So, I am sitting here trying to understand why during the month of October Breast Cancer Awareness gets more media attention and corporate sponsorship than Domestic Violence Awareness which is also remembered during the month of October. I know that most women have breast irrespective of their size, pigmentation, and function. And, I also know 1 of 8 women will be diagnosed with some form of breast cancer. However, what I am having a hard time trying to understand is why it seems to be favored, if one could favor one personal disaster over another, over domestic violence especially when 1 of 4 women will experience some form of domestic violence in their lifetime meaning women are more likely to be exposed to domestic violence than breast cancer.
This acknowledgement is not to reduce the level of attention Breast Cancer Awareness’ initiatives receive because it is important. And, evermore important to me because a couple of months ago my “beloved” godmother was diagnosed with it which caused me to become a consumer of all things related to curing Breast Cancer. However, as a survivor of domestic violence—lived through my mother’s daily beatings—and goddaughter of a breast cancer survivor, I see the interconnections and similarities between both issues and why they must be addressed simultaneously.
To begin, both issues have to do with the act of women nurturing. Culturally and biologically, female breasts are seen as symbols of nurturing. Infants suckle from their mother’s breasts, while men/women feel a sense of calm if not pleasure from kissing brown areolae and black nipples. In this same vein, the domestic sphere—the home—culturally through patriarchal invention has been designated as the pen-ultimate domain of feminine care which includes, but not limited to acts of nurturing.
Wife/Mother cooks to feed the family. Wife/Mother cleans so that the family has a level of comfort. Wife/Mother loves so that children grow up healthy and men/partners feel appreciated for their many non-domestic labors. To say the least, the cultural function of the breast and the cultural function of the home are the same. They both have been made to serve to needs of others.
And, this point of serving the needs of others really shows the connection between why we must see the similarities and interconnections between breast cancer and domestic violence. Often, if you ask a woman why she hasn’t conducted a self-breast examine or scheduled a mammogram she will give many reasons and most having to do with caring for others (i.e. family, employers, etc.)—“I didn’t have time to because I had to pick my daughter up from soccer practice . . . Oh, I forgot to because I had to finish this report for work . . . I meant to, but I needed to make sure the church had its bulletins . . . Well, I was going to, but my husband needed the car.” Or, if you ask a woman why she stays with a man who beats her daily she would say, “I love him. He needs me . . . I don’t want to break up the family the children would suffer . . . I can’t leave now because what will the church think of me.”
I tell you, I have no proof of this, but I wholeheartedly believe that both breast cancer and domestic violence are rooted in the idea of women caring too much for others and not enough for themselves. Dr. Christina Northrup wrote an excellent book, Women’s Bodies, Women’s Wisdom: Creating Physical and Emotional Health and Healing, many years ago that talked about how we as women store memories and stories in our bodies, particularly in our breasts. Using the concept of Charkas, Dr. Northrup outlines what women store in their breast. We store issues of passion, compassion, emotional expression, and capacity to form mutual and reciprocal partnerships. Meaning, our breasts are intimately connected to our domestic responsibilities and to issues that happen inside the home including the men/women we choose to partner with, marry, or make a home with. And, if that home and by extension your relationship with your partner is filled with violence and pain or you watch as a girl child such violence growing up, your breasts will feel it and store the pain if you are not proactive about addressing the pain.
This is not to say that if you endure or see domestic violence you will get breast cancer. No, I am not saying that. The point I am trying to make is that there is a connection between over nurturing others to the point of co-dependency, not nurturing ourselves in the sense of dealing with such stories of pain, and how our female bodies respond to such unbalanced relationships and denials.
The more I write about this I think I may know why it is easier or more popular to be aware of breast cancer than domestic violence. I think it is somewhat easier for woman to come to believe that her body is attacking her in comparison to confronting the idea that her family and people she loves are hurting her. I think we live in a culture where we teach women to accept blame making it easier to believe that the cancer in our breast is solely our fault. But, what we as women must come to realize is that both forms of violence are often rooted in not holding others accountable for how they treat us, how they need us, and how they want us too much.
The initial reason why I wanted to write this blog is to shed light on what is happening in Topeka, Kansas when it comes to domestic violence. Recently, the city council decided that the city could no longer afford to prosecute domestic violence as a misdemeanor meaning when a woman or child calls 911 to report domestic violence no one will come to her rescue because the city says it can’t afford to do so.
When I found this out I was livid which got me to thinking about the interconnections between breast cancer and domestic violence given the amount of media attention for Breast Cancer Awareness. Perhaps, my hope is that when people read my blog they will sign the petition, http://www.change.org/petitions/city-councilmember-district-3-stop-the-decriminalization-of-domestic-violence, to stop the Topeka city council from enacting such a policy because the disease that attacks a woman’s breast is the same disease that back hands her and pushes her to the ground.
We, as mothers, daughters, sisters, and aunties, must stand and protest both for our very lives are at stake.