F*#k The Tatas, Save The Woman

via zazzle.com

via zazzle.com

Alyssa Royse thanks you for loving breasts, but when it comes to breast cancer, she wants the attention where it’s really needed.

It’s breast cancer awareness month. Again. Yay. Big, strong, macho men are wearing pink. I kind of love seeing the NFL go “pink,” but mostly because I love seeing them step outside the gender binary in which color became an unwitting pawn. While I want to be grateful for the support and all, the truth is, it just makes me really mad. And then I feel bad for getting mad, because I want to give everyone a gold-star for trying. But I can’t. Because I’m really mad.

When I see an oh-so-adorable shirt that says “Save The Tatas,” I really want to scream “F*#k the tatas, save the WOMAN!” 

I think there are some things that many men just don’t understand about the whole “Wear Pink for Boobies” thing. Probably because you don’t have breasts (though you can get breast cancer) and don’t have this part of your body so objectified so constantly in the media. It’s one of those situations in which you’re doing all the wrong things for all the RIGHT reasons. So let’s fix that.

I have seen many friends through breast cancer, and not once did I think to myself, “I don’t care if I lose her, but those tatas, man that’s a shame.” When my friend Jessica died of lung cancer in her early 30’s – having never touched a cigarette – I didn’t think “save her lungs!” No, I thought “please, someone, somehow, save Jessica.” When my dog was limping through the house in pain from bone cancer, I didn’t think “I’m really going to miss her bones.” Nope, I thought, “I can’t bear how much I will miss my dog.”

This is about cancer.  This is about people. This is not about body parts.

But with breast cancer, somehow, it’s become about the “tatas.” Not even the breasts, but the “boobies,” the “tatas” the “great rack.” Perhaps the one that pissed me off the most was the t-shirt I saw that said “Save Second Base.” Yup, protect the place I like to play, never mind the woman, or the cancer. This is about my fun.

And therein lies the rub. We have sexified and cutsiefied breasts because we like to play with them. We aren’t talking about the people who get breast cancer, or what cancer does to them and everyone who loves them. Nope. Just the boobs. Why? Because boobs are, like, super duper fun toys. 

Wanna know another problem with that? Men get breast cancer too, and no one talks about that. Why? Because, titties.

I really feel like we could change all of those campaigns to “Save The Sex Toys.” Which would be kind of awesome, and a campaign I could totally get behind.

via ebay

via ebay

I admit, when it first started, before the Pink Ribbon Industry was just that – a money-making venture out for its own survival, not anyone else’s – I thought it was cute too. The “in your face” nature of the campaigns were made possible because they were toned down and animated. It seemed brilliant; it was brilliant. 

But then it became a thing of its own, and not only did the attention become on boobies rather than cancer and women, it became on profit for the Pink Ribbon Industry.

Where is all the money really going when you buy a “pink” product to support Breast cancer?

Selling Science breaks down the Yoplait yogurt campaign:

“For every lid you save from a Yoplait yogurt (and mail in, using a $0.44 stamp, mind you!), they will donate 10 cents to breast cancer research. If you ate three yogurts per day for fourth months, you will have raised a grand total of $36 for breast cancer research, but spent more on stamps and in environmental shipping waste.”

Doing quick math, I would also add that you spent nearly $300 on yogurt. You could just donate $150 directly to someone who does cancer research, spend half as much donate 3 times as much, and do way more good for the cause. Assuming the cause is preventing cancer and not promoting Yoplait.

This is true for pink blenders, pink socks, pink coffee makers, pink buckets of chicken…..  Selling the pink is about making cash.

The simple truth is, the pink ribbon products don’t do anything for breast cancer, they just make money for the corporation that is making the product. And make light of a deadly serious issue. The pink ribbon for breast cancer is a profitable sales tool just like a woman’s boobs in a pink bikini would be. It is no more altruistic than using Paris Hilton to sell a hamburger. It might be worse, because it pretends it’s not just another way to use a woman’s body as a sales hook.

Photo: Zazzle.com

Photo: Zazzle.com

What is being pink-washed behind all of this ostensibly well-intentioned race for a cure? Lots of things.

When we make the focus on the cure, we remove focus from things like preventing cancer in the first place. From the very non-sexy reality of tracking down causes, which is what needs to be happening. We remove focus from the aftermath, the often very stark reality of living life after cancer treatment.

When we make the focus on saving the breast and not the woman, what are we saying to women who can’t save their breasts? Or women who not only lose their breasts, but choose not to have implants? Did they lose the battle, even though they lived?

