Shutting Down Misconceptions about Clothing & Culture’s Effect on Breast Cancer

Earlier this month, Ms. Magazine ran an article that looked at breast cancer stigma in Saudi Arabia.  The article provides breast cancer statistics in Saudi Arabia (without citation or link), breast cancer statistics in the United States, and American expat Carol Fleming’s experience with breast cancer in Saudi Arabia. Fleming suggests that promoting pink products for breast cancer awareness might help to curb the stigma associated with the illness in Saudi Arabia.  An nameless image of a pink burqa-clad woman without context greets readers at the site, despite the fact that the burqa is worn in Afghanistan.

A pink burqa, Ms. Magazine? Really?

Over at Gender Across Borders, Ashley Lauren responds to the Ms. Magazine article with the following:

The fact is that, in a country where women wear burqas in public, there is a lot of shame that surrounds the female body.  This can become problematic when it comes to breast cancer screening, as many medical technicians and doctors in the country are men.  For a woman to bare her breasts in front of a man in Saudi Arabia is something that is still seen as taboo.

Deciding who to “bare one’s breasts” to or whether your OB-GYN is a man or woman is a highly personal decision that should be made based on one’s individual comfort level—making assumptions about a woman’s comfort level based on whether or not they wear a burqa is ridiculously reductive. The way the last sentence of Lauren’s paragraph is written is overly sensational: isn’t it taboo to bare your breasts in front of just any man anywhere? Obviously, she means in instances for one’s health and well-being, but why didn’t she include that in her sentence?

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