#Mamming is the act of laying your (clothed) boobs on a flat surface. Like a counter. Or a bench. Or a person who is #planking. –www.thisismamming.com
Yes, apparently this is a thing now: posing your boobs on top, snapping a photo and posting it to Instagram, all in the name of breast cancer awareness. It’s called mamming, ahem I mean #mamming, a cheeky little term coined (rather unsurprisingly) by two ad executives from New York, Michelle Lamont and Michelle Jaret, in an attempt to break through the clutter of breast cancer awareness month. It’s a pretty easy sell, I mean, who doesn’t like pictures of tits, even when they’re covered?
The goal of the mamming campaign is twofold: to remind women to get screened for breast cancer as well as show solidarity by embracing the awkwardness of actually getting a mammogram. Lamont, herself a breast cancer survivor, credits early detection and prevention as crucial for beating the disease. The website thisismamming.com features an array of brightly colored photos of mostly younger women, accompanied by a barrage of whimsical fonts and ever-present hashtags.
The lightheartedness of the campaign came under fire in the media for trivializing the issue. As Mary Elizabeth Williams argues on Salon.com, “posting your cleavage on Instagram does nothing to fight breast cancer”. She voices her exasperation and disgust that women’s health issues like breast cancer awareness are framed in ways she deems cutesy and ultimately not very helpful. It’s almost like a slap in the face for survivors of the disease, especially as the issue is hotly contested whether early detection actually does save as many lives as it is purported to.
As North American women embraced the mammogram as the most important tool for early detection, scientists’ understanding of the disease itself was changing, especially where younger women are concerned. Their denser breast tissue subjects them to a disproportionate number of false positives, and almost more alarmingly, false negatives, where the cancer was missed altogether.
Furthermore, the direct effect of cancer marketing campaigns like mamming, Movember and the ubiquitous Pink Ribbon are being called into question. While they do admittedly draw the public eye to the existence and pervasiveness of the disease, they have also been accused of lulling us into a false state of accomplishment. Sure, I can post a picture of my breasts resting atop my bookcase or my friend who’s passed out on my couch, and that can make me feel like I’m contributing in the fight against cancer when I’m actually doing absolutely nothing to help the cause. And how many of those women who are mamming their breasts all over the place will actually end up going for a mammogram? Mamming reeks of poor execution of good intentions: they certainly tried to inject a little humour and style into mammogram awareness, but ultimately ended up sacrificing the graveness of the illness that has cut short the lives of countless women.