When we put the focus on breasts because we love breasts, we ignore cancers that exist in other, way less sexy, parts of the body. For example:

  • Roughly 30,000 women will die this year because of cervical, endometrial and uterine cancer. Hard to make a cute t-shirt for those cancers, since most people aren’t even sure where in the body those things are, besides, you know, “in there somewhere.”
  • Prostate cancer, the second leading cause of cancer death in men, will kill about 30,000 men. But (no pun intended) about 239,000 men will get prostate cancer and have some sort of life-altering symptoms.
  • We all have about at 5% chance of developing colorectal cancer – cancer in either the colon or the rectum. Somewhere around 51,000 people will die in 2013 from colorectal cancer.  The death rate has dropped dramatically, thanks to early screening. This would be a great one for a brown-ribbon campaign, because it is so “easy” to recover from if caught early!
Photo: ProjectEve.com

Photo: ProjectEve.com

I love that everyone has gotten so impassioned about breast cancer. Especially men, since for the most part it is a disease that primarily (though not exclusively) kills women. I just want all that passion directed at the things that matter, and that can really make a difference.

No more focusing on just the breasts, but on the whole person, and the whole network of people that is impacted by the disease, regardless of the outcome. And we promise, we won’t start a “save the boners” campaign to support prostate cancer research. We want to save all of you men!

No more giving money to heartless branding campaigns, donate directly to research and prevention.

And guys, you can wear pink any time. It just plain looks hot on you.

About Alyssa Royse

Alyssa is freelance writer, speaker, fitness trainer and personal coach living in Seattle with her husband and their 3 daughters. They own Rocket CrossFit where she spends most of her time training men and women in ways that are as much emotional as physical. She can also be found on her eponymous blog, where she pontificates about food, family, politics and the Seattle rain. Yes, she would love to speak at your event, host a workshop or write something for you. Just ask.


  1. I would like to give a shout out to the Connecticut Breast Health Initiative. http://ctbhi.org/ They are a great, Connecticut, non-profit organization. If you donate to them, you are making a donation to a local organization that has given out more than $1.8 M research grants in Connecticut since its inception, and has helped local women who can’t afford preventative breast health screenings (mammograms) to get them.

  2. Jack Skellington says:

    It’s interesting that I just saw this today as earlier I was reading a very similar entry on HuffPo (sorry, no link). Another thing to think about too. “I kind of love seeing the NFL go “pink…” I understand the sentiment but I have a huge problem with that whole campaign. From what I can tell, the NFL has given about $3 million since 2009. In that time their profits would be $34-38 BILLION (assuming 8.5-9.5 per year). So that’s, what, 1/100th of 1%. Yeah, they care so much…

  3. This is only happen in USA. Because in my country, whenever we talk about breast cancers, we talk about the women, not the breast. What happen with American men? They even think about “boobies”, “rack”? What a douchebags. God I hate these people.

    • John, what country are you from?

      It’s really not just men. Women buy into the campaign too. Did you read Amber’s post about the women that let complete strangers “motorboat” them for money for breat cancer? That’s a problem on both sides.

  4. Heart disease is actually the number one killer of women over ALL forms of cancer combined. It kills 1 woman a minute. 90% of women have one or more risk factors for developing heart disease. Since 1984, more women then men have died from heart disease. Women are twice as likely to have a second heart atttack in the first 6 years. 1 in 31 woman die from breast cancer, 1 in 3 women die from heart disease. Very little research is ever done for women in heart disease, with only 24% of parcipants being women in such studies. Women often get misdignosed because how heart attack symptoms show up in women is different. They areoften told they are just having a panick attack and sent home not even getting care at all. Even how the plaque builds up in a woman’s body is different from how it happens in men’s bodies. Men tend to get more blockages in their larger arteries. Women tend to get them in the smaller veins. Women’s plaque also tends to coat evenly in the walls of their arteries and veins while you will find more clumping in men’s.

    But there are no big campaigns about saving women’s hearts. The “tatas” is what people care about. To even having our bodies sexualized in regard to our healthcare is maddening..beyond maddening. And simply shameful.

    • Hi Erin, there is at least one program aimed at women’s heart disease: http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/educational/hearttruth/

      And while I applaud the efforts to keep women healthy, I just wish someone cared equally about men’s health. Unpacking groceries the other day I noticed the margarine container has a red dress promoting women’s heart health, the toilet paper has a pink ribbon promoting breast cancer treatment, cheerios is sponsoring a boys and girl’s club initiative to get girls to eat healthy (while not funding the equivalent program for boys) It seems every second item I touch has some connection to women’s health. While I understand that much of this marketing is simply driven by greed and not philanthropy, the reason this marketing tactic works is because people care about women’s health.

