MALE GAZE

A Polish government ad told women to screen their breasts for cancer because men “like to watch them bounce”

An ad for a local public health department in Opole, Poland hoped to encourage women to get breast cancer screenings by having men extolling the virtues of female busts, and emphasizing what a welcome sight they are for men’s eyes: “You know I like to watch them bounce when you run?”

The public service announcement (link in Polish) featured local celebrities including a UFC fighter and a policeman helpfully tell women that their breasts are “round” or “firm and sporty.” One of the men said seeing breasts always puts him in “a better mood.”

The ad concluded with an appeal to women to take care of their breasts, to get tested for potentially cancerous lumps, to massage them — and if you’re in need, one of the men says, opening his arms wide, “I can help.” It was meant to be aired on TV and online.

But it caused such an uproar online that it was rapidly taken down by the local state-run TV station that co-produced it.

“[They] made a clip so disgusting that after watching it you want to call the police rather than go to the doctor,” feminist writer Anna Dryjańska tweeted. “Gentlemen, we thank you for for the reminder. We take care of our breasts for the sake of our health and not to wave them in front of you,” another woman wrote.

A parody of the ad appeared online, substituting testicles for breasts, in an effort to point out that a public service announcement where the gender roles would be reversed is hard to imagine. (The parody video is no longer available online.)

“We wanted to emphasize that breasts—one of the unquestionable attributes of femininity—are adored, complemented, and loved by men, but that their attention shouldn’t be limited to this sphere. We wanted to promote men’s responsibility for their partners’ health,” Mateusz Magdziarz, the director of the local TV station told Polish daily Gazeta Wyborcza (link in Polish).

Nevertheless, the PSA was nixed and a new version, which doesn’t include some of the more objectifying and sexist statements (it still has men say breasts are “wonderful and “beautiful”) was posted online on Dec. 15 with an apology: “The authors of the clip apologize for its initial character, which could have violated the feelings and the sense of personhood of the softer sex.”

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