Fuck “Save the Tatas”

Too many in my life have had breast cancer.  Most have lost one or both of their breasts.  One lost her breasts and then her life.  She was 33.

I used to think that looking for a “cure” was the answer to the cancer problem and was a worthy focus of attention.  Now, I wish that much more effort was put into awareness and prevention than the pipe dream of a cure.  While a cure is a nice idea and I, of course, want there to be a cure – today if possible -, the reality is that there won’t be one today.  Or tomorrow.  Or even next year.  And in the meantime, there are women (and some men) fighting for their health and their lives, most of them with no family history of breast cancer.  There are carriers of the BRCA gene that must make decisions about treatment before the cancer has even shown itself (and that is only if they made the decision to get their DNA tested for the gene).

I also used to think campaigns that focused on breasts were cute and fine.  “Save the Tatas” made me giggle.  They don’t make me giggle anymore.

There are survivors living with conditions and scars (both physically and emotionally) that remind them daily of the cancer that haunted their bodies and minds, that continue to haunt them with every check-up at the oncologist’s office or every daily morning prevention pill.  Focusing on breasts and breasts alone obscures the reality and the faces of the people who are at the center of the fight against breast cancer.  It reminds the survivors who either don’t have their breasts or have scars across the breasts they do have that they are now not as wholly feminine as they once were (and they never will be).  They may have beaten the cancer but they lost their breasts, the things everyone seems to actually care about.

And for those who don’t survive their cancer, well, I think they, more than any other group, show how silly a focus on breasts/titties/tatas/jugs is.

[Plus, this bothers me also for the simple reason that since this is a cancer that mainly strikes women, it has to be about the body part, a body part that is so hyper-sexualized in our society that breastfeeding a child is a salacious public act.  Oh, what would the menz do without the boobies to look at, fondle, and drool over?  Save those tatas, ladies!]

So, this October, this month of Breast Cancer Awareness, PLEASE remember that we are focused on this because we want to SAVE THE WOMEN.  We want to SAVE PEOPLE.  We want to SAVE LIVES.  Tatas – those would be nice to save if it’s possible.  But fuck saving the tatas if you lose the woman.

On that note, I want to point to something I found out about today.  The SCAR Project [Possibly NSFW].  From their website:

The SCAR Project is a series of large-scale portraits of young breast cancer survivors shot by fashion photographer David Jay. Primarily an awareness raising campaign, The SCAR Project puts a raw, unflinching face on early onset breast cancer while paying tribute to the courage and spirit of so many brave young women.

Dedicated to the more than 10,000 women under the age of 40 who will be diagnosed this year alone The SCAR Project is an exercise in awareness, hope, reflection and healing. The mission is three-fold: Raise public consciousness of early-onset breast cancer, raise funds for breast cancer research/outreach programs and help young survivors see their scars, faces, figures and experiences through a new, honest and ultimately empowering lens.

Clicking on this link will take you to their site where the images of these women with their breasts exposed immediately begin playing on a slideshow.  Be prepared because you will witness what surviving breast cancer looks like for actual survivors.  I love this project and I hope that it does bring more awareness to life after breast cancer.  More than anything, I hope that it reminds people of the faces and the people who are affected by this cancer.  That it brings our gaze upward from the chests to the eyes of the women looking back at us from these photos.

Those afflicted with breast cancer aren’t tatas.  They are women.  They are fighters.  And hopefully, they are survivors.

If you are looking for a place to donate money to help in the fight against breast cancer, I suggest looking into the Breast Cancer Research Foundation and the American Cancer Society (the latter per Courtney’s suggestion in the comments).

Re-posted on October 2, 2011.


31 thoughts on “Fuck “Save the Tatas”

  1. There was as an ad campaign in the San Francisco Bay Area in 2000 that spoofed popular Victoria’s Secret and Calvin Klein ads – each ad showed a provocative woman with a visible mastectomy scar. As you can imagine hell rained down on The Breast Cancer fund, and the ads were pulled down. I thought it was such a shame then, and I continue to today. If we (collectively as a society) cannot handle what breast cancer ACTUALLY looks like, we have no business pretending to give a crap.

    It’s not a joke, or a prop to use to sell more product…it’s cancer.


  2. Your last line is eloquent, simple and very, very true. The idea that we have to be reduced to our body parts in order to appeal to public purse strings is chilling. Thank you for driving the point home.

  3. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

    My grandmother survived breast cancer. My mom is surviving breast cancer. Neither my mom nor my grandma were all that invested in saving their breasts (though Mom is glad she could have a lumpectomy because of the shorter recovery time).

