GUEST COLUMNIST: Why save second base?

Sarah Blanchard

Upon skimming through the Wildcat Newswire last week, an announcement caught my eye and informed me that apparently second base was in danger. Not second base as in baseball or softball, that second base – the one that middle school boys boast about and middle school girls deride their peers about. “Can you believe Katelyn let Rob get to second base on the bus?” This is generally followed by a remark about Katelyn’s moral standards.

So I was surprised when I saw that Villanova Students Against Breast Cancer was explicitly naming a fundraising event “Save Second Base.” It’s cute and catchy, and I’m sure more than one person will join just to get a T-shirt with the cheeky slogan similar to the ones that were so popular two years ago.

However, what does it mean when an organization meant to protect women’s bodies adopts a tactic or message – even if only to be catchy – that equates a struggle like breast cancer with a crusade to preserve a sports-derived sexual innuendo?

In a powerful article available online through the Annie Appleseed Project, Barbara Ehrenreich sharply lambastes what she refers to as “Breast Cancer Culture” in a reflection on her own battle with breast cancer.

“It’s very pink and femme and frilly, all about pink ribbons, pink rhinestone pins, pink T-shirts and, of course, a lot about cosmetics … I began to get the feeling that this breast cancer culture is not only about being pretty and femme; it’s also about regressing back to being a little girl, a very good little girl in fact.”

It may be true that special edition scarves and makeup palates really do help fund a cure; but couldn’t that money be better spent on research on the cause of breast cancer without the commercial exploitation of a potentially fatal disease?

Erenreich points out that there is not as much money to be made in the commercialization of prostate cancer – why not? Perhaps it doesn’t appeal to persistent cultural norms about what men are and what ought to appeal to them in their darkest hour. Similarly, is it possible to have a run to raise money for breast cancer without having a patriarchal conception of breasts themselves as the object in need of saving? The name of the “Save Second Base Run” fundraiser suggests both a motivation and an object for saving. We run to preserve the idea of second base, a right of passage nestled nicely between first and third – women’s bodies as passive objects to be contested over by active male participants.

The saving of second base, in heterosexual context, implies the preservation of an implicitly male territory and leaves invisible the female possessor of the breasts. Are we running to save women’s lives or to save a juvenile notion of access to women’s bodies? Let me be clear about something. I greatly sympathize with breast cancer-related causes.

Breast cancer is a serious and frightening disease that shakes the women who fight it and their families to the core. My own mother underwent multiple partial mastectomies last year. I don’t think that my mom would be comforted or take pride in me pulling on my Nike’s to “save second base.” Second base and cheeky T-shirts are, to her, largely irrelevant. Respecting the dignity of the human beings struggling with a serious illness means keeping the cute innuendos in check and keeping people – two breasted, no breasted, or three-quarters breasted – as the heart of the cause.


Sarah Blanchard is a senior sociology major from Fairfield, CT. She can be reached at [email protected].