No more “Save the Tatas,” please

I originally published this two years ago with a title that had a BIG curse word in it. I am re-posting with a cleaned up title because there were people who wouldn’t read the post because they couldn’t get past the very beginning (though my anger at this issue remains the same and I proudly stand by the original post’s title in all its glory).

There is also a follow-up to the original post that shows why focusing on breasts instead of people leaves open a huge amount of cultural space for someone to co-opt the cause and exploit it to the fullest under the guise of “helping” or “awareness.”


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 forget 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 the SCAR project website 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 people looking back at us from these photos.

Those afflicted with breast cancer aren’t tatas. They are people. Most are women. All 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. If you have other suggestions for where one should donate, please leave them in comments.

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9 thoughts on “No more “Save the Tatas,” please

  1. I really think that you’re looking too much into these slogans. My family has been affected by breast cancer twice through my Nana. She was diagnosed twice and survived it twice and yes, lost one of her “tatas.” These are hyper-sexualized but honestly, what isn’t in this generation? From dirty hashtags on twitter to a show that created the phrase “that’s what she said.” Sexuality is everywhere. So using this as a way to grab people’s attention isn’t a bad thing in my opinion. Even if, God forbid, my Nana did lose her fight with breast cancer, I know she’d be proud to know that her granddaughter is doing all she can to raise awareness to the disease even if that mean wearing a shirt that says “save the tatas.” My Nana doesn’t see her scar as a reminder of what she went through, she sees it as a reminder that she SURVIVED! Would she prefer to have two healthy breasts? I’m sure she would. But she doesn’t. And that’s not a reminder that she lost, it’s a reminder that she won. I recently ran in a 5k for colon cancer awareness and it was called “The Undie 5000” and runners were urged to wear underwear to bring awareness to the part of the body that colon cancer affects. These “save the tatas” shirts are used for the same purpose. It’s not to turn breast cancer into a sexual thing, it’s to raise awareness and that is an attention grabber whether you like it or not. So I’ll agree to disagree with your article, just hope that you will be a little more open-minded. Also, I’m glad you change the title of your post.

  2. And another side note, if I got diagnosed with breast cancer, I know my grandmother would wear a shirt that said that because while she did lose a breast, I know she wouldn’t want the same for me. But that doesn’t mean she would only focus on me losing my breasts, it would be on me NOT losing my life. It’s a way of supporting and raising awareness, not making sure our women have boobs.

  3. “A little more open-minded” is incredibly condescending. Why don’t you be more open-minded to the ways in which campaigns that focus on breasts instead of people dehumanize women?

    I’m also not sure why your experience with your Nana is the most powerful anecdote and one that should be considered the final interpretation of impact of these campaigns. I’m thrilled that your Nana is a survivor. And I do truly hope that she see her scars as a sign of celebration. But watching the Scar Project slideshow is enough to prove that celebration is not a universal experience.

    Dehumanizing women in order to win this fight (what fight, exactly?) is not worth it to me.

    You can continue to support whatever organizations/campaigns you want. I’ll continue to donate my money and my efforts to the organizations that actually help people living with cancer, that are actively funding and doing research, and that treat women as whole people. If that makes me close-minded, then I will own that mantle.

  4. Thank you for this post. I agree with so much of what you said. Save the ta-tas has always felt dehumanizing and objectifying to me. Thank you also for sharing the link. The pictures are incredibly powerful.

  5. Pingback: Respecting Breast Cancer | Boston Bakes for Breast Cancer

  6. Thank you Thank you Thankyou! I thought I was the only one who felt that “Save the Tatas” and shirts that say “Feel your Boobies” was degrading. Its not about Tatas its about my friend Susan who lost her breast and is starting chemo to SAVE HER LIFE!!!!!!!!!

  7. Pingback: “Tatas” Aren’t What Need Saving « mebrandstetter1208

  8. well, you know i agree with you 100%. lately, i’ve had a lot of friends on FB posting the loss of friends, family, coworkers and other beloved people. then i see pink and i feel sick to my stomach. i’d like to save the people.

  9. Pingback: A Trans* Woman on Sandman, and the Objectification of Our Bodies | Shadow's Crescent

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