The Sexist

ABC News Story on Showing Boobs Won’t Show Boobs


ABC News has picked up the story of local ABC affiliate WJLA's series on breast cancer detection. WJLA has courted national media attention for its decision to televise a local woman's self breast exam, un-draped, un-blurred, and unedited. ABC News, for one, remains committed to blurring the boobs: "for our purposes, we are showing it without any full nudity," the segment explains.

Just so you're clear on that: WJLA's news story on self breast exams will show the boobs, but ABC's national news story on the WJLA news story that showed the boobs will not show the boobs.

I understand the reasoning here. WJLA showed the boobs for a very specific reason: To help women learn how to correctly perform their monthly self breast examination, a teaching moment that's been made difficult by the news media's reluctance to showing boobs on the teevee. ABC News's story isn't educational, so they don't share WJLA's rationale for filming breasts.

But ABC News' choice to blur out the breasts raises a different problem for the network. ABC's story is all about whether television stations should show naked breasts on television, or whether they ought to blur them out. "The move has been met with criticism from people who believe it's inappropriate to show women's bodies during the 5 p.m. and 11 p.m. news," the story reads. "[C]ritics say the reports' airing during a key ratings period suggests the station was exploiting women for gain."

Too bad ABC News can't take an objective look at this issue. It's obvious where ABC News stands: They blurred them out!

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They didn't have to do that. They could have avoided the breast shots altogether. Instead, they replayed WJLA's breast examination at length—and they blurred it out. And then they showed the (blurred) breasts again. And again. And again. They just kept playing the same shot of a woman examining her breast, accompanied by a large white box that shifted with the woman's movements to make sure the nipples remained un-slipped.

WJLA showed a couple of breasts in order to help women avoid a terminal illness. ABC News, on the other hand, slapped a scare-tactic white box over the body of a woman who dared to help other women detect cancer. You know what that says to me? It says that protecting an outdated puritanical code against showing women's bodies is more important than preventing women from dying. So, which network is exploiting women for gain?

  • Kathleen

    Amanda! You're exactly right - Great commentary, and thank you.

  • Dave

    It all depends on what you believe WJLA's intentions are. If they actually are trying to educate women on how to perform self-examinations, then showing boobs is acceptable, maybe even admirable.

    But, given when this story will air, I don't believe that. By airing this during sweeps week, WJLA is inviting suspicion of its motives. If they really were doing this as a public service, why not do it before sweeps or after sweeps? If they were to do that, then they'd have more of a leg to stand on in arguing that this isn't just a sensationalist ratings grab.

  • 15th Street

    Nothing to see here, just a ratings stunt. A shameless, cheap, ratings stunt. Moving on.

  • U.S. Citizen

    I saw this story on WJLA ABC7 this afternoon and the colored woman showen was fat with cow breasts. Why didn’t they show some hot blond with nice breasts like Pamela Anderson. Who wants to see cow titees like Madea? LOL LOL

  • gotoplessorg

    The women of would like to congratulate the entire staff of WJLA who has worked on the "touch of life" story. This topic is close to our hearts and we are glad that a news station has ignored the conservative minority and showed the entire female breasts during a breast exam. Indeed, this story is helping their ratings, but isn't it what ALL media try to do that all the time? This news segment is medical and educational and even shakes the puritanical chord of some Americans, sparking the debate, once again, of the decency of a female breast in public! Healthy all around! WJLA, has REALLY earned its ratings with this story!!!
    ... a word about the decency of women's breasts in public, (for medical purpose or not) - it maybe a debatable issue in some circles but the US Constitution unequivocally protects gender equality. That means that if a man's chest is allowed in public, a woman's must be too. Sooner or later, state laws will have to change their unconstitutional legislature to reflect the ultimate law of the land: the US Constitution. We may kick and we may scream but that reality is coming. Like women's right to vote, the end of segregation earlier in our history, a woman's chest in public is constitutional, it MUST and WILL be honored. Note that several states already acknowledge top freedom to all citizens, like the great state of NY. and yes! the District of Columbia! Go to for more on these legal issues and join us on the next national GoTopless day, on August 22, 2010, in honor of Women's Equality Day voted by Congress in 1971 and officially celebrated on Aug 26 each year.

  • Jeremiah

    Reading about this, I'm reminded of one of the principles of sonar, namely, an incredibly loud "ping" that has a definite epicenter, **however**, that's not what's interesting: it's what bounces back that's of the most interest.

    Similarly, watching the metaphorical cultural bounceback is what's most revealing. That in 2010, in the United States of America, we still cannot deal with basic human reality in our culture speaks volumes about the depth and effectiveness of ongoing cultural indoctrination.

    From that perspective, I see this tied to a framework of control over women - a kind of subjugation, if you will - disguised as a "moral obligation" to protect people from being psychologically uncomfortable.

    Every man, woman, child in this nation should watch this, unapologetically. Any husband/brother who cares about their wife/daughter/sister should be unashamed to watch this basic medical instruction, irrespective of medium. It's fucking CANCER, people.

  • 1967dc

    I think it was a ratings ploy. Sad. It's just so obvious. Why did they wait until the end of the month...sweeps? People can't be that stupid!

  • 1967dc

    As for U.S Citizen grab one of your mommies old sears catalogs and go jerk off in the bathroom to pictures of ladies in their obviously still live at home with your parents.

  • U.S. Citizen

    1967DC please don't confuse me with you. Is that what you have been doing; jerking off by looking at an old Sears catalog? No I don't live with my parents idiot. I am married with a family. Maybe you should jerk off to a photo of Madea, the colored Drag Queen.

  • 1967dc

    U.S.Citizen....My we live in a fantasy world don't we? So how may I ask do you fit this "family" of your's in your parents basement?...and how do you support them with the monies you earn from your paper route? Join the real world..put the single sock away and find a girl WITH REAL BOOBIES AND EVERYTHING!

  • 1967dc

    One more thing U.S.citizen what a sad and wretched life you must lead in that basement..low ceilings...wood paneled walls..the stench of modeling glue and a out of date xbox with only one working control! On second thought head back to the bathroom and resume your love affair with your 5 memeber "family"! Even people such as yourself deserve some degree of happiness! :) Peace Brother!

  • creativemeat

    I recommend reviewing the literature on the efficacy of self breast exams before making claims that wjla's news story "(prevents) women from dying"

  • Douglas

    Why not show a male doing the exam as they can get it too. Is there a problem with that version? I had a male relative that died from breast cancer.

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  • missdk

    Men do the exact same exam as women, but since the majority of people who get breast cancer are women, it is more appropriate to show a woman doing a breast exam.

    Or are you implying that if we use a male breast then we can show it un-edited? If so, you are hitting this problem right on the nose - we are too caught up with the aesthetics of a woman's body to be able to show an important of a message (cancer prevention) involving a biological breast.