COMMENTARY: The case for cancer (and why its supporters are rare and anonymous)

Monica Spees

Angry flames encircling that symbol of femininity — the bra — are normally a welcome sight for feminists and women’s activists everywhere. However, the flames that smothered the bras in front of Western Kentucky Diagnostic Imaging Center screamed a very different message from liberation and equality.

You may have heard that the night has a thousand eyes, but each of them seemed to have been shut or looking elsewhere when vandals slinked to the center on Oct. 31 and set the women’s bras ablaze.

The faceless vandals have probably never passed their mother tissues as she wept, terrified of going into surgery the next day. Nor have they waited in the kitchen as their mom helped their grandma unwrap herself so she could see her newly single-breasted chest. I would surmise that they have also not watched their mom’s radiation treatment live on a small television in a separate room. It’s unlikely they have quietly sobbed in their bunk bed on the night before the fourth grade spelling test, wondering if it’s the last test their mom will ever help them study for.

Other than ignorance, perhaps there is another reason the unidentified individuals devised scorching donated bras. Because men are more likely than women to commit arson, we can assume, for our purposes, that the culprits were men. Given their likely sex and target, they may have acted out in a rage of testosterone at having never seen a bra before. More likely, they have never seen a bra off of a woman before. If so, the many bras — frilly, lacy, granny, skimpy — strung up between large breast cancer ribbons did not intend to mock their bitterness and sexual frustration.

Squelched hormones aside, I can’t help but think what kind of message the vandals were trying to send. Let the ladies have their luncheons and charity races, let them get their yearly mammograms and present their breasts on a shelf like sacrificial lambs, let them circulate pamphlets with caricatures of contented women performing self breast exams, but hanging their bras on a faux close line is going too far?

Breast cancer is no joke, but women who have breast cancer can’t take themselves too seriously, or the emotional weight alone can wear them down to a sniveling, frightened wreck. Not to suggest that optimism is always easy or always an option, but sometimes a breast cancer survivor or patient needs bras hanging up beside the road to remind them of the time they went swimming at the lake and their fake boob slipped out of their bathing suit and floated beside them in the sun-sprinkled water.

The covert bra-burners didn’t quite grasp the squiggly line between commemoration and humor that is cancer survivors’ comfort. The vandals seem to have missed out on the enriching experiences of watching their mother cry over her discolored nipple after radiation and their eighty-nine-year-old grandma stiffly twist her torso in attempts to find a comfortable position with the artificial breast in the special bra.

Bras don’t always make people comfortable.

Monica Spees

Paducah junior

This commentary doesn’t necessarily represent the views of the Herald or the university.