Save the ta-tas?
"Boobs, boobies, titties, and ta-tas." These are not the words of a giggling 6 year-old, but the words of the nationwide Breast Cancer awareness campaign. They are illustrated by the t-shirt to the right, and a variety of other oh-so-tasteful designs. October is Breast Cancer Awareness month, and this year, campaigns have ditched the emotional appeals to save the lives of the women in your life in favor of misogynistic slogans like, "Save the titties!" and "Save Second Base!"
Obviously, I am not a fan of this message. While I usually appreciate humorous and lighthearted campaigns, the underlying message here really bothers me. It essentially says, "Forget the women, save their boobs!" Here are some basic problems with this:
It reduces women to boobs. Breast Cancer research is not, and should not be, an effort to save boobs, but an effort to save lifes.
Slogans that refer to breasts using sexual terms like "tits," or refer to a sexual act like "second base," imply that the reason we should save women's breasts (the woman's life is an afterhought) is so they can continue to provide sexual pleasure for others, particularly heterosexual men. (Nowhere does this campaign mention another fairly important function of breasts: "Save breastfeeding" anyone?)
It implies that a woman without breasts is worthless.
Just take a look at this PSA from a Canadian Breast Cancer awareness organization. Feel free to pause it and throw up when they cut the women's head out of the shot so that we are absolutely clear that we're talking about BOOBIES, and not a human being.
Jewish women have been integral in the fight against breast cancer. Rose Kushner found a lump in her breast in 1974, and used her journalism background to write articles about breast cancer and the controversies surrounding treatment. Kushner compiled her research in Breast Cancer: A Personal History and Investigative Report, which she first published in 1975. In 1986, Jackie Winnow founded the Women's Cancer Resource Center in Oakland, California -- the first center of its kind in the U.S.
Patricia Barr is another warrior for breast cancer. She founded and became one of the original Directors of the National Breast Cancer Coalition, and later founded and served as President of the Vermont Breast Cancer Network. There is also Judi Hirshfield-Bartek, another remarkable Jewish woman fighting the good fight. She serves on the board of the National Breast Cancer Coalition and the Massachusetts Breast Cancer Coalition, where she chairs the Legislative Task Force. She is also a founding member of the Jewish Women's Coalition on Breast Cancer. In this podcast, Hirschfield-Bartek discusses the impact of her family's breast cancer legacy on her own activism.
But perhaps the activist whose message most conflicts with today's "Save the boobies" campaign is Deena Metzger. Metzger is a writer, spiritual teacher and healer. Her iconic "Warrior" pose expresses her triumph over breast cancer, at once displaying her spirit, her health and vitality, and her post-mastectomy body. If there was ever a "love your body" message, this is it.
Deena Metzger taught us that the message of breast cancer awareness should be about celebrating women's health and spirit, whether or not they have breasts. Today's ridiculous "Yay boobies!" campaign teaches us that breasts are what define our worth as women. This is just so wrong.
Screw the ta-tas -- Save the Warriors!
How to cite this page
Berkenwald, Leah. "Save the ta-tas?." 14 October 2009. Jewish Women's Archive. (Viewed on March 27, 2015) <http://jwa.org/blog/save-the-ta-tas>.