Save the ta-tas?

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"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:

  1. 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.

  2. 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?)

  3. 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!

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Perhaps this should be applied to testicular cancer as well. As a man I would not object to "Save our tea bags", Save our family jewels, Save our nuts, Save save our balls. All would be fine with me.


I'm sorry, but I have to play devil's advocate. There are endless target audiences for a campaign to raise awareness and donations for breast cancer. That means there are endless ways to relay the message, all valid, all meant to reach diff...erent people who respond to different emotional drivers. I feel that this cause is important enough to allow for a variety of voices to represent it. Some may respond to emotional triumphant stories of survivors, while others respond to a more humorous, tongue in cheek approach. I don't agree that this objectifies women to just their breasts. It's obviously a way to brreak through the clutter of the same voice that's been used for many years, that I imagine many out there have become desensitized to. The majority of medical research causes use a very similar, very emotional tone. Maybe this different, irreverent campaign is what the fight against breast cancer needs - a fresh approach that will shake things up and break through to people who zone out the emotional approach.See More

My mother in law was diagnosed with breast cancer today! And i want everyone here to know that i think that anything that can give a victim of this horrible thing a smile or glimpse of humor is a good thing! My mother in law is a hospice nurse. She deals with cancer patients and people with disease. She watches her patients die every day! Now she is the one that has the cancer. Today as we gathered around her we tried to make her feel better about the fact that this cancer is in her. That shirt made her smile! That shirt and slogan is to lift up and not tear down! She will be having a double masectomy on wed. She is a warrior but she is not a bad person for finding humor in a save the tatas slogan! I hope that you all support the cause and the women! And anything to make them smile for just one moment!

As a cancer surgeon and husband of a breast cancer survivor who has had bilateral mastectomies, I could not agree with you more. This "save the tata's" campaign is the hight of insensitivity. While most ladies can fortunately have breast conserving surgery today, let's not forget the feelings of those brave "warriors" who could not "save their TaTas." This campaign specifically deals a blow to them as well as devaluing and dis-respcting all women! Good asinine!

Why is it that when women (and Jews, or any other group) voice their disapproval and disappointment in the way another group objectifies them, we're called "sensitive"? First, this blog was not emotional at all. It's tone was very matter-of-fact. This is the opposite of sensitive. Second, it's easy to deflect the notion of femininity onto someone who accuses the name-caller of acting or speaking inappropriately. Third, what's wrong with being "sensitive" anyway? Is it because it's often associated with women? No, it's not that Leah, the other commentors, and I are too sensitive. The problem is that you are not sensitive at all. And I love that picture of Deena Metzger.

You are WAY too sensitive!! If "Save the TATAS" helps save one woman from breast cancer then it is worth hurting your pathetic feelings a wee bit.

I didn't know whether to laugh or cry at the t-shirts, so I did both, then sent your blog along to my friends at, it's a great site with a huge community of followers. I'm sure they'll find it of interest.

Right Right Right.Their message is Wrong Wrong Wrong.Great Blog.

You're not kidding ... the PSA is revolting. Among the many aspects of it that are offensive, the argument from the female commentator that we need to appeal to/educate young women about breast cancer through "sex appeal" is especially bad. If this PSA and similar efforts are someone's idea of effectively raising breast cancer awareness with the next generation, then the progress we have made--in breast cancer awareness and feminism--is seriously in jeopardy.

How to cite this page

Berkenwald, Leah. "Save the ta-tas?." 14 October 2009. Jewish Women's Archive. (Viewed on December 3, 2023) <>.

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