Save the TaTas – Here I Go Again!

After my recent post on the Feel Your Boobies Foundation, I thought I was done. I didn’t think I had anything much more to say on this topic. It turns out; I’m not quite done. The discussion generated by that post and posts by others, seems to be continuing on Facebook and elsewhere.

Discussion, even heated discussion, is good, as long as the heat is paired with respect.

One particular recent article, The trouble with those boobies bracelets by author Peggy Orenstein, generated what, in my view, was a lack of respect by some. A few comments about that piece crossed a line.

This discussion was further fueled by the recent court ruling in Pennsylvania regarding students’ rights to wear various “boobies bracelets” (I think everyone knows by now exactly what these are) to school. The judge ruled students do have the right to wear them.

I am fine with this ruling. I would never stomp on anyone’s right for free speech or self-expression. I actually agree with the ruling.

In my mind, the “injustice” here is that parents, or perhaps all of us, have dropped the ball. We have not led by example, at least not a very good one. We have not modeled respect, dignity and compassion for women (and men) with a serious disease, a disease that kills.

Instead, we continue to perpetuate the idea that breasts are what define a woman. We continue to perpetuate the idea that breasts are what matter most.

Some organizations have chosen to get the most “bang for their buck” by using gimmicks, sex, catchy words, phrases and slogans. It’s easier to go this route. It gets people’s attention. I agree. It generates quick interest and dollars. I agree. It’s actually a pretty smart marketing strategy. I just don’t agree that it’s the right one.

Like I’ve said before young people, all people, deserve better.

As an educator, I have often struggled to get and then maintain the attention of my students. After all, if you don’t capture their attention, they won’t listen. They won’t learn anything. Teachers are always trying to come up with new techniques to light that spark of interest and then keep the fiery desire for learning going. It’s hard to compete with television, computer games, video games, movies, the internet and all the other alluring distractions that inundate young minds on a daily basis.

In our efforts to make education entertaining, we sometimes forget some of the stuff we are trying to teach is not frivolous, fun or the least bit entertaining. Some of the stuff is downright serious. Some of the stuff should never be “dumbed down”.

Topics like war, the holocaust, human suffering, civil rights, assassinations, political upheaval, revolutions, genocides and women’s rights to name a few, are serious topics.

Sometimes, kids (and the rest of us) just need to pay attention, listen and learn. Everything doesn’t necessarily need to be fun and entertaining.

Cancer certainly isn’t.

Why is there this notion that we need to make light of breasts/cancer to grab the attention/dollars of the public?

When breast cancer fundraising organizations rely on the heavy use of sexy and light-hearted campaigns, the campaigns end up becoming a distraction.

As my very wise daughter said to me recently, “Most people don’t take these kind of campaigns seriously anyway.”

Well, therein lies part of the problem. Another problem, unintentionally created, is when people buy  these items, they often stop there thinking they have done their part.

Evidence shows further charitable contributions tend to stop. People choose not to give further to other organizations more heavily invested in worthy (worthier) causes, like research.

In addition, with heavy focus on breast self-exams and awareness such organizations again, perhaps unintentionally, mislead people into believing this is enough, when clearly it is not.

These things are important and need to be addressed, but again, we need more. Worse, they desensitize people to the seriousness of this disease and contribute to sexualizing it.

Breast cancer seems to be the disease society is allowing to be sexualized on a daily basis. For another superb post on this aspect, please read Beth’s (admittedly much less wordy than mine) commentary at Calling the Shots.

Last week, I was contacted by the Save the Ta-Tas organization. The spokesperson was genuinely interested in my thoughts and respectfully pointed out to me they do funnel dollars to research. I want to thank her for taking time to read my blog and for asking for my thoughts. I appreciate that.

I applaud them for funneling dollars toward reseach, although I do not think they funnel nearly enough.

After that contact, I visited their Facebook site, but was immediately bothered by the latest special of the week, a t-shirt that said, “big or small, save them all, save the tatas.”

That slogan made me uncomfortable  angry because reading this type of thing feels like a giant step backward for women, all women, not just women with cancer.  

