It’s early October, and that means I’m bracing myself for when the whole nation suddenly turns pink and social media turns to talk of boobs.
I don’t want to “save the ta-tas,” and I don’t need to see some football team wearing pink gloves or socks for a day.
Women are more than their breasts.
And before you call me a prude and tell me to relax (or take the stick out of my butt—yeah, I know how this goes), hear me out.
Research shows that breast cancer is the third-leading killer of women when it comes to disease. The American Cancer Society estimates that in 2018 alone there will be 266,120 new cases of invasive breast cancer and 40,920 breast cancer deaths among U.S. women.
There’s nothing sexy about this, nothing cute about cancer. And if takes reducing the entirety of a woman—all that she is and feels and thinks and does and believes and fights for—to a single body part in order to get you to care about her, then you’re as big of a problem to society as cancer.
Over the years, I’ve faced multiple health problems and scares related to my breasts. So far, they’re still attached to my body. But I would cut them off tomorrow, if it meant living instead of dying. Women should be able to make the serious decision to save their life (be it enduring chemo or radical surgery) without having to agonize over whether or not they’ll ever be considered “a real woman” again. Since when does womanhood, femininity, and beauty rest on a pair of fatty glands? Since forever, apparently.
I’ve watched friends and family suffer from cancer—I’ve watched some of them survive and some of them leave this earth much too soon. I want to see society do more for women. I don’t want to see women sexualized or objectified or commodified. Porn does that already. Movies and magazines and music do that already. When it comes to raising money to fight cancer, please find a different punchline.
According to her website, Julia Fikse created the Save the Ta-tas® Foundation and Ta-tas® Brand in 2004 as “a way to fight breast cancer using laughter and fun as a way to fight a serious disease.” I’m not sure how successful she’s been, but the idea to sexualize and objectify women—reducing them to their boobs—caught on. There have been October campaigns for “I [Heart] Boobies,” fundraisers for “jugs,” and merchandise sold to “save second base.”
A 2012 HuffPo article by Jessica S. Holmes shares other advertising on the subject: “A PSA by Rethink Breast Cancer that hit airwaves in 2009 featured a young woman in a bikini prancing around a pool. After a few lustful glances from the men poolside, the text appears: ‘You know you like them. Now it’s time to save the boobs.’ For years now, longtime NYC shock jock Howard Stern has used breast cancer awareness month to perform breast exams on sexy models over the airwaves.” How does this help women who are suffering from cancer or those who will suffer at some point in their lifetime? Does cancer have to be sexy to warrant attention? Is October just an excuse to see more boobs or feel a woman up?
Women are dying from breast cancer. These women matter. Breast cancer awareness isn’t about saving breasts. It’s about saving lives. To think that men will only care about dying women if we make them afraid to lose their playtime with ta-tas is insulting—to women and to men.
The message to men is this: You care about boobs, so you should care about women.
Wrong message, people.
Men should care about women because women are human beings and as such should be afforded basic dignity. Men should care about women because men have mothers and sisters and daughters and wives. Men should care about women because they’d be bloody lost without us.
Do men not care for flat-chested women? Do women who’ve had mastectomies not matter anymore? Does our worth depend on how sexy our body is in the eyes of men? Does our worth depend on how functional our body is for male sexual pleasure? Enough.
I’m a woman. Even if I don’t have breasts. And I matter, period.
It’s interesting that October is also Domestic Violence Awareness Month. In the past four years, there have been 24 arrests of NFL players stemming from domestic violence; this figure doesn’t include rape or assault charges. When I see NFL teams wearing pink, I don’t want to donate money to breast cancer research. I want to scream.
I want those coaches to do the right thing and suspend or fire those players who are out on bail awaiting trial. Even in cases where video evidence shows a player punching his partner or knocking a woman to the ground, carrying her around unconscious or breaking her jaw, coaches and players care more about winning games than they do about women. No thank you. Keep your pink socks and gloves in the drawer, and keep your damn hands to yourself.
I’d rather never see another just-for-show pink ribbon, if it meant caring about cancer year round. And I’d rather never see another “boob campaign,” if it meant elevating women to the same status as men who matter just because they breathe. Our bodies and how much the opposite sex enjoys them should have nothing to do with our worth.
You might argue that I’m over-reacting. That this is “a joke” and it’s “for a good cause.” Even if the intention is to raise money for breast cancer awareness, the underlying message is the same as it’s been for centuries: A woman’s worth depends on two things: 1) how well her body conforms to society’s standard of beauty and 2) her sexual usefulness to men. This message isn’t funny. It’s demeaning and damaging.
Of course, maybe I am making much ado about nothing. After all, I’m writing about breast cancer and domestic violence when a large portion of the Internet is busy arguing that gendered color is a social construct. Maybe pink ribbons will be banned before next October rolls around.
This article has been updated since it first appeared at Blunt Moms.
Marissa Glover teaches and writes and shares her thoughts more than necessary, which she considers a form of charitable giving. If it counted as a tax deduction, she’d be rich. Her writing has appeared in various places in print and online, but her best work has always been on her parents’ refrigerator.