We are Greater Than the Sum of Our Racks

So this is the latest bit of feminist outrage, and while it may seem humorless nitpicking to some, I have to say I agree.


Jezebel and several other outlets have condemned groups like “Save the Tatas” for sexualizing a deadly disease.

O.K. First thing I do when a charity hits the news is go check it out on Charity Navigator, a great site that monitors the financial integrity of charities. Save the Tatas weren’t on there. (Though Save the Boobies was with a warning that they and their associated “charities” were for For-Profit entities that had engaged in fraud.) So on to Wikipedia.

Save the tatas, also written as save the ta-tas, refers to both a non-profit breast cancer awareness foundation and a for-profit company founded in 2004[1] by Julia Fikse and currently has 12 employees.[1] Their motto is that laughter heals.[2] Founder Julia Fikse, attributes her idea to seeing people close to her die of breast cancer.[1] Liz Vassey and Hannah Cornett have both publicly supported the group.[3]

Over the course of 2008 and 2009, they have pledged at least $50,000 toward The Concern Foundation[4] and donated 5% of sales,[1] about $802,000, to breast cancer research since its start. They are currently supporting four researchers.[5]”

Well, O.k.. Their intentions are good. Sorta (5%?). And I see what they are trying to do.

Though unfortunately, that devolves into things like this:

You little shits.

Why does breast cancer get this kind of attention, and so much attention, when the leading cause of death for women in the U.S. is heart disease. Cancer (in general) comes in a close second and of the cancers, breast cancer is the most common, and the second deadliest.  So it does deserves a great deal of attention, but more than heart disease? I mean, I only learned this year that women can have different symptoms of a heart attack than men do and that they are more likely to ignore them.

But O.k., breast cancer is serious business. (Nor are women the only ones who get it.)

And I understand humor to get a message across, like the recent wave of the (innocent!) ALS Challenge, but instead of raising awareness, which is pretty high already, this approach trivializes it by reducing a woman’s life to what’s in her bra. It frames it not in terms of saving women’s lives, but of saving men’s playthings. Breast cancer is not merely a matter of “Oh God, please don’t take the warm, soft, squooshy toys away.”

It kills.

As in dead.

What is more important? The woman, or her tits?

If a double mastectomy is going to save a woman’s life, then who fucking cares about her breasts?

Society unfortunately.

When I was 25, they I found a lump in my breast. For those of you who have not found one, I will tell you that I have very cystic breast tissues and it still stood out. It was a lump that felt to be the size of my pinky tip, hard as a rock. It felt like there was a pebble in there. So that is what you are looking for. The doctor confirmed with a mammogram and I had a lumpectomy within a week of diagnosis. (What felt to be the size of a pinky-tip was in fact the size of a whole pecan in the shell. So if you find a lump, RUN, don’t walk, to your doctor.)

And they only gave me a local, so it was really weird. It felt like someone was tugging at my shirt rather than cutting into me and pulling something out.

It was benign, thank the Gods.

In the interim between diagnosis and surgery, I went through about 15 minutes of “I’m going to die” before reason reasserted itself and it downgraded to “I’m going to lose my right breast.” Somehow, that prospect was almost as frightening. I had not realized how much of our social identity as women is defined by what is sitting on our chest.  It is literally as socially vital to our identity as women as testicles are to men, perhaps even more so given how much attention they are given in our media. It was a terrifying prospect.

But I came to my senses, as most women facing this do, and realized my life matters more than my blouse bunnies. And, just as important, that my body does not define me as a woman to society or to myself (to a medical professional, yes, but otherwise, no). What is in my head and my (metaphorical) heart is the most important part of what makes me a woman and a valid human being.

And I redefined what being feminine meant to me. I’m not going to preach it because what being feminine means to me may not be the same as what being feminine means to another woman (cys or trans). Society doesn’t get to tell us what being a woman means. We tell them. We define that.

And it doesn’t have to have anything to do with breasts.

Our heads.

Our hearts.



