One of the biggest strengths of mainstream breast cancer culture is how mainstream it is. The pink ribbon is a symbol of breast cancer, is widely recognized and because of this, they are able to raise large sums of money, and have great influence over policy. Mainstream breast cancer culture has changed breast cancer from a private, hidden disease, to one that can be talked about more openly, leading to far more breast exams and more comfort of women speaking with their physicians and support systems. Mainstream breast cancer culture has also created