Breast cancer awareness campaigns often rely on a culture of misogyny and objectification in order to get their funding. They use slogans such as “save the tatas”, “I ❤ boobies”, or “save second base” to grab attention and get male sponsorship. I will see men walking hand in hand with their girlfriends on the street wearing t-shirts bearing slogans like “I ❤ boobies”, and presumably the guise of raising cancer awareness gives him the free-pass to wear a shirt that normally would not be received well by his partner due to its crudeness.
The slogan is “save the tatas” when it should be “save the women.” The campaigns focus on breasts as objects of value that need saving, that cancer is bad because it destroys these pleasure-giving objects, when really the focus should be on how women themselves are worth saving. Women are people with value; women should not be valued as “the things that carry breasts.”
The focus on “save the tatas” instead of “save the women” is also disrespectful towards those women who have experienced breast cancer. Women who have life-saving mastectomies do not need to be told that they have lost what gives them value in the eyes of men. When a woman’s life was saved because she removed her breasts, she does not need to be told that she has lost the thing men felt that she was worth saving for.
This is textbook objectification, in which breasts are a stand-in for women’s lives and are prioritized before them. This is reminiscent of other campaigns such as “slutwalks”, which purport to be about putting and end to rape culture, but truly are about objectifying women further. Campaigns which should be about the rights and welfare of women are twisted into campaigns focused on pleasing the male gaze. Isn’t saving women’s lives enough of a cause to get behind? Do we really need to reduce the message to a tacky, sexist one in order to get public support?