A bunch of other bloggers are transmogging their gear to be pink in support of breast cancer awareness. I’m certainly not going to judge them for their actions and I definitely understand the sentiment behind it and I think it’s an honorable one. However, I simply do not care for what “breast cancer awareness month” has become and I am not going to participate in this one.
This is a fantastic article that runs through the issues. In summary though:
- I do not support the Susan Komen foundation, an organization that made some very anti-choice decisions when they chose to not allow funding for Planned Parenthood, an organization that offers breast cancer screening to low income women nationwide. The decision was reversed after much backlash, but Susan Komen is quite vocal about her anti-Planned Parenthood stance. And knowing how important PP is to women who can’t readily afford or access health services including birth control or screenings, I think it’s deplorable.
- I do not believe that ‘awareness’ is now an issue. Everyone is aware of breast cancer, and I’d rather people donate their money to organizations that do actual research towards curing the horrible dreadful cancer. Having known many friends who have survived various forms of cancer, I know they’d appreciate people making real donations of time or money to research. I think people fall into a trap where they think that wearing pink for the month means that they’re helping the cause and then their assistance ends there.
- The breast cancer awareness phenomenon is centered around women and their experiences, while men can also get breast cancer. With an industry that has pinkwashed this form of cancer, it excludes men and those outside the gender binary who can have breast cancer.
- I also dislike the “save the ta-tas”, “I heart boobies” slogans that are now attached to breast cancer awareness. I believe the focus on women’s breasts as the real loss paints a picture that this illness should only be cured to save the part of a woman that makes her worthwhile. I hate reducing people to their body parts. I feel terrible for the women who ended up getting a double mastectomy who have to see the “save the boobies” t-shirts and wristbands all over, as if that was what was worth saving.
The thing to know is that it wasn’t that long ago that breast cancer was a totally taboo gross topic that no one discussed. Women weren’t aware of breast cancer and feared even saying the words until First Lady Betty Ford got a mastectomy while her husband was in office.
And she did the unthinkable: She talked about it. And women started getting angry. Really angry. The breast cancer movement was born, and it became a juggernaut of women who would not shut up, wanting to know why funding for breast cancer was so limited, why breast cancer care totally sucked, why so few women had access to preventative care, early diagnosis, and treatment. They totally changed the medical landscape for breast cancer patients, and they kept pushing and pushing for more, and better.
That’s when something really sad started to happen: people recognized the potential commercial appeal of breast cancer “awareness” as an abstract concept. That’s when the pink ribbon started to be developed, originally as a symbol of solidarity, but eventually as a fiercely defended property. Suddenly it became less about actually fighting breast cancer and more about selling “awareness” but not really explaining what that meant.
With that, I’ve donated to the UC San Diego Moores Cancer Center to help them fund their research programs.