    I’m cynical about all the marketing that treats cancer as more important if it keeps women from appearing symmetrical and patriarchy-compliant to onlookers, you know? To wit, neither my aunt nor her doctor detected her colon cancer in time to successfully treat it, partly because its earliest side effect was to make her lose weight, as she’d be trying to do (and told by her doctor to do) for years. “Whatever you’re doing, keep it up” turned out to be really awful advice.

  4. I have my mammogram today, and posted a link to this essay in honor of those who actually have breast cancer. The marketing of breast cancer awareness is so ubiquitous now that I am cynical about how much of the money goes to the cause.

  5. I was at a shoe store the other day and saw a pair of socks that said Save the Tatas. Does the money from the sale of these socks even go to a foundation that researches breast cancer? It certainly didn’t seem like it…..ughhhh

  6. Pingback: Why “Save The Tatas” Is Gross, Demeaning and Counter-Productive | HAY LADIES!

  7. I really enjoyed your article, and really felt the last sentence was beautiful. My mother died of breast cancer 1.5 years ago at the age of 53, she was first diagnosed at 35. I always felt offended when I saw the “save the tatas” bumper stickers. Although having a mastectomy/lumpectomy is life/image altering I can assure you my mother would have went through it 100 more times to be here today. I am supporting the American Cancer society, their commercial says it all “Wishing for more birthdays, and less cancer”.
    Thanks again for this article.

  8. I don’t support the use of animals as ” models” (victims) used in cancer research by these organizations. Other than the the BRCA gene, Crappy diet is the main cause of this, and other cancers. We get it from eating animals and then try to cure it by torturing animals. Go vegan! Prevent cancer! Why should we make other creatures suffer and die by the millions, because of our diseases? They do not belong to us any more than women belong to men, or blacks belong to whites.

  9. You not liking cancer research using animals in one thing. Saying that every woman who eats meat and gets breast cancer and doesn’t have the BRCA gene has caused her own cancer is so judgmental that I can’t even process it. But I’ll let those in my life who have suffered from breast cancer know that you have figured out their problem. Thanks so much.

  10. Pingback: Fuck “Save the Tatas” « SCATX: Speaker's Corner in the ATX

  11. Pingback: Sunday Slacking – Yeah, I wish :D | Evil Widgets

  12. your rude and ridiculous. yes the money goes to the foundation and words like yours are hurtful, no one believes that this is degrading to women, its a good cause, thanks for your such meaningful language (:

  13. No – you know what’s rude and ridiculous? When you read someone’s personal blog and on it they say that someone really close to them died of breast cancer at the age of 33 and that all they want is for people to once again refocus their attention when it comes to breast cancer awareness on the person and not their breasts – and instead of acknowledging that person’s actual reality and the shit that they’ve gone through to get this place, you just simply call them rude and ridiculous while remaining Anonymous.

    It’s not a good cause.

    [removed by scATX]

    So, yeah, I’ll say it loud and clear and I don’t equivocate: FUCK SAVE THE TATAS. SAVE THE WOMEN. SAVE THE PEOPLE.

    Get out my face.

  14. This may seem offensive to those whose loved ones have suffered from cancer, but Anon’s statement is scientifically true. Studies prove that meat eating is a major cause of most major illnesses.

    Aside from that, so are chemicals, particularly those found in antipersperants and deoderants, which is why many more men are getting breast cancer. Antiperspirants are the worst. Sweating is the body’s way of eliminating toxins; blocking that ability allows toxins, including the chemicals you apply to your body with these commercial chemical products, keeps them looked in the body and causes disease.

    You say in this article that you are interested in cancer prevention, as do so many people I know, yet they continue with the unhealthy diets and keep using unneccesary chemicals on their bodies. Funny thing is, cutting out the meat and the nasty chemical products most households are full of for cleaning and personal hygiene would also cut down on environmental pollution, which is also a cause of cancer.

  15. It is offensive.

    I’m glad that you have it all figured out. I also hope that your meatless, chemical-free life means that you don’t get cancer one day.

    This post is not about judging cancer victims or survivors. And I refuse to do it. Because I know too many. And I know that one of the healthiest people in my entire life died at the age of 33. But I guess it could have been her deodorant use.

  16. Please try to be a part of the solution…as “save the tatas” and other programs are….being negative about an org. that is DOING something doesn’t do any good for what is needed. I lost a mother to breast cancer. I knew she was a person and a damn good one at that! Your approach is horrible. Can’t you find a way to work with these organizations that have and are providing hope for so many instead of putting them down?
    I find your article insensitive to those families who have lost mothers, daughters, sisters to this horrible disease. Many families find comfort in doing things with these orgs. in hopes of saving someone elses mom, sister or daughter. And believe me…these lost loved ones were not just viewed as breasts.

