Blog 7: Breast Cancer Culture- Stephanie Burnham

In the United States breast cancer is an issue you can mention and everyone will know about. The pink ribbons! The runs! The walks! The survivors! The is a large sense of community surrounding the idea of wearing pink during breast cancer awareness month, and judging by the amount of pink ribbon products in the grocery store, the awareness doesn’t stop at the end of October but lasts all year round. I think this very apparent community atmosphere surrounding breast cancer is one of the absolute strengths of the culture this issue has cultivated. As mentioned in the film this week, many women were unable to say the word “breast” without feeling uncomfortable – but this word has since been normalized. The main stream breast cancer movement has effective made people aware and able to talk about women’s bodies and women’s health.

There are however several draw backs to the mainstream breast cancer culture. As mentioned in the film, the pink ribbon is the face of breast cancer. Pink ribbon products can be found in nearly every aisle, waiting and allowing consumers the opportunity to spend a few extra dollars that will go towards breast cancer research. The idea behind this model is gold – consumers are able to choose to give to a cause, and even better, the cause makes itself apparent to them so that they may choose. The intent and idea is good – fully capitalistic. But we have to consider that the breast cancer culture is a billion dollar industry. One billion dollars because of these little pink labelled products. This is wonderful and beautiful – as mentioned before on a large scale people seem to care  (or at the very least know) about women’s heath issues. But it really is too good to be true. With the billion dollars that are going into this system, only 3-5% of that money is used on prevention. The other bits are to figure how the cancer progresses, how to better eradicate the cancer, but not to stop people from getting it. Also, the pink ribbon has turned breast cancer into a business, literally with the Susan G Komen foundation and also on another level, when we see that the pink ribbon can be used without the money going to the organization. Finally, and something that i found perhaps be the most troubling, is that the money raised by breast cancer culture does not always reach the women or the research incentives that it was donated for. This money in many cases may be filtered back into the corporation to make improvements, add bonuses, etc.

In Ley’s article From Pink to Green, we see that that approach described to learning and handling breast cancer is entirely different. Ley describes that in Massachusetts that have decided to look specifically at the environmental factors of breast cancer, as opposed to genetics or some anomaly, and specifically use the “precautionary principle.” Ley says that in Massachusetts if they ever want to take the initiative and challenge that environmental factors, the scientific idea of truth has to be bent. This is think is radically different from the mainstream culture at has because breast cancer research in the main stream is entirely run by facts. In the video is was mentioned that they could not figure how to prevent breast cancer until they could treat it. But Ley describes an effort to make preventative care and research a real priority. 

2 thoughts on “Blog 7: Breast Cancer Culture- Stephanie Burnham

  1. It is a great point you make that because of all of the materialistic goods that come to raise awareness about breast cancer have made it a possibility to have a more conscious mind that breast cancer is not something to just think about during the month of October but it is always an issue and there should not be any more or less given focus to the problem at hand just because a month has been named “breast cancer awareness month”. I too during the film thought about how the word “boobs” is so much easier to say but people seem to have thought breast is awkward. I however think that the fact that because women are so largely effected by breast cancer and how it has become a gait way into speaking on overall women’s health is an issue. Men are also effected by breast cancer and we lose that in all the “save the boobies” campaigning . We are again not really understanding the problem but only reacting to the problem. Going alone with the financial side of things, our population is only going up, with the focus on treatments and not solving and eradicating the funds needed to continually research and treat patients will continue to rise as well. I agree with you concerning the fact that companies are simply getting benefits for making something pink, it is the equivalent to reading a post about poverty in Africa and reposting it to Facebook and feeling as if you have contributed.

  2. Stephanie-

    I like the point that you make about mainstream breast culture being a business and making profits. I never thought about it in that way. Organizations that initially started as a good cause in the face of breast cancer are now businesses that make millions of dollars. Millions of dollars that sometimes don’t even reach the actual victims of breast cancer. With this said, I think that there should be some middle ground or change in the way these organizations operate so they can return to their original purpose: supporting the victims and cause of breast cancer. Can you think of any system that would keep these organizations running, but with different results? In my opinion, I think that the precautionary principle has the right idea, and we should focus more on environmental causes of breast cancer. It seems more direct and effective than spending money on advertising breast cancer organizations and manufacturing millions of pink objects for people to buy where only 3-5% of the profit will indirectly help victims with breast cancer.

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