The Women Behind the Tatas

As I was getting ready for bed last night, I stumbled upon a video of a runway show featured in New York Fashion Week, published by the New York Times. I almost idely scrolled past it on Facebook, I mean hardly ever do I care about fashion except for the occasional binge watch session of America’s Next Top Model, because come on let’s be honest. However, when I saw the video’s caption I stopped and scrolled back to learn more.

Apparently a fashion designer named Dana Donofree, who at 27 was diagnosed with Infiltrative Ductal Carcinoma (a common form of breast cancer) was frustrated by the lack of bras and intimate wear designed for post-cancer patients. In 2014 she started her own company that specializes in creating lounge and intimate wear for women that have undergone mastectomies. The models at her show this week were all either current or former breast cancer patients. According to them, the overarching purpose of the runway show is to raise awareness about breast cancer that claims approximately 40k lives in the US per year. Unfortunately I can’t post the link directly from the New York Times Facebook page, but Reuters covered basically the same story, which you can find by clicking here.

Two weeks ago I wrote about how the major downfall of breast cancer awareness month is that it provides awareness for awareness’ sake. The pink adornishments of the awareness campaign supposedly lessen the controversy and negative stigma surrounding the disease. And yet, I feel confident in saying that women who have undergone breast surgery generally feel a sense of shame surrounding their condition. After all, the breast cancer awareness movement tells us to “save the tatas.” But what if we can’t save them? What if they’re gone? And more importantly, why do we only seem to care about the tatas and not the women underneath them?

Recently I met with a friend at a local pizza parlor for a good slice of pie and wine. We were chatting about my blog and my overarching critique to the “save the tatas” slogan. At some point during our conversation, she turned to me and says, “Why do women have to be sexualized even when they’re suffering from a disease?” I looked at her a little dumb-founded and replied, “Wait, yeah why are we letting this happen? Why haven’t I ever thought about it like that before?”

It’s pretty clear in this context that women are objectified and sexualized in the name of raising awareness, aka raising funds, for breast cancer organizations like Susan G. Komen. “Oh ‘Save the Tatas,’ how clever! I NEED to buy this tote bag,” is what tens of thousands of women have probably told themselves at the cash register in their local shopping mall. I would know, because once upon a time I was one of them. And now when I look back, it disgusts me that I was so easily manipulated into participating in an advocacy campaign that depicts women as objects. We think this type of language is normal about women when in reality, it never should have been normal in the first place!

I applaud Dana Donofree and all of her models for having the courage to showcase their bodies, and in turn their struggle, in the public eye. Awareness can be powerful provided that we give awareness to the real issues at hand. Watching the women walk down the runway, I can just tell in their eyes that they all have suffered and they all have a story they’re eager to tell. Watching the women walk down the runway, I don’t see pink ribbons, I see lives.

NOTE: This post was not sponsored, nor is it directly affiliated, with the company AnaOno. 

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