  17. I am so sorry about your mother. So sorry.

    I don’t know why, though, I need to work with organizations whose approach to breast cancer awareness I disagree vehemently.

    Look – if these organizations help people with cancer and provide hope, then I’m glad they are doing something good. But I won’t back down from the fact that they are exploiting boobs as a way to gain support and following. Too many survivors don’t have boobs. “Save the tatas” leaves them behind. I refuse to.

    Also, just because I stand against the way in which these organizations market themselves, that does not make me the problem here. Why is it my opinion that needs to change and not the way that these organizations relate to breast cancer fighters/survivors/victims?

    I can’t tell other families how to deal with breast cancer and its aftermath. I can just talk about how it has affected me and mine. And that is what I have done. I stand by it.

    Again, I’m sorry about your mom.

  18. You’re absolutely right.
    I should respect your feelings and thoughts on what you went through and so I apologize if I was insulting in any way.
    I do think they focus on boobs,tatas whatever you wanna call em…because that’s where breast cancer is…and that’s what these orgs are working against.

    I understand where you’re coming from I do, But by negatively putting another org down? how does that help anyone?

  19. It’s not the org, per se. It’s the way they market themselves.

    [removed by scATX]

    I think one of the things that Race for the Cure does that is amazing is give out those pink papers where you can write “in remembrance of” or “in celebration of” so when you do the race, you get to see not only the names of people who have fought breast cancer but the people whose lives have been touched by that fight. For me, that is a much more powerful message and much more emotional than “save the tatas” and serves as a wonderful reminder that this is a fight on behalf of people, not a body part.

    I understand why these organizations do what they do. I used to like them. But, for me, they now only serve to remind me that for the years the person close to me who died from breast cancer actually fought the cancer, she didn’t actually have breasts. And that I would, in a second, cut my own off with a butter knife if I could bring her back.

    I don’t want to put down the fight for awareness and prevention but I don’t want to do it at this expense either. I guess I am choosing that battle.

    Thanks for your kind note. I appreciate the dialogue. I really do.

  20. scatx,

    I am very appreciative of the fact that you posted this. Although my initial reaction was to get angry at the title, you have some very valid points and you really made me think.

    I myself have had a lump removed leaving me a little lopsided which, without the love and support that I have, I would be self conscious about.
    I do believe in the early detection campaigns but You really made me about think how there is a great need for more support for our survivors. It’s a hard disease to battle.
    I’m glad I took the time to read what you wrote and read your reply as well. while I may not agree with your title I understand why you wrote it. Your reply is really what got to me…so thank you for opening your heart to tell me these things

    I’m glad I talked to you.

  21. Pingback: This is ultimate result of stuff like “Save the Tatas” « SCATX: Speaker's Corner in the ATX

  22. How hard is it to see that the focus is not breasts – it’s just a means to an end by building a brand that will appeal. The slogan is “Funding research to save lives” – not save breasts, LIVES, which as you said should be the focus. It is.

  23. The name of the organization is “Save the Tatas.” I think their messaging is VERY clear. They could have named themselves “Research to Save Lives.” But they didn’t. Because they are using boobs and the sexual exploitation of cancer victims to drum up money. I’m never going to be okay with that. Never.

  24. Me, either. I’m with you. It’s NOT okay. Sexsationalize, sexploitation….It’s cancer and it’s a disease and it’s killing wo(men) and THAT IS THE MESSAGE….. bluntly. We are not a brand to be built. We are women with a disease that must be cured and prevented in future generations. It’s THAT simple.

  25. Look at this shit: http://www.upworthy.com/nobody-is-immune-to-breast-cancer-not-even-wonder-woman?c=utw1 On Upworthy, too. At least Charlie Sheen’s porn star girlfriend is probably genuinely invested in her breast health. Her advocating breast exams is actually less offensive to me than Wonder Woman. (Nothing wrong with Wonder Woman; this isn’t her doing.)
    I’m coming to the conclusion that we, as a society, are incapable of addressing breast cancer in any meaningful way. It’s up to the people directly affected to take it seriously. And because campaigns like this are so stupid, I feel stupid doing self breast exams. I just skip it, because the whole topic has become cartoonish and I don’t want to be involved. Yes, I know that’s not not helpful.
    But despite all the “feminazi” and health freak things I’ve been involved with in my life, I’ll admit I’ve only done the breast exam once, and that was when my OB/GYN asked me to demonstrate that I knew how.
    (Are we trying to make men responsible for doing the exams? Nice ads if that’s the goal, but it’s hard enough to get guys to take even partial responsibility for things that affect them, like contraception. I’m sick of shit like this being ok as long as it’s nerdy. Nerds are cute, but can be assholes just like everybody else.)

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