Opinion: Is 'Saving the Ta-tas' Okay?

It’s October, and you know what that means. No — not waiting to see what offensive Halloween costume is going to make headlines this year. It’s National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, which means it’s the time of the year that NFL and college football programs alike “go pink” by pulling out their subtle pink gloves while their cheerleaders pick up their bubble gum pink pom-poms to show support for breast cancer research. “Save the ta-tas” magnets are slapped on just about every large SUV you drive by, and companies are selling slightly provocative t-shirts and coffee mugs with phrases like “save the hooters.”

Around this time every year, I sit back and wonder: “Is all this provocative merchandise for breast cancer research okay?”

Now, full disclosure, I have not had anyone around me, such as a friend or family, affected by breast cancer, so my opinion is purely one of an outsider. But I would argue that some of the “breast focus” associated with the hype can be distasteful — especially when I consider the lack of publicity that other cancers receive. There aren’t cute bumper stickers or NFL teams’ support for prostate cancer, the most common form of cancer that affects men, according to everydayhealth.com.

So, why breast cancer? The mission statement for “save the ta-tas” uses laughter to help fight a serious disease — that’s a mission I can get behind. But at times, the casualness of it can be a bit distracting for me. I wouldn’t want people saying “save the ta-tas” if I were a victim of breast cancer. It’s understandable that everyone has different ways of coping, but for some people, the “ta-ta” publicity comes off as too nonchalant when addressing a serious matter.

In my opinion, it's about the people, not the body parts. Boiling down breast cancer support with a “save the boobies” sticker is like boiling down women to only their breasts. Are we, as women, not seen for more than anything other than our bodies? The pattern is a regression from breasts to “ta-tas” to “boobies” to “save second base,” which makes me wonder, what’s next?

Ever since the creation of the movement in 2004, many people have grown to use the phrase “save the ta-tas” along with other similar phrases. My concern is if the pattern continues, we could reach a point that is no longer light-hearted but rather downright disrespectful. For me, this begs the question: Where’s the line?

Despite the beautiful pink movement, the reality is that cancer is ugly. It tears lives and families apart all the time. It does deserve to be in the news, raise awareness and have research for a cure. When the focus is on the boobs and not the cancer, we can easily forget just how damaging cancer really is. According to the American Cancer Society, among U.S. women in 2017, there was an estimated 252,710 new cases of invasive breast cancer reported. Additionally, the Susan G. Komen foundation reports that breast cancer is the most common form of cancer in African-American women. Devastating facts such as these could possibly be overlooked when the focus is more on the body part itself rather than the woman, her family and her friends.

The passion behind the “save the ta-tas” comes from supporting women and the network of people who have been or will be affected by breast cancer. The best thing we can do is realize it’s not about the boobs — it is about the women.