I know people who support these tactics and disagree with me will say things like, to each their own, don’t buy it if you don’t like it, que sera sera, get a life, get a sense of humor, get over it. Or worse.

Honestly, that’s okay, I can handle being called names.

But what I can’t do is support or accept this type of slogan, name or title. This particular organization asked for my thoughts and feelings, so I’m offering them.

And I just have to keep asking, why is there this need to use words like boobies, hooters and tatas anyway in the serious realm of breast cancer fundraising?

Does all this make me too sensitive?

Maybe. Probably. After all, I could not save my tatas, not if I wanted a better chance at a longer life. Ironically, my mother did save her tatas, but NOT her life.

Just because I don’t like the name, shouldn’t others be able to decide for themselves?

Of course!

But when will we move beyond this light-hearted approach? When will we achieve meaningful advancements in real prevention, detection, more humane treatments and ultimately a cure?

When will society want demand more?

In the meantime, is it possible for fundraising organizations to consider making tiny adjustments in their campaign tactics?

Is it possible for them to consider channeling dollars, or more dollars, to research for an actual cure?

Is change possible?

At least the conversation is taking place. That’s how change starts.

I’m done again, at least for now. As always, I hope you will share your thoughts and comments.

How do you feel about this type of awareness campaign?

Save the ta-tas. Seriously? #breastcancer #breastcancerawareness #Pinktober

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44 thoughts to “Save the TaTas – Here I Go Again!”

  1. Excellent post Nancy, and I love how you come at these issues from your position as an educator. Aside from someone who has had breast cancer, and lost family members to this disease. And that’s literally the million dollar question “Is change possible”? We shall see……but I certainly hope so.

    1. Anna, Thank you for commenting. Yes, “Is change possible?” is the million dollar question isn’t it? Time will tell, but how many lives will be lost because of the slow pace?

  2. Nancy,

    I struggle, really I do. I see both points of views and have been on both sides (actually am on both sides-I’m sort of like Switzerland). I have a young daughter who was made to change out of her Save the TaTas-Cure Breast Cancer t-shirt at high school, which infuriated me.
    I don’t know what is politically correct or incorrect anymore, I just want to see attention drawn to breast cancer so that my daughter doesn’t ever have to feel ashamed for mentioning the whatever words it takes to bring attention to cancer.

    1. Lisa, Thanks for sharing your conflicting thoughts. I know what you mean and sometimes speaking out makes us appear ungrateful of the the efforts of others. That is not my intent. I am very grateful for work that has been done, but it seems a bit stalled out on some fronts to me.

  3. Thanks for weighing in Nancy! Last week, I felt like there might be an opening and I still believe that, although things sure went south on my blog post. I still believe it’s possible, but we’re going to have to continue to take some punches to make progress.


    1. Katie, Thanks for commenting and yes, I did notice things headed a bit southward. I’m trying to keep the conversation on the high road, but we can take a few more punches if need be.

  4. Hi Nancy,
    You tell em!

    My high school English teacher told us a speech should start with an attention getting device or statement. “Now I am going to show you what NOT to do,” she said.

    She wrote SEX on the blackboard, turned back to us and said “Now that I have your attention, I will now launch into my speech.”

  5. Such an excellent commentary, Nancy. I also agree with you that sexy breast cancer awareness is “actually a pretty smart marketing strategy; I just don’t agree that it’s the right one.” When did breast cancer awareness become an excuse for having a “sexy party”? This is NOT awareness, and it is not succeeding in moving us any closer to eradicating the disease.

    Sexy awareness is fun for some people, I guess, but then what? Where is the real information that might help us to reduce the incidence of cancer, diagnose it more accurately, know how to deal with pre-cancers, prevent recurrences, and humanely treat those whose cancers do progress to stage 4.

    As a society, I think we must ask ourselves whether we want to end this epidemic or not? If we do, then when will we get REAL about breast cancer? Do we really need to water it down into a cute pink package with a sexy slogan? It hasn’t worked yet, and the sands of time keep passing.

    1. Gayle, Thank you for taking time to leave your comments here. I know you are passionate about all of this and will keep on speaking out. We are counting on you to do just that. Thank you.

