Posted: Oct 02, 2013 8:00 AM
 
I understand "sex sells" and catchy slogans earn money, but I still grimace every time I read "Save the Tatas" or "I love boobies." Are we fighting for the breasts or the person?

Sometimes images and messages in the media become so commonplace we fail to notice what they're actually saying, promoting or representing, particularly if they stand for a "good cause." And sometimes, all of a sudden, in a particularly uncomfortable moment, you see the words stripped of the hype and branding and you're like "Wait. What? Where am I?"

Or maybe that's just me.

But that's exactly how it went down for me with the whole breast cancer awareness messaging. I never thought twice about it. I mean it's so good, obviously. Fighting breast cancer? Come on, no brainer.

"Save the tatas!"

"I love boobies!"

Cute, right? Catchy, effective and just cutting-edge enough to be cool. It's brilliant marketing. And let's be honest, it is marketing. It's trying to raise awareness (read: funding) for breast cancer research. Of course there's nothing wrong with that. It's right and good and necessary, and the cause needs catchy, effective slogans.

But one day as I was looking at some mug or shirt or bracelet brandished with "Save the tatas," I thought "Wait a minute. Save the breasts? What about the woman?"

What about the woman behind the breasts? Who cares about the boobs?

You support breast cancer research because you love boobies? Or is it because somebody's wife or mother or sister or daughter or friend is battling for her life?

Don't we care about the person?

And "I love boobies!?"

Really? You do? You support breast cancer research because you love boobies? Or is it because somebody's wife or mother or sister or daughter or friend is battling for her life?

Why are we replacing the human with the organ?

Oh right. Because we do that all the time. The objectification of women – reducing them to objects, parts (legs, boobs, vagina, etc.) or a commodity (something to be enjoyed, consumed or "bought" and "sold" within the patriarchal structure) – has become like air to us. We don't even see it.

Don't believe me?

Check this out: "Save the testicles!"

"I love balls!"

Sounds ridiculous, right? Well, why? What's the difference between this and "Save the tatas!"? There is no difference, other than the fact that when we apply the same objectification to males, it resonates as wrong and ridiculous, even reductive and rude.

I mean who cares about testicles? Obviously we care about the man carrying those testicles. If he has cancer, remove them! Don't think twice! Get rid of those suckers and save the human being.

This is particularly disturbing considering breast cancer often requires removal of the breasts. So does that mean the woman who had a mastectomy has failed because she didn't 'save the tatas?'

And while that's obviously what we all think when we consider mastectomies and battling breast cancer, it's hard to imagine that people don't internalize these messages on some level, as if the fight is for the breasts. This is particularly disturbing considering breast cancer often requires removal of the breasts. So does that mean the woman who had a mastectomy has failed because she didn't "save the tatas?" Why are we focusing at all on "saving" the thing that's (potentially) killing her?

What's at stake

The goal is clearly to raise money and gain attention, and obviously the breast cancer campaigns have been successful in doing so (although I know there is some concern the whole thing has become more of a business than an actual benefactor of research, but that's another article). And there's a part of me that says, "But it's just a catchy phrase, a joke, what's the big deal?"

Well the "big deal" is that these messages are internalized by men, women, boys and girls on the daily, for years and years and years, passed on to new generations, keeping alive the patriarchy we have been fighting for 150 years.

These messages become the way we think, whether we agree with them or not.

These messages form the way we understand ourselves and our places in the world.

These messages become the way we think, whether we agree with them or not.

And the scariest part is that we rarely even ask ourselves to decide. We take them in passively, unknowingly and without critique, as they shape and mold our minds and behaviors.

That's why. That's why it's a "big deal."

So yeah, next time you see "Save the tatas!" I really hope a banner flashes in your mind "Save the balls!"

Because even that is an act of resistance, and a catalyst for change. I believe they call it de-colonization of one's mind, and it's a beautiful thing.

Let's save the woman. Forget the damn "boobies."

More on women's rights

Why is Instagram blocking breastfeeding photos?
Even royalty can't escape misogyny
Victoria's (not so) Secret attack on our daughters

Topics: breast cancer awareness