Ware Farms

Speaking truth to prejudice

Monday, December 06, 2004


Reproductive Health - England

Reproductive health is a whole different story in Europe. We might as well be on different planets. I recall when I was stationed in England in 1967, I was watching the telly one evening. Around 10 PM the announcer said that the regular program would be delayed for an important message concerning women's health. The Minister of Health (MH) appears and begins discussing women's breast self-examinations (BSE).

This was brand new at the time. I recalled first hearing about it on the nightly news before I'd left the States a few months before. The MH mentions how important these are and how often they should be done, so he's going to describe the step by step procedure. The scene shifts to a woman standing before her bathroom mirror. The camera is behind her and to the right. She is wearing slacks and a blouse which isn't tucked in. The reflection in the mirror shows the blouse isn't buttoned down the front, there's a gap of a few inches between the edges.

"First," the MH intones, "give your breasts a thorough visual inspection." The woman dutifully pulls the two sides of her blouse wide apart and looks at her breasts in the mirror. The MH goes on the describe exactly what she should be looking for and I'm sitting there staring at the reflection of her breasts in the mirror as well. I was a bit stunned, I must say. Breasts on TV? My gracious! If I had my wits about me, I would have thought, "Toto, we're not in Kansas anymore."

As the MH describes the next step, her left breast fills the screen. She presses two fingers of her right hand to the edge of her breast and works her way around the outside as he describes, then moves in closer in smaller circles each time till she's pressing her fingers firmly against her nipple.

The screen shifts back to the MH who makes some final remarks about BSE's, then the regular programing continues. This announcement runs at the same time each night for about a month.

So... In the US, this important development in breast cancer detection gets 90 seconds on the evening news, with the anchor telling women to ask their doctor about it. In the UK, this is important enough to take to the public airwaves and give women a step by step demonstration of the procedure.

They had the same decency restrictions on their regular programming as we did, but if they could save women's lives by getting them to start these BSE's as soon as possible, and do them correctly, that was the more important consideration.

Then, 37 years later, we have a wardrobe malfunction and... Well, I guess we're back in Kansas again.


Post a Comment

<< Home