  6. I have to tell you everytime I would see a “Save the TaTas” sticker on someones car my response would be “really?!” is that what it’s all about, saving the TaTas? Does this slogan really increase awareness of breast cancer, motivate a women to get a screening, decrease incidence?
    Great post Nancy

    1. Garden Lady, Thanks for sharing about your thoughts when you see this kind of thing. I know what you mean. I can’t keep from thinking that it feels as if we are going in reverse in regard to how we treat and value women.

    2. Hello Garden Lady,

      Maybe you should cover the stickers with a sticky note with “HOW ABOUT SAVING THE TA – TA S AND THEIR OWNERS? WHAT A CONCEPT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!” written on it.

  7. Nancy, in my absence from these pages, I appear to have lost my ability to form an opinion also. As I am not familiar with this form of advertising it is new to me. I will save my ‘best’ for later my friend. Hugs xo

  8. Nancy,

    First of all, thank you for recommending my blog! I was really touched.

    Secondly, your posting was beyond awesome. I have been noticing how breasts are referred to by these organizations and society at large: tatas, boobies, hooters, etc.

    These names demean everyone and further distance our society from the reality: they are called breasts. And not all of them should be saved.

    Thanks again for this brilliant posting.

    1. Beth, Like always, thanks for your support! And that blog post of yours delivered a strong message quite eloquently, so you are welcome!

  9. I guess, as you said, I just don’t like how the emphasis is put on saving the “ta-tas” instead of saving an actual person’s life.

  10. Nancy, thanks for this post, which really gets the juices going, one way or another. We have a local gift shop owned by a breast cancer survivor who insists on selling “Save the Ta Tas” merchandise in her store. I never buy it, nor do I buy “Fight Like a Girl” caps that she also sells. Even though part of the proceeds go to a charity to support breast cancer research. It’s the principal of the thing.

    I never did confront the owner about my objection to this, as I thought she might think me a bit prudish, but maybe I will engage her next time, emboldened by your post. She also encouraged me to drink all the wine I wanted, when I know that too much wine has been shown to increase risk of recurrence. Why fly in the face of that clinical research?

    Keep on keeping on with the truth about these campaigns. As you said so eloquently, we need to save lives, not tata’s or boobies or whatever people want to call them.


    1. Jan, Thanks for adding your opinions on this. Yes, I know sometimes we keep quiet so as not to appear prudish or ungrateful. I am glad Save the tatas at least contributes something to research, but it’s not nearly enough for the dollars they bring in, in my opinion.

  11. Nancy, you hit the nail right on the head! I’ve always wondered why I dislike the slogans that include “tat-tas” or “boobs”. I always thought it was because my parents disapproved of those words. That’s part of it, but the other part is that they focus on saving breasts, not saving the women behind the breasts! As someone who has lost a breast to cancer, I’m glad I’m still here WITHOUT that breast!

    1. Ginny, Thanks for sharing. Yes, the focus seems wrong and the campaigns become a distraction, even if unintentional. I’m glad you are still here too!!

  12. I ran into this blog post after seeing one too many “save the ta-tas” bumper stickers. I hate the way it objectifies and demeans women. In defense of my gender I have an almost knee-jerk reaction AGAINST breast cancer campaigns in general because of it. (It must be noted I have no family or friends that have been affected by breast cancer.) It then makes me wonder, how much damage campaigns like this are doing for the cause amongst women who want to be more than sex objects?

  13. Hi Nancy!

    I do not like these slogans either. Free trade, free speech and greed will always exist. I recently saw a tweet from a girl who bought a T-shirt at the Talladega NASCAR race -a huge promotional/$ making op for October). The shirt was a shade of pink, v-necked very low-cut and said “Save The Headlights”. She proudly had her photo made w/some team members at their tent,which she posted), and btw she still had her headlights.

    Not a BC survivor, but a cancer survivor & woman, I am appalled at these marketing slogans.

    I think a way that might some day change the conversation, would be if the men who have to go through the hardships and embarrassment of Prostate Cancer would somehow feel the “sting” of indignity- publicly.

