"How can I trust a charity to support me when they are receiving support from a company that actively damages women?”
Since 2019, we have exposed Playboy-owned Honey Birdette pornifying breast cancer for profit. This year, after the McGrath Foundation’s endorsement of the sex store, referring to them as their “long time partners” and sharing a cropped image of Honey Birdette’s objectifying imagery, breast cancer survivors spoke out.
Some cited the harm of pinkwashed and sexualising breast cancer campaigns that equate women’s worth with having perky, intact breasts.
In response to our Facebook post exposing the McGrath Foundation endorsement of Honey Birdette sexed up breast cancer campaign, breast cancer survivor Carlia wrote:
Thanks for speaking out so vocally about this. October is a bad month for breast cancer patients and survivors, and having to deal with our illness being sexualised for capital gain is sickening.
Angie, a breast cancer survivor who contributed a blog post in response to the partnership, wrote:
Having your breasts poked and prodded by medical professionals… it’s awkward because in the back of your mind, there’s an awareness that breasts are sexual. You try and put that out of your mind to endure going and having these invasive procedures.
I think this hypersexualisation of female bodies is detrimental to women getting the support they need, because they’re reluctant to talk about their bodies as they’re always sexualised.”
There is nothing sexy about breast exams, mammograms, ultrasounds, biopsies, cancer gradings, surgery, scars, radiotherapy, chemotherapy, nausea, reconstruction or prosthetics. There is nothing sexy about being scared you are going to die.
Or about wondering if you don't die, whether your partner still finds you attractive, or if you haven't got a partner, whether you will ever find one with disfigured or missing breasts. Or ruminating over whether you will be able to breastfeed your real or hypothetical babies.
It was so upsetting for me to see the McGrath Foundation come up in my Facebook feed as in partnership with the Playboy-owned lingerie brand Honey Birdette which promotes female sexual degradation through BDSM and up-skirting depictions of women playing tennis in its shopping centre display windows. A company which has been accused of sexually objectifying and under-paying its young, female staff. And a company which displays pornographic images in public shopping centres.
The McGrath Foundation's ‘partnership’ with Honey Birdette ultimately makes it harder for women to talk about breasts and breast cancer again because it equates breasts with sex, not health. It also drags Jane McGrath’s truly honourable legacy down to the realms of selling sex toys and pornography. I didn't know Jane personally but, as a woman and fellow traveller on a different branch of the same journey, I believe Jane deserves more dignity than that.” Read more.
Some survivors pointing out the irony of the McGrath Foundation partnering with a company that sold lingerie survivors would be unable to wear, or that could possibly damage women’s breasts.
“No longer a dollar from me either. It is a bad marketing deal indeed! Mum and I are bc survivors, we don’t think McGrath Foundation needs to stoop that low for money, and we certainly can’t put our prosthesis in HB’s bra’s anyway!" wrote Jen.
“So, McGrath Foundation, please explain how this helps women. Does HB sell bras which are healthy for women’s breasts or are all their bras underwire...NOT recommended for breast health. Can women who have had a partial mastectomy, such as myself, put a chicken fillet into one of HBs bras?” wrote Karen.
Others referenced the limited and harmful beauty standards for women perpetuated by Honey Birdette sexual objectification, which perpetuate the notion that women’s value comes from how their bodies look and in their sexual appeal to men.
In response to our Facebook post, Gemma wrote:
“I am in full support of your campaign about McGrath foundation. This year I had a prophylactic bilateral mastectomy. One of the things I felt uneasy about in accepting my implants is how perfect they look and that I was conforming to a stereotype. I have felt a sadness that I didn’t get to keep my sagging mum of 4 breasts. I liked them and I liked what they had done. There is nothing about cancer treatment that would ever wish on someone in the name of beauty. These pornified standards are the cause of so much harm.”
“I have breast cancer. I’m currently bald, fatter than normal from chemo and steroids, I have no breast and my ovaries have been put to sleep. I’ve never felt so gross. In my entire life, I’ve never felt less sexual and less attractive, and I certainly would no consider buying sexed up lingerie right now (well, ever, but especially not now). Seeing this hypersexualised campaign makes me feel so angry, and so left out - I don’t identify with the sexualised breast cancer trope. It’s so damaging. When are we as a society, going to start valuing women for themselves and not their tits, their asses? Honey Birdette don’t value women. They don’t look after their staff, they send revolting messages to people about how to value and treat women. I’m disgusted at the partnership between them and the McGrath Foundation,” wrote Carlia.
Others objected to the misuse of the McGrath Foundation brand by an unethical company seeking to improve its public image after countless allegations of sexual harassment, mistreatment and abuse of young female staff.
Survivor Karen asked, “Is HB providing a safe non-sexualised workplace for young women?
Does HB advertising improve women’s mental health, particularly women survivors of breast cancer?
Is HB in fact all about the pandering to the male gaze? How does this empower women?
Does the MF even care what women feel about this issue as long as you can go cachink in the cash register? It’s perfectly obvious from all the comments that women are angry. And yet no response from McGrath Foundation.
I think you have just kicked a major own goal. I am sure the woman in whose name this charity was set up did not envisage her name would be coupled with a sleazy sexually exploitative product line. You should be ashamed of what you have done.
I will be advising all women to give their money to BREACAN where I am confident it will be used respectfully.”
Debbie, who had a family member suffer from breast cancer, wrote:
I have appreciated the wonderful work your staff have done supporting a family member.
I am nauseated however that some of that support has been funded by the exploitation and degradation of women.
Glenn McGrath how would you like your daughter to be involved with or posing for Honey Birdette photos.
By endorsing the Playboy-owned sex shop and legitimising their sexual objectification and exploitation of women, the McGrath Foundation has done serious damage to their reputation and alienated breast cancer sufferers and survivors and their families.
“So disappointing. After years of donating to the McGrath Foundation since my sister died of breast cancer, I will find other cancer foundations to contribute to.” – Anonymous
Perhaps Carlia summed it up in her comment left on Facebook:
“As a current breast cancer patient, how can I trust a charity to support me when they are receiving support from a company that actively damages women?”
Pinkwashed and sexualising breast cancer campaigns harm survivors. In accepting Honey Birdette’s donation and effectively endorsing the company’s objectification and mistreatment of women, the McGrath Foundation has thrown women under the bus for profit. Breast cancer survivors deserve better.
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