer? According to a collaborative reanalysis of individual data from 47 epidemiological studies in 30 countries, reduced breastfeeding rates are an important factor in breast cancer rates:
It is estimated that the cumulative incidence of breast cancer in developed countries would be reduced by more than half, from 6.3 to 2.7 per 100 women by age 70, if women had the average number of births and lifetime duration of breastfeeding that had been prevalent in developing countries until recently. Breastfeeding could account for almost two-thirds of this estimated reduction in breast cancer incidence. INTERPRETATION: The longer women breast feed the more they are protected against breast cancer. The lack of or short lifetime duration of breastfeeding typical of women in developed countries makes a major contribution to the high incidence of breast cancer in these countries.
Not every discussion of breast cancer needs to mention breastfeeding. But the film’s approach was disturbing because society’s attitude toward breasts affects breastfeeding rates, and therefore cancer rates. When breasts are associated with women, mothers and babies, more women choose to breastfeed and their partners will support them. I’m not denying the importance of breasts in sexual pleasure, and there are many factors that contribute to lack of breastfeeding. But until we stop seeing breasts as the object of men’s desire instead of as a way to feed and nurture babies, breastfeeding rates will remain low.