Just a small comment about intent

I,  like many people, am appalled and annoyed by the “I’ve got a lovely pair” fundraiser launched by NZGirl (it’s pretty easy to find if you want to find it). This is just one more brick in the wall that is the sexification of titty breast cancer. Better bloggers than I have already hit this one out of the park (yes, each of those is a different post!). But what I wanted to say concerned the idea that maybe NZGirl had good, honest intent. That they did this because they genuinely believed this is a good way to raise awareness and somehow help people with breast cancer or help people be more aware of how to get check and be proactive about their health. When I hear the word ‘intent’ thrown into the mix, I can’t help but think of this post over at Genderbitch: “Intent! It’s Fucking Magic!”. While the post is not about this topic specifically, I can’t help but think of this passge on the power of intent whenever someone says “I didn’t mean to offend!”

Because you see, Intent is the ultimate alchemy. It doesn’t change lead to gold, it changes harmful, negative or damaging actions into happy, fun, “everyone hugs and no one is oppressed”, magical unicorn actions. It dips its eerie powers into the pools of time and space and counters each and every ripple of fuckery and pain created by the actions of an unthinking douchebag who was too privileged or self absorbed to see that their actions were a problem.

So, I really don’t think that NZGirl having good intentions really makes this excusable. Maybe you don’t intend to be offensive but that certainly doesn’t mean that the thing you do isn’t offensive. And in that case, you shouldn’t get a free pass and an “oh, okay then, I see now”; you should get a chance to apologise for the inadvertant offense and a chance to understand the perspective of others and maybe learn something.


  1. Amanda says:

    This. This. THIIIIIS.

    I use that phrase all the time, whenever someone breaks out the “I didn’t INTEND…”

    • steph says:

      It is a pretty awesome phrase. And the thing is, we all fuck up. And ususally we don’t intend to. But we usually realise that good intentions don’t stop our actions hurting someone, and that it isn’t about being perfect immediately but is about learning and trying.

  2. Boganette says:

    Brilliant. That needed to be said.

  3. stef says:

    What was it they say about the road to hell?

  4. Matthew Hare says:

    I dunno, millions of young boys will be very very aware of breast cancer now.. for long periods of time… Mostly male comments on the site I’ve noticed.

    • steph says:

      Really? I haven’t visited it and don’t really want to, but I can imagine it is pretty bad. Funny how we’ve conflated being aware of breast cancer with being aware of breasts. Not really the same things…

      • Matthew Hare says:

        I’m morally on your side in the primary response. Having said that, you can’t be aware of breast cancer without being aware of breasts. In a way, they’re highlighting the value to breasts, and what they mean to men and women..

        .. I kinda feel absurd saying what I just said, but.. it’s a valid point

        • steph says:

          Well yeah, of course being aware of breast cancer means being aware of breasts in a sense (especially in that it is important for women to be familiar with their own). But I guess what I meant is that all these kinds of campaigns do is disembody the breasts from the women, and you can’t have the breasts without the women; so while the breasts are obviously part of it, they aren’t the only thing. When it’s some kind of cancer other than breast cancer, the person is still part of it: you don’t get campaigns to save the liver, the skin, the bowel, the prostate without recognizing that the point is to save the person that the body part belongs to.

          • Matthew Hare says:

            Ironically, don’t you think it has kind of done that? Here we are having the debate on the subject. Twitter is full of Breast Cancer chatter, and for me personally, I’m being enlightened by women’s views on the subject, positive or negative. My cousin died of cancer at the top of this year and I’ve not really given the actual subject much thought.

            It’s connecting the breasts to the women, and vice versa, as opposed to ‘disembodying’. They are a personal, characterful part of a woman. Livers and kidneys and even testicles hardly make up part of your character on the same basis, or how you present yourself to others.

            But that’s just my perspective. Great discussion though! 🙂

          • QoT says:

            @Matthew: I really don’t feel good about the, “but see! They HAVE raised awareness because we ARE talking about it!” argument. Because that can be used to justify any amount of asshattery on the basis that hey, if I’m an asshat and get publicly called on it, I’ve just “contributed” to making people “aware” about sexism/racism/ableism/etc. When actually *I* have just been an asshat and it’s the people who call me on it that are actually being advocates and educators.

  5. Gilette says:

    I hope their website crashes and burns. It’s good to say sorry when you’re wrong, it’s not good to get into angry justifications the way Jenene has, or contradict your bosses tweets the way Tee has. You want a titty-fest for ratings, then fine, but tell it like it is. Don’t pink wash it and don’t fucking call yourself the victim for the angry backlash from intelligent men and women.

    • steph says:

      It’s easy to get defensive when someone calls you on something (and I personally do this a lot), but even though accepting other people’s views can be hard it can also be an excellent experience for learning and growth.

      And yes, I agree: don’t try to pretend what you did is something other than what it was.

  6. stef says:

    Surely someone with a modicum of intelligence at NZgirl would have realized, damage has been done time to apologize and move on. But they are milking their 15 minutes of fame.

    • steph says:

      Yes, instead of saying “we screwed up, and even though our intentions were good(?) we realize this has done more harm than good and we’re sorry”, they are still trying to act as if the outcry is totally baseless. And yes, milking it big-time.

      Also I should mention how great your post about this is, I really loved it. Thank you for writing it 🙂 (I hope I linked to it! Possibly it was only a link to the Hand Mirror cross-post and not the original, so sorry!)

  7. […] writing this post about an infamous breast cancer awareness campaign gone wrong (in my opinion, and several others as well), I got on the tele. I was scared shitless. I had a lot to say, and then as soon as the […]

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