A Twin Titties Competition ... for Breast Cancer?

The XX Factor
What Women Really Think
June 25 2010 4:42 PM

A Twin Titties Competition ... for Breast Cancer?

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A bar in Minneapolis is currently holding a fun competition: In Bootleggers’ Twin Titties Series, contestants submit a photo of their "twins," barely covered by a Bootleggers tank top, for judgment. Every time the Minnesota Twins face a new rival, a new round of the Twin Titties Series begins. Prizes include Victoria’s Secret gift cards, bar tabs, and the honor of having a photo at the bar and online. Men can submit photos too, but for some strange reason, every round so far has been won by a woman.

At first glance, the competition sounds pretty degrading to women (probably at second glance, too). But hold up: The funds raised will go toward breast cancer research. Of course, raising money to fund research for treatments-even a cure-for cancer is a worthwhile cause. And the Twin Titties Series is an example of the best kind of hyperlocal, grass-roots fundraising: The money raised will go directly to three women who are participating in the grueling three-day Susan G. Komen Walk for the Cure, a 60-mile fundraising walk. But can the nobility of the cause and the need for funds justify the use of sexist advertising? After all, a "twins" competition is likely to get a lot more attention than another pink ribbon fundraiser, so is it worth it?

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The Twin Titties competition is not the only fundraiser to hit on this idea of highlighting the "breast" in "breast cancer." For several years, the slogan " Save Second Base ," a tongue-in-cheek reference to heavy petting, has promoted fundraising events. One of the major defenses of "Save Second Base" is that it was coined by a woman who was diagnosed with breast cancer herself: Kelly Rooney, who died of the disease in 2005. Her sisters founded the Save 2nd Base store , which sells a range of products, including, of course, T-shirts with strategically placed baseballs. Kelly, her sisters say, "refused to let [breast cancer] take away her sense of humor."

Rooney no doubt understood the subtle interplay between jokes and tragedy, and the exact role of transgressive humor at a time of nearing death. And there is something innovative about using humor to raise awareness for a life-threatening disease. For breast cancer patients and survivors, the slogans "Save Second Base" and "Save the Tatas" can take on a vaguely political edge, reminiscent of feminist efforts to reclaim the slurs "cunt" and "slut" or attempts by the gay rights movement to reclaim "fag." One could argue that the Twin Titties Series is less objectification than an exercise in breaking down stigma about the disease and in celebrating women’s bodies for a good cause-maybe even deserving of the mantle "feminist."

But for the general public, those subtleties are lost. The reality of the Twin Titties competition is a bunch of guys sitting around in a bar looking at sleazy photos. The clever pun, left on its own, implies that breast cancer is a tragedy because it attacks breasts rather than because it kills women. This message no doubt alienates women who have survived the disease by having their breasts removed. How "edgy" are these campaigns, anyway, when we already see cleavage bursting forth on every other magazine cover and billboard?

Photograph by Patrick Riviere/Getty Images.

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