Singapore women: “Lift your skirt, save your life”

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Cleverly effective or downright offensive? The new awareness campaign for cervical cancer in Singapore will raise a few eyebrows, not just skirts. We look at why the Singapore Cancer Society has come out with such a bold message and the controversy surrounding it.

Cervical cancer awareness campaign for Singapore women

Source: Cervical cancer awareness campaign official Facebook page

It is already causing a storm on the internet. Bloggers and columnists across Singapore have rushed to their keyboard to eagerly air their opinions. The new advertisement aims to promote Pap smear tests, which reduce the chances of women developing cervical cancer. The smear test procedure inevitably involves patients ‘lifting their skirt’ and the copywriters have used this idea in the bluntest possible way.

The advertisement, which can be seen across Singapore at various bus and train stations, features local celebrities mimicking the famous Marilyn Monroe pose from the movie The Seven Year Itch. The celebrities include local DJ Rosalyn Lee and Model/TV host Linda Black.

Learn more about cervical cancer in this interview

Cervical cancer in Singapore

According to the Singapore Cancer Society, 200 women are diagnosed with cervical cancer every year, resulting in 70 deaths. It is the 9th most common cancer in Singaporean women. The nature of the disease means that it is both preventable and easily curable, if detected at an early stage. For this reason alone, it is important that all women are aware of how they can protect themselves. As part of the 8th Cervical Cancer Awareness Month, all Singaporean women aged 25 to 69 can take a free Pap smear test at 178 participating clinics during May.

Educating women

The CEO of the Singapore Cancer Society, Mr. Albert Chin, reiterated the message given by the advert, saying that:

“ Singapore Cancer Society is committed to educating women on the risk factors and warning symptoms of cervical cancer. We also want to encourage regular Pap smear screening among women in our efforts to eradicate this cancer.”

Chin also explained that the ‘Lift your skirt, save your life’ campaign aims to reach a wider audience, encouraging younger women across Singapore to take the Pap smear test regularly.

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Singapore split

The catchy, yet questionable catch phrase has stirred mixed opinions. The blog site Everything Also Complain has slammed the ad for being against Asian morals. They also cheekily suggest that just the word ‘Free’ would have been enough to gain the attention of the Singapore public, rather than resorting to the objectifying women.

This video explains the medical procedure 

A further wave of public criticism comes from a survey carried out by The Straits Times. In a small poll of 80 people, it was found that over 60 per cent thought that the advert was ineffective and around a quarter found it offensive.

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On the other side

Much of the support recognizes the ad’s risqué nature, while pointing out that this is the intended point – to get people talking. Considering the attention this advert has generated, few would dispute this fact.

Wesley Gunter from the Breakfast Network pulls no punches in his defense of the advert. He attacks ‘self righteous’  comments made by those who have criticized it for using sex. He also makes a simple yet effective point by asking ‘have they never watched television before?’.

After all, sex does sell. In this case, sex isn’t being used to sell alcohol or underwear. The sexual undertones are used to sell something far more important – protection against cervical cancer.

Free Pap smear test

Have you had your free Pap smear test yet? Take advantage of 178 clinics offering it for free this month. Click here to see this list of clinics.

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Written by

Wafa Marican