12 thoughts on “We are Greater Than the Sum of Our Racks

  1. Pardon my language but why the fucking hell does everything to do with women have to be reframed to appeal to hetero men before it has any validity or impotance. Our actual fucking LIVES are only able to be seen through the lense of male desire. Have you read “Brightsided” by Barbara Erhenriech? It was a brilliant polemic against the infantilising “positivity” movement that’s taken over Western culture. She mentioned the gift bags a breast cancer support charity gave out to women diagnosed with the disease. It included a journal and crayons to document your struggle and, of course triumph over the disease. Fucking crayons for a grown woman?! Try that shit with men and see what reaction you get! Ok, I’d better go and shoot myself in the arse with some elephant tranqulisers before I explode all over your lovely blog.

    • You cystalized a thought I had been striggling to put into words all morning: Why does a woman’s disease have to framed as affecting men’s playtime in order to get the attention it deserves? Why can’t the assumption be made that they would care about women’s lives unto themselves? I like to think there was plenty of awareness before “Save the Tatas” and that ilk, but why would anyone approach it that way except to appeal to “a man’s world?”

      I have not read Brightsided, but I loathe the “positivity movement” (if we are talking about the same thing) in general because shrieks of the caste system in that it pushes the idea that all your troubles are your own fault and you’re supposed to be grateful all the time. “Hey, the factory closed because the owners wanted cheap overseas labor and your daughter was hit by a drunk driver. It must have been the negagtive energy you were putting out into the world. Be happy, be grateful!” Y’know. It’s like they are trying to create a happy underclass who can be exploited. There is a reason anger and sadness exist. There are few people I want to belt on hearing, but those are one of the rare groups I do.

      I came up with my “Rules for Life” (Or we could call it “Rules for Grown Ups”) after encountering a rather sickening example of that. http://www.wattpad.com/3239824-the-happiness-list-for-real-life

      • Just read your list. So much wisdom and truth in it but a disappointing lack of platitudes and easy solutions that aren’t based in reality. It will never sell. The bit about how your negative comments were deleted from the post on your friend’s blog reminds me of a story in Ehrenreich’s book. She had breast cancer and went onto a support site. It was all “smile, be positive, we will beat this yeah!” She posted comments saying how shitty she felt and was jumped on for being negative. What is truly disgusting is that any woman whose cancer became terminal was pushed off the site. Dying people are such downers.
        The bullshit about the power of thought to create reality is an insult to anyone who hasn’t had a great life. And that shit about being responsible for your own feelings, well I think you should be legally permitted to punch in the face any douchenozzle who acts shitty then denies that you’re even allowed to be upset about it. I have a lot of ideas on law reform. Most involve me being allowed to punch people.
        I must stop now before my negative thoughts cause a stock market crash or give me feline enteritis.

      • Oh, and your alternate title “Rules For Grown Ups” is suspiciously similar to the title of a post I’m planning about “fandom policing”. Stop plagiarising stuff I haven’t even written yet.

    • Ah, boobs, what a (if you’ll pardon the possibly inappropriate pun) bone of contention with men, and some women.
      I breast fed my two, and I enjoyed it, not only did it alleviate the ache of filled milk ducts, relax my maternal tension by holding my child close and physically nurture them, it felt damn good.
      Yep, there I said it, breast feeding is a sensual experience. The feeling is physically nice, pleasing, enjoyable.
      Now there are women who view their breasts as solely sexual organs. The disgust I see on some female faces when it’s mentioned seriously worries me, it seems anything concerning them must be sexual.
      What happened, when did we lose our breast to just men?
      Some women take it to such extremes that they are prepared to disfigure themselves, even loose the sensitivity that enhances sex, to meet some anticipated male requirement.
      What the Hell is wrong with us?

      • Thanks to Hollywood and modern porn, women’s real bodies are considered deformed and artificial bodies are considered natural. If you look at porn from the seventies you’ll see women with natural boobs, pubic hair, and body fat. Nowadays the women in porn have spherical breasts that sit on their collar bones, no hair anywhere except their head and less body fat than a marathon runner. I would be fascinated to know why porn changed so drastically.

        And now let’s talk about labiaplasty. AAAAAARRRRRRGGGGHHHHH.

      • Oh God, let’s NOT! What woman would let someone take a knife to their lady bits? How can you NOT loose sensation by such a procedure?

        This goes back to what I said on the useless penile enlargement post: People think sex is a performance when it is supposed to be an experience. You actually feel kind of sorry for them that they to go these lengths to get someone to sleep with them, but have removed so much of the fun when it actually happens, both on a physical and a neurosis levels.

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