    I mean, how would they like to see people wearing T-shirts with “Save The Family Jewels” or some other redneck insensitive slogan- just for a few dollars. It wouldn’t surprise me if it’s already out there. Oh, excuse me – some funds from the sale, of course, to go to help their brothers in the future “for the cause.”

    I don’t think we’ve begun to hit men’s nerves yet on this. When THAT happens, maybe it will help neutralize the attack on women. I know this may sound odd and maybe even sexist to some. But when decent men who get sick become targets for this kind of indecency, then (maybe) they will say “Now I know the feeling”, and take a stand besides the women.

    Just a thought- great and always relative topic. Thank you!
    Rann Patterson
    Editor – Cancer site,

    1. Rann, It’s interesting to get your perspectives as someone not directly affected by breast cancer yourself. I think you raise some very valid points about the sexist angle here. Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts. They’re always insightful.

  14. It may not be a popular opinion, but honestly my way of dealing with all this was a little levity. No cancer is not funny or sexy, but I am, and somehow I seemed to have it. Yes they are flip and sassy, but that was how I needed to express myself.

    While I was going through radiation I received a few of their shirts since I wrote about them on a blog. I kind of begged them not to send them for journalistic concerns, but I gave most out to my support group.

    Honestly their products are really nicely made and sized, and damn if it wasn’t the only thing I could wear during the last days of radiation. I had two pink “save the ta-ta’s tanks” and I wore them nearly 24-7 the week I burned.

    Sitll that doesn’t speak to the slogans which obviously make some very smart women uneasy. All I can say is that silly shirt kind of helped me and my husband deal with the very serious and painful situation. It kind of became our rallying cry.

    While my breast cancer was sort of middle of the road, I had some really difficult rehab issues, and on a day I was feeling really cranky, my “bad ass ta-ta’s” shirt cracked up the medical staff, and allowed me to feel like not just another patient.

    Finally I have a glittery “fabulous ta-ta’s” shirt that I wear on occasion. Listen I might feel different if I was older, or had mets, or just wasn’t such a wise ass.

    The last thing I will say in their defense is that the bad ass ta-ta’s shirt is very popular with motorcycle groups in Wisconsin that do fund raisers.

    I was recently the spokesperson for Making Strides Against Breast Cancer in Binghamton, NY. Our team had shirt’s that wre donated for free, but one team had yellow customized save the ta-ta’s shirts, and I have to say they were the nicest fitting, best looking shirts that day.

    By the way the social share bar is blocking some of my window, but to some it up, while I respect the feeling of people who don’t like sttts, for some of us a little sassy edge feels right and is a coping tool.


  15. Nancy, thanks for reposting this important piece. I do get offended by the Save the ta-ta’s campaign. I think the problem stems deeper than these tasteless campaigns regarding breast cancer — I think breasts are sexualized in our society like nothing else and the breast cancer campaigns reflect that. Anyway, that was a long sentence. I’m trying to re-enter the blogosphere.

    1. Beth, Welcome back! I think you’re right, the problem goes deeper. It’s still okay to objectify women. Sad, but true. Thanks for commenting, Beth.

  16. The saddest part of save the ta ta’s is that they have a monopoly on the saying. They won’t allow other non-profit organizations to raise money for cancer research with the saying. Nothing but corporate greed.

  17. I really think you are too concerned with the feminists movement instead of the idea of raising money for a cure for a serious disease. Did you ever think with what you classify” stupid or offensive” slogans are raising money for awareness and research for a disease to help? Bottom line, it’s a type of cancer that shouldn’t be & there should be a cure by now. You should really focus on the amount of money the pharmaceutical companies make off these diseases, instead of leading the world in research for a cure

    1. Scott, Thank you for sharing your thoughts. I don’t think I called anyone’s slogan stupid; do I think some are offensive? Yes. I am concerned with messaging. I do not feel objectifying women and/or trivializing a deadly disease is acceptable and that’s what some of these campaigns do under the guise of awareness. And I don’t see truckloads of dollars being earmarked for research from many such organizations either. Your point about pharmaceutical companies profiting from disease is a valid one. Thanks again for your comments.

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