‘Saving second base’ stealing our dignity

By Katie Dunne

As a Cubs fan, baseball season ended for me a few weeks ago with a disappointing loss to the Dodgers. To avoid any further salt in my open wounds, I have avoided ESPN and the DI sports section as much as possible. But despite my withdrawal from all things baseball, I’ve heard a lot lately about second base.

If you pay any attention on your walk to class (and judging by the number of bicycle/student collisions I see, you may not), then you’ve noticed a new fashion trend on campus: T-shirts that read “Save Second Base” with two large, suggestively placed baseballs across the chest.

As part of a campuswide fundraising campaign, Colleges Against Cancer is selling these “slightly controversial” T-shirts, along with more traditional apparel, in an attempt to raise money for the American Cancer Society.

In their failed attempt at humor, Colleges Against Cancer is trivializing a condition that affects millions of people worldwide. They turn a traumatizing experience into the butt of a vulgar joke to make a few dollars, ironically cheapening their cause.

“Second base” is a reference to male sexual accomplishment. It is part of an analogy that makes women part of a contest of conquests. The implication is that females serve no purpose beyond satisfying men, boosting their egos, and inspiring high-fives.

I know that the locker room lingo isn’t going away because chauvinism is a reality in this country. Some men will continue comparing women to sports games and sex to home runs. But a student group reducing breast cancer patients to part of a sexual analogy is despicable. From a group like Colleges Against Cancer that does really great work on campus, organizing fundraisers and the local Relay for Life, I expected a more mature approach. Instead, they have chosen to reinforce a sexual double standard that treats women as objects (in this case, baseballs).

Beyond the problematic sexual references, these T-shirts can be personally offensive for people battling the disease. More than half the women in the U.S. who are diagnosed with breast cancer will need a mastectomy, a procedure that surgically removes one or both breasts to rid the body of cancerous tissue. Though this procedure saves lives, it can be devastating. Millions of women around the world are grappling with the reality of life without breasts, struggling with self-definition.

Rather than celebrating women’s beauty and feminine value beyond their anatomy, these shirts serve as reminders of the value society places on boobs. We see it everywhere: music videos, reality TV shows, and movies, on the sidelines of football games, and even in dorm room posters. Sadly, we accept the objectification of women as an essential strategy of the entertainment industry. By tying boobs directly to female worth, the media, and now T-shirts on this campus, make the question of identity without breasts even more difficult to answer.

Women are not the only ones who should be offended. In 2008, about 2,000 men will be diagnosed with breast cancer in the United States, but they are left out of the clever baseball references. Can we work on a shirt that hyper-sexualizes them, too?

Overall, it’s been a disappointing few weeks for me. I’m not too hung up on the Cubs thing. A lifetime of Cubs losses has taught me not to expect much out of Wrigley. But three years of involvement here has taught me to expect a great deal from U of I students. I expected that this campus would respect the courage of men and women diagnosed with cancer. Instead, I see an inappropriate mockery of a life-threatening condition. I thought we would hold ourselves to a higher standard. I guess I expected too much.

If you have already purchased a shirt, I’m sure the American Cancer Society appreciates the donation. If I were you, I would think twice about wearing it. It’s fine if you love boobs, but don’t forget to love the women to whom they belong.

Katie is a senior in Spanish and political science and encourages all the ladies out there to get a mammogram.