A few weeks ago, in a not particularly bad mood, I unloaded on a website called Save the Tatas. It’s all about chipper, cute little bumper stickers and T-shirts, I opined, that trivialize breast cancer and make me want to pull out a sledgehammer. To me, the problem is that breast cancer isn’t really about breasts (or tatas); it’s about death.
More recently, I got what I have to believe is a well-meaning comment from one TM, somebody who sports a Save the Tatas bumper sticker and hasn’t yet run into me and my sledgehammer. Here it is:
Though I understand your concern, I believe you may have mistaken the purpose of “save the tatas”. Yes, breasts are nice to have, but when faced with cancer, they are nothing. You stated, “Cancer in your breasts doesn’t kill you; it’s simply where cancer can start. You stop worrying about your breasts really quickly — and start worrying about sites where the breast cancer can metastasize. Places like your liver, lungs, bones and brain that are a bit more vital than your cleavage. Places where the cancer will kill you.” I could not agree with you more. However, I believe that ’save the tatas’ is directed more towards gaining funds to find a cure for breast cancer, and not actually saving the breast once cancer has been diagnosed. If a cute, catchy phrase will encourage other people to donate their money to find a cure, then lets come up with cute, catchy phrases. I truely am sorry for you and those who have already lost their breasts to cancer. But, I will look beyond myself and place a sticker on my car in hopes that a cure will be found before too many other women are affected.
Oh, dear. Time to breathe deeply and count to 10. Think blissful, peaceful thoughts and concentrate on world harmony! Inhale newness and life, exhale conflict and lingering malevolence! Aspire to a higher state of being, of acceptance, of love! Then —
Oh, shut up. Save it for your 5:45 yoga class, you nirvanic twit.
Again, I do think this comment — and probably the moronic bumper stickers and T-shirts, as well — are basically born of good intentions, if not good grammar and proper spelling. Maybe they raise all kinds of money for breast-cancer research and prevention. Maybe their checks, unlike their tatas, don’t bounce. We can always hope, can’t we?
But I do wonder about a couple of things. It’s possible that I’m the only breast cancer survivor on planet earth who is deeply offended by STTT. But frankly, I doubt it. (Cancer Bitch, where are you when I need you?) In that case, why in the world adopt a slogan that antagonizes at least some women who have been most affected by this dread disease?
And, please, for God’s sake, spare me your pity for my bilateral mastectomy. I thought I had made that clear: I don’t pity myself and I don’t want anybody else’s pity. The fact is, I have been overwhelmingly fortunate. I’ve survived 13 years and am beginning to contemplate social security; I’ve lived to see both my children grow up; I’ve aged enough that I can no longer die young.
Unlike my friends Martha and Cindy and Clare and Roxy and Alice, I have had a future. Sometimes, I feel as if I am aging for all of us, trying to do the best I can for the rest of them, to honor them whenever I can with my own imperfect, but (so far) salvaged life.
But somehow, with the Tata people, it always gets back to breasts and a wink and a nudge. Why be serious about life or death or illness, when you can be cutesy? It’s so easy to whistle in the dark when you’ve never really been there.
(Copyright 2009 by Ruth Pennebaker)
I’m with you, Ruth. STT is a symptom of the trivialization that has crept all through public discourse, like one of those choking vines. The problem is that if the media and other institutions keep feeding Jane Q. Public pap, eventually pap is all JQP will be able to digest.
This twit is not capable of understanding that you grieve, not for the loss of your breasts, but of so many friends to this awful, not-so-cutesy disease.
First of all, I have never used the term “tata” for a breast, though I figured out that that’s what this campaign is about saving. The slogan should be: Stop them at the breast. Or: keep out of the nodes. This reminds me of the Komen billboards that showed the torso of a woman in a sleeveless shirt, with the words (something like): If you’re going to stare at my breasts, you might as well donate to keep them.
How much money does Save… collect and where does it go?
I thought the woman’s reply to you was truely [sic] thoughtful.
But the campaign seems coy: We can’t even call a breast a breast, and we want you to save them because they’re sexual. How would men react to a Save the Balls campaign?
My mother died of it when I was 18. She was 49. My sister has it now. I’m ok so far. The next generation of girls in the family, our precious daughters, are scared. There is not one single cute thing about living with this fear.
I would be interested to know how much of the money they collect is actually spent on cancer research, and how much on more tasteless slogans and bumper stickers. I guess I’m just a suspicious type. Who is paid for this stuff?
There is so much wrong with “Save the TaTas” that I can’t even go there in a comment. I teach Women’s Health and ended up on a soapbox in front of my undergraduate class over the issue last semester. They listened politely and waited patiently until I got back down.
Have you read Barbara Ehrenriech’s “Welcome to Cancerland”? It was published in Harpers Magazine in 2001. Another really good read (not as fun but gets the blood boiling) is Samantha King’s Pink Ribbons.
Brigindo — I’m a great admirer of Barbara Ehrenreich’s and thought her article was great. I haven’t read King’s book, though.
Another excellent book is also on the horizon: Wisenberg, S.L. THE ADVENTURES OF CANCER BITCH Univ. of Iowa (Adult NONFICTION) $25.00 Mar. 1, 2009. It’s written by my friend Cancer Bitch, who commented above.
” I believe that ’save the tatas’ is directed more towards gaining funds to find a cure for breast cancer, and not actually saving the breast once cancer has been diagnosed.” This actually had me rolling on the floor. Did this statement come from the mouth of the Miss Teen USA South Carolina contestant, or a Katie Couric interview with Sarah Palin? Fantastic and frightening.
Thanks! Looking forward to reading it.
Save the Tatas has been offputting to me as well.
Dear Cancer Bitch: Men are all 12-year olds at heart. Men would not only not be offended or think it trivializing, men would think “Save the Balls” both funny and appropriate to raise money for testicular cancer. Women, being for the most part more mature, thoughtful, sensitive creatures, need not apologize for taking offense at STTT. Most women I know, survivors or not, would be mildly offended to appalled. But those of us who still find every fart funny would be glad to start and contribute to STB.
A lot of people feel they need to trivialize things that are too big for them to think about. Chunk up big scary thoughts into small, funny chunks and somehow it’s easier to deal with – and easier to be in denial that it could ever really happen to them. Doesn’t make it right…just makes it human. If they truly are raising money for the cause, I say let them play in their side of the sandbox and we’ll stay on our side.
I’m not going to buy their merchandise, but then, we live in an age when every conceiveable item can be emblazoned with a pink ribbon and sold for twice its normal value because that somehow makes it more meaningful. But I think the real reason there is so much pink ribbon stuff is because it makes people lots of money, money that comes from vulnerable patients, survivors and families.
Dear god. Are there really people in the world who are that stupid?
Although I’ve so far been fortunate enough to evade this hideous disease, many friends have had to contend with it. Occasionally I join one of those breast cancer walk-a-thons. The pink ribbons and the pink stuffed animals that festoon these events offend, because they do trivialize. They trivialize not only women who have been afflicted with a life-threatening disease but ALL women, us little girlie things who have to be talked down to if we are to cope.
“Save the Tatas”? Please. Take it to Hooters!