Not going pink for Breast Cancer Awareness

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.

6 thoughts on “Not going pink for Breast Cancer Awareness

Add yours

  1. My rogue might wear pink at some point this month but I completely agree.

    I did the “race for life” a couple of years ago and it really annoyed my husband who despite losing a favoured Aunt to breast cancer couldn’t join in because he happened to be a guy.

    The commercial side of it disgusts me too. In our supermarket, the Breast Cancer awareness sits next to the Halloween and Christmas decorations in a show of total tastelessness. You can see people buying christmas cards, skull plates and breast cancer fluffy puppies in all one handy aisle.

    I have a direct debit set up every month for a cancer charity which deals with every sort of cancer and whilst I do actually like pink, I don’t need to wear it for one month of the year to express my frustration at one very specific form of the disease.

  2. Tamicuppy, firstly I have to say that you always do things against the grain, and with good reason. I admire what you’ve said in this post, and though I agree that Breast Cancer awareness is a great thing, I dislike commercialisation of medical conditions to raise money that I know a large chunk will not go towards the research that we think it’s going to. I think the difference between me and you is that you’re not afraid to speak up about it, whereas I make excuses like there is no pink leather. I would encourage everyone who feels strongly about cancer research to donate directly to cancer research foundations in their country and let the money go where it needs to go, not into the pockets of the promoters.

  3. Cuppy,

    4/4 on your points. I do think that sometimes the problem with causes is that people get so involved with the cause, they don’t stop to think about the original idea behind the cause.

    Now that many corporations are involved – I mean, there are pink soft drink cans now for supporting “Breast Cancer Awareness” – the Komen Foundation has its name all over the place. But how does that equate to breast cancer awareness, truly? Personally, I see it as now people know that breast cancer exists, and that there’s this pink ribbon foundation that’s fighting it, but that a great deal of people who know about the foundation don’t know about breast cancer itself. Isn’t that not really how it’s supposed to work?

    And Erinys brings up a good point – Why should it matter whether you’re male or female if you want to support the cause? If a woman wants to support a breast cancer charity because her friend had breast cancer, then why shouldn’t a man be able to support the same charity if his friend had breast cancer? The actual circumstances are the same at that point, except for the fact that the man has a reduced chance of getting breast cancer himself. I mean whatever happened to not looking a gift horse in the mouth? It’s a charity – it should accept any non-questionable (i.e., Males – yes, terrorists – probably not.) sources of support. But that foundation is so large now that, like a lot of organizations that get large, unrelated social and political views of those in the foundation’s leadership start to pollute the purity of the charity itself, leading to similar disillusionment as you describe above. (And I mean this less about actual discrimination and more about what seems like idiocy (turning down potential support) to advance one’s social or political stance – something that has nothing to do with the cause, really. Discrimination and equality is a whole different can of worms that I don’t think needs to be opened here.)

    It’s sad – since the underlying reason the cause exists is good – that often the organization gets away from the original idea.

    And kudos to you as well, Cuppy, for giving to UCSD’s center. It’s a school I can stand behind – knowing quite a few people who graduated from there.

    My 2 yen to Cuppy,


  4. I hope in no way did I offend you with my initiative, and at no point was I trying to bandwagon on the whole breast cancer awareness issue. I did it because it was important to me, and I thought it was a nice way to do something different. In the end, I also made my donation to research. That was truly the point for me.

    Now, after that, I realized just what a “popular thing” it has become. The NFL, WWE, and more are suddenly going pink after years and years of not doing anything publicly. Supporting breast cancer awareness has certainly become the cool thing to do, so to speak, and you’re right. The awareness has long been there, it’s the actual effort that needs to be focused on.

    But to that degree, cancer in general should be as much of a focus as any particular aspect of it. It’s why I wear a bracelet for Cancer, that I never take off. When it breaks, I make a donation and get another one. I do what I can, when I can. I’ve lost four people to various types of Cancer, and one was the most important woman in my life (next to my wife). I’m not trying to be defensive, because I don’t feel the need to be. Your points were bang on. I just wanted to clarify my own position and reasons for it.

  5. Hi!

    I think you summarized the main issues beautifully. Were you familiar with the #pinknausea hashtag on Twitter? Many people Tweeted examples of problematic breast cancer “awareness.” And MANY people, myself included, blogged about it in October. I’m glad that many are speaking out. I hope that posts like this one can at least encourage people to put on their critical thinking caps.

    PS I just followed you on Twitter as @cartooninperson.


  6. Thank you for bringing this to my attention – though I have never donated money to breast cancer causes or the Susan K. foundation, if I had known their stance on Planned Parenthood (to whom I have donated) it would have solidified my choices. However, good intentions are just that – good. Sometimes they do lead us to the road to Hell.

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