Breast Cancer Awareness Month: Breast Cancer Community Feels Alienated by Honey Birdette’s Pinkwashing

Women’s health problems and femininity exist in a complex vacuum, something that women with breast cancer know intimately.

“My first thought wasn’t, ‘Oh my God, am I going to die?’ Or whatever you imagine, “Melbourne mother of four Angela Jones tells 9Honey.

“It was, ‘Am I always going to be attractive? Am I going to be disfigured? Will I still be able to find a mate?'”

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Angela, who had her first contact with breast cancer two decades ago and recently saw another lump emerge, simultaneously dismisses her first thoughts as “dumb” while acknowledging the horrible truth that sowed the seed in her mind – that breasts are associated more with attractiveness and sexuality than biological function, and are inextricably linked with the social construction of femininity and the pressure to conform.

Angela Jones remembers her first thought 20 years ago when she was examined for breast cancer, it wasn’t about death, but what she would look like. (Provided)

“Looking back, it’s really sad, because the breasts are [organs]Angela thought.

“They are an important part of our body, but they are also a health problem more than a [sex] problem.”

Like many brands in October – Breast Cancer Awareness Month – Australian lingerie brand Honey Birdette partnered with the McGrath Foundation, donating $ 30,000 of the proceeds of the hot pink products to breast care nurses across the country. ‘charity.

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For those like Angela who have had experiences with breast cancer, the partnership between the McGrath Foundation and a Playboy– a brand owned which has a habit of violating advertising standards with their hypersexualization of women, glorification of violence against women, and exploitation of their workers – who are mostly women – struck a chord.

“Honey Birdette benefits from the sexification of breast cancer awareness,” Melinda Tankard Reist, director of Collective Shout, told 9Honey.

Tankard Reist says the brand is rose wash, in how it capitalizes on its alignment with the respected McGrath Foundation to add legitimacy to its advertisements and, by extension, its products and brand – despite the damage the lingerie brand would perpetuate to women.

“Pairing a breast cancer charity with the sexual objectification of women is appropriate for unethical behaviors that allow [Honey Birdette] to use the logo as a cover for their sexualization and objectification of women, ”said Tankard Reist, who lost his best friend to breast cancer three years ago.

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“Objective representations of women contribute to a diminished view of the competence, morality and humanity of women. the research is indisputable now on evil, so you can’t cause that evil and then cover it up by plating a logo like the McGrath Foundation on whatever you do. “

Collective Shout has embarked on a multi-year campaign against Honey Birdette and their Breast Cancer Awareness Month partnership with the McGrath Foundation.

In 2019, Honey Birdette had to shoot sexualized ads that included the McGrath Foundation logo after Collective Shout contacted the charity, and the McGrath Foundation at the time confirmed that Honey Birdette had “not acted like with [their] agreement.”

In the years that followed, Collective Shout has remained candid about the partnership, but says the McGrath Foundation has ignored their attempts to contact and the campaign as a whole.

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A spokesperson for the McGrath Foundation said in a statement to 9Honey: “Corporate partnerships are essential in helping us achieve our mission and our partnership with luxury lingerie brand Honey Birdette allows us to continue supporting Australian families with breast cancer.

The spokesperson spoke of the charity’s mission to ensure “no one gets breast cancer without care”, which is helped by the 171 McGrath-funded breast cancer nurses across Australia . According to the spokesperson, the charity must fund 79 more McGrath Breast Care nurses so that every person with breast cancer has access to their life-saving care and support.

“The McGrath Foundation has partnered with Honey Birdette since 2017 through the sale of limited edition pink stockings and the Pink Marshmallow candle which are sold in-store and online during Breast Cancer Awareness Month.” , the statement continued.

“To date, this partnership has raised over $ 135,000 and an additional $ 30,000 will be donated to the McGrath Foundation at the end of October.

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Clarifying the McGrath Foundation’s request to Honey Birdette two years ago, the spokesperson said, “In 2019, the McGrath Foundation asked Honey Birdette to update the logo on marketing materials to ensure that ‘it was clear that the funds raised came from the sale of pink stockings. “

The McGrath Foundation partners with many companies in various industries, however, the spokesperson stressed that at the heart of every partnership there is “a real commitment to ensuring that people with breast cancer have Access to free support from a McGrath Breast Care Nurse, no matter where they live or their financial situation.

Despite the intention behind the partnership, Tankard Reist and Collective Shout are questioning its practice – in particular, noting how, in this year’s partnership, the McGrath Foundation shared a cropped and less explicit image from what was originally an advertisement for Honey Birdette’s Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

“[The McGrath Foundation has] in fact, they censored it themselves because the original image shows the full image of the woman’s bare back, ”Tankard Reist told 9Honey.

Contact Bronte Gossling at [email protected].

“[The McGrath Foundation] censored this image in its own promotions, quietly acknowledging that this is not how women should be represented to their wider audience. If you are 100% in favor of what Honey Birdette is doing on your behalf, why did you censor this image? “

Aside from the damaging effects of objectifying women in general, Collective Shout has received correspondence from breast cancer survivors who feel alienated by the Honey Birdette campaign.

“[The images] make them feel that their full value as a woman lies in having perfect, undamaged breasts, ”Tankard Reist told 9Honey, saying that survivors feel degraded and dehumanized by the advertisements as they undergo physically and emotionally traumatic treatments and procedures – the complete antithesis of what ads like these say are sexy.

“Having your breasts pushed and pushed by medical professionals … it’s embarrassing because deep in your mind there is an awareness that breasts are sexual. You try not to think about that. to endure these invasive procedures. “Angela, who had a breast lump removed 20 years ago and a second lump biopsy two months ago, tells 9Honey.

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Angela personally felt confronted with Honey Birdette’s campaign against hypersexualized breast cancer when she recalled the embarrassment she felt in the doctor’s office having to request a biopsy on her breast, knowing that the organ has societal sexual connotations.

“I think this hypersexualization of the female body is detrimental to women who get the support they need because they are reluctant to talk about their bodies because they are always sexualized,” says Angela.

“Women’s bodies aren’t necessarily all about sex. Our bodies are beautiful and they’re there.

“Even for older women like me, there’s always this boring thing. You know, if I lose a breast, how much of a problem is it going to be for other people? It’s going to be a problem for me. because of other perceptions. “

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In a statement provided to 9Honey, however, Honey Birdette founder Eloise Monaghan said many of her 350 employees – including herself – have been affected in some way by cancer of the breast. breast and that she was disgusted by the Collective Shout campaign.

“It’s just shameful behavior on the part of a so-called group of women, but they do it every year,” Monaghan said.

“Each October, we donate between $ 30,000 and $ 45,000 to the McGrath Foundation and their amazing nurses who support Australians living with breast cancer. Collective Shout uses this as an excuse to attack our enthusiasm and charity goal.

“But attacking the incredible and selfless work of the McGrath Foundation and these wonderful nurses – just for a press stunt – is so below their standards.

“I would like to know what charity they donate to in addition to their own.”

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