A breast cancer awareness campaign is sweeping Australia today on the anniversary of the death of Australian musician Chrissy Amphlett of the Divinyls to breast cancer last year. The I Touch Myself project was formed earlier this year in honor of Amphlett’s desire to spread awareness about early detection through the use of self exams, and gets its name from the famous song of the same name (she repurposed the number hoping it would spread awareness for self exams). Today, women are posting Instagrams of themselves touching their own breasts with the hashtag #itouchmyselfie.
My first instinct was revulsion because I am admittedly unfamiliar with Amphlett and originally thought the campaign title was referencing the sexual nature of The Divinyls‘ “I Touch Myself” and was contributing to the larger issue of sexualizing breast cancer. That was not the case.
In fact, this campaign does exactly the opposite. It shows that the concept of touching breasts isn’t necessarily a sexual act–as if we have to be reminded that breasts exist for many purposes outside of sexy times. This campaign encourages women to regularly touch their own breasts and familiarize themselves with what their breasts feel like when they’re healthy, so that they can detect irregularities.
Campaigns that de-stigmatize self exams are desperately needed, because as unbelievable as this may seem, I know people who won’t give themselves self exams because they feel too dirty to touch their own breasts. Seriously. They see their own breasts as purely sexual, shameful body parts to be avoided at all costs, and as such have no sense of what their breasts actually feel like. A lump wouldn’t seem out of ordinary if you thought that it had always been there.
The selfies being posted with the #itouchmyself hashtag aren’t sexual–they’re just pictures of women with their hands over their (mostly clothed) breasts. They aren’t screaming “do you see what’s at stake here? You could lose those fun bags you wanna motorboat!” or making breast cancer into some sort of boob-only affecting disease–they’re simply showing that touching your own breasts is not a big deal. It’s not always lewd or masturbatory (although, good for you when it is!), it’s simply a medical necessity.