      The lack of any projects to address men’s health is stark, particularly given that men die younger (5-7 years), live in poorer health and are less likely to seek medical treatment. It appears that the health of our fathers, husbands or sons is not a cause that people have enough interest in to catch the attention of marketing groups. As a new father to a son, I think that’s rather sad.

      • Scot, when it comes to heart disease, women actually receive much worse care then men do. Women’s symptoms don’t always show up the same as men and for that reason, doctors are more prone to blow off a woman’s concern or not prescribe her the medicine she needs. More studies and information is gathered on men’s bodies and hearts then has been done on womens. Since this has come into light, there has been more of an effort to learn more about women’s bodies and heart disease, but it still largly seen as a man’s issue and there is actually more infomation out there specific to men, then there is specific to women. Women have a higher rate of reaccuring heart issues because of mis-diagnoses and doctors blowing off female cocerns. So I can not agree with you that people care more about women’s health. There is way more information out there that benefits men when it comes to heart disease. And believe me, this is extremely important. My grandfather, uncle, dad and my brother all had heart related issues. But there is a huge dirth of information on women and heart disease in the medical industry. And in the long history of the medical industry, most medicine is built and designed for the male body. Excluding female body parts.

        Now if you are talking about the fact that men infact are less likely to seek medical treatment, that is an issue. But it’s a far different one from not having the scientifict knowledge specific to your body. And I’m not saying there shouldn’t be awareness about that. But it’s not because people care more about women’s health. Historically, the world care more about men’s health and their bodies and have used men’s bodies as a baseline on how to treat women. Which we are now discovering can have drastic results for women.

    • Yeah I’m not sure why breast cancer wins over more than heart disease. Heart disease is the number 1 killer for both genders, yet I am yet to see even 1/20th of the level of awareness for it vs breast cancer. Although you gotta admit the breastcancer awareness groups have done a mighty fine job of advocating for their illness, I see so many events dedicated to breast cancer.

  5. So…have you seen the video doing the rounds called (I think I remember this correctly) “motorboating girls for breast cancer awareness” by (again, I think I have this right) some young men calling themselves “simple pickup”.

    It is exactly what it says it is. I felt sick that people don’t see how wrong that is. They donated $20 for every girl they motorboated, the total was $2080. 104 women. The comments on fb range from a whole lot of leering to some outrage. I also heard that the donation was rejected, but can’t back that up at all.

    • Alyssa Royse says:

      That is so sick and sad and gross and wrong. Wow.

      • Beggars can’t be choosers, so next time they cry poor…just remember they turn away money over haters. Seems they also rejected money from topless skydiving fundraisers, etc too. As bad as it is, to deny the funding on moral grounds does make me think you really do not give a fuck about raising money because at least the money could be used for good. But hey I guess starving your funding over principles is better than helping others. Would they deny a million dollar donation too?

        • Amber, I saw that too and felt the same way as you.

          Archy, I don’t personally believe the end always justifies the means. Encourage something like this and I suspect the degradation to get a couple bucks will increase in the future at other attemps to “raise money. But lets be hoenst, this wasn’t about raising money to begin with. This money wasn’t really meant to support women and breast cancer anyway. So techniqually, they didn’t really loose anything by not accepting it.

          • I wonder if they motorboated any guys too? 1 in 100 cases is for males too.

            Would they happily accept charity from a bank who makes their money in far more evil means, such as throwing out good people out of homes if they miss a payment after a few weeks?

  6. Having read this article, all I can say is THANK YOU!!! Hey, unless you live in a monastery, chances are you personally know someone who has had to deal with Breast Cancer (at least here on Long Island). So let me ask this. How many of you out there know of ANYONE who has received any funds from the millions collected by the ‘Pink Ribbon’ industrial complex has collected. Danny hit it on the head! Instead of just mindlessly writing a check to some behemoth sized corporation, find someone in your community to help. After all, cancer can wipe out your finances as quick as it destroys your body! ( And just for the record, the people I know who suffered from Breast Cancer, I really didn’t give a shit about their tits, just saving their life!)

  7. Breast cancer (like many other diseases) have become an industry where one can actually make money off of awareness of the disease.

    I was talking to a former boss a while back about Relay for Life. He was involved in one of the chapters and was bothered by how much money was going simply not going to patients or research. At that point I told him that I’m wondering if the best thing to do would be to just befriend someone who is suffering from cancer (and considering how common it is it may be way too easy to do that) and just give your time, effort, and money directly to them.

  8. There is a documentary – Pink Inc. It’s an interesting investigation into the pink industry. Yes it is all about profit and not about people’s health.

    What we really should focus on is prevention, not a cure, or as is more often the case, an expensive drug used to treat the disease. If we were able to develop a vaccine to prevent cancer we would be much farther ahead.

    I’m not sure how anyone can claim to “raise awareness about breast cancer” with a straight face. EVERYONE is well aware of breast cancer, it couldn’t possibly have a higher profile than it currently does. More money is spent on raising awareness for breast cancer than is spent treating other cancers, such as childhood leukaemia. Maybe it’s time to put things in perspective a little.

    Just because it’s pink, doesn’t mean it’s right.

  9. wellokaythen says:

    What’s also a little misleading about the Pink Ribbon campaigns is that they ask people to donate money for “research,” when surprisingly little of the money goes towards actual lab research. By that I mean actual “bench scientists” or research clinicians working with cancer cells or patients. Many of the non-profit groups define “research” so broadly that it includes screening programs, statistical models, awareness-raising campaigns, even advertising. A lot of the people actually trying to find cures have become frustrated with all the focus on screening and consciousness-raising, sometimes at the expense of research on treatments or cures. As hard as this is to believe, because it sounds like heresy, it is in fact possible to have too many cancer screenings – at some point it actually becomes counterproductive in the fight against cancer, because of limited resources. We may have put too many resources into mammography which would be much better spent elsewhere – like trying to get women to stop smoking.

    Meanwhile there is basically NO early detection system for ovarian cancer. It’s survival rate is horribly low.

    And, I’ll just sound like a broken record here, but: MEN get breast cancer, too! Would it be so hard to say “save the person” instead of “save the woman”?

    • Joanna Schroeder says:

      Alyssa does address that men get it. But it is pretty rare. Saying, “Help end breast cancer” would be most effective.

      And when she says “Save the woman” she means rather than “Save the tatas” – which are so unimportant in the life of a whole human.

      Again, like the boner. If you’re talking about the risk of losing an erection vs losing your life who cares about the boner?

      • wellokaythen says:

        “Again, like the boner. If you’re talking about the risk of losing an erection vs losing your life who cares about the boner?”

        Oh God, don’t make me choose….. : – )

        • Alyssa Royse says:

          Well, then, get screened for Prostate Cancer! There’s no cute campaign for it, but it’s like boner protection.

      • Yeah I’d probably choose death over losing the ability to have sex, so if I couldn’t get some form of sex then kill me cancer. Life is just too miserable without good quality sex.

    • Alyssa Royse says:

      I did mention several times that men get breast cancer, which is another MAJOR reason why the focus on “boobies” is problematic. It masks the fact that men get breast cancer, and probably adds shame to the equation, which is not helpful!

      And double yes on ovarian cancer. I was trying not to derail into that, but it PISSES me off MASSIVELY that we ignore other reproductive cancers because they are not in cute and sexy places. I mean, no one has eve hit on a chick in a bar because she had smokin’ hot ovaries! 😉 Or colorectal cancer? That’s a tough sell. Even prostate cancer is a tough sell – which is weird, because so much emphasis is put into help men get and stay “hard” for sex, but, well…..

      I just think our obsession with “BOOBIES” is masking some real problems, and causing some very real problems.

      • wellokaythen says:

        I totally agree. Making things cutesy may help raise awareness in the short term, but over the long term it’s counterproductive.

    • Morgan K Wyatt says:

      Thanks for saying so well what I wanted to. People believe breast cancer is the #1 killer of women. It’s heart disease. If you dig deep, I think breast cancer falls into between 8-13th place. One reason it is noticeable and treatable.

      So many things are killing women, but were too focused on breasts to notice. Depression, which often results in suicide, and domestic abuse are destroying women every day. No shirts for that.

      22 women die a day from suicide
      3 women dies a day from domestic abuse, hundreds end up in the ER.
      Heart disease kills 3X as many women as beast cancer. You’d think there would be 3X as many races.
      (As for those races, don’t get me started. )

      • Alyssa Royse says:

        The races make me crazy. No money goes to anything that actually helps anyone. It is extraordinarily clever how they packaged it as “Spreading Awareness.” Please! But that’ justifies not getting money where people think it is going. It should be criminal.


  1. […] Alyssa Royse thanks you for loving breasts, but when it comes to breast cancer, she wants the attention where it's really needed.  […]

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