Thursday, October 10, 2013

Save the Moms!

So October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. One fall during my junior year of college, my parents called me. My mom had breast cancer. She's been okay for long enough now that the chance for reoccurrence is pretty low. But now October is different for me now since it's impossible not to forget especially when I see things like this:

via Instagram
I concealed the user who shared this on purpose.

"Saving the Tatas" and "I [heart] boobies" things are my least favorite part of this time of year. My first thought when I see these slogans is that the people who made them up only care about my mom's breasts, my breasts, anyone's breasts! But not about the people themselves. I know that can't be right so I assume that most of the people who have things like this care about women and do not want people to die of breast cancer and just like saying risqué things. But, it still makes me feel uncomfortable because it does seem like the focus of this type of awareness is just on the sexualized nature of breasts.

I'm 27 and no longer breast feed so I could care less about my mom's breasts. But I care about my mom. My mom is a whole wonderful person and she would be still be my wonderful mom even if she had a double mastectomy and didn't have reconstructive surgery (this is not necessarily what happened to my mom). She would not be able to be my mom if she had died of cancer. So maybe another part of what distresses me is that these slogans obscure the real stakes when it comes to detecting breast cancer. It's not about about one part of your body--it's your whole life.

via Instagram
For some reason I found this one particularly galling.

I also am incredibly suspicious of corporations who seem to use Awareness to simply to promote their products. I don't really ascribe any motive to large corporations other than increasing profits. For example, I don't think companies that sell yogurt really care they just want me to buy their yogurt so they say they'll give some non-profit 10 ¢ for every cup of yogurt sold.

I am looking at you Lilly Pulitzer!
(I may end up buying this murfee but
that will be because I like the print.)

While, I don't ascribe the same motive to smaller companies that are run by one or a few people. It is still so odd to see people trying to get me to buy pink things to so that the company selling them can share profits with the American Cancer Society or the Komen Foundation or some other non-profit that is related to breast cancer. I would prefer to give my money directly to the non-profit organizations that help people with breast cancer or that raise awarness.

I'm sorry that I've been so cynical today. Like I said, I imagine that most people who want to "save the tatas" are genuine in their attempts to raise awareness about breast cancer and to raise money for research. It just rubs me the wrong way. And, I know different people react differently to different things so saying "lets save the tatas" might be comfortingly humorous to someone in circumstances similar to mine. I just needed to vent. Thank you for reading.

Update: I found this article on "Pinkwashing" at Sociological Images, the Lisa Wade does a much better job of explaining how this practice is sometimes problematic and she's found a couple of really egregious examples of pink washing.


  1. I am so sorry your mom had to deal with cancer, but am relieved to hear that she is doing well.

    It's getting hard to remember, but not all that long ago, breast cancer research was really neglected and patients felt stigmatized and helpless. Organizations like the Susan Komen Foundation have done such a wonderful job to raise awareness and funds. is *so* incredibly frustrating to see companies using the pink ribbon logo and donating next to nothing (or in some cases, actually nothing) to the cause. The behavior of some of these companies feels manipulative and exploitative. I noticed a big backlash against "Pinktober" among my Facebook friends this year, so you're not alone in your frustration. Many of my friends linked to this blog post, which I think you'll find interesting:

    As far as our beloved Lilly goes, at least they are giving 20% of sales of their pink ribbon products to the American Cancer Society. And it is a really cute print. :)

    1. Its hard for me, I guess because I don't remember a time when breast cancer wasn't something about which people were aware (my mom was a breast surgeon (I think) and both my parents supported the American Cancer Society so I've always been aware). While I am happy that people are learning to do breast self exams and there's more money for research. It's still frustrating that it seems like corporate entities are trying to use this awful experience to make money. I wish companies would put a little more thought into their advertising campaigns. But, it's a lot better than it used to be overall and for that I am grateful.

  2. i'm sorry about your mom, but I'm happy she fought through it -- my best friend's mom passed away from breast cancer a few years ago so I feel very passionately about it as well. I donate directly to the ATL org that gives money to breast cancer patients who cannot afford to pay for treatment and also goes to Susan Komen research.

    I hope your mom stays well! xoxo

  3. Thank you for the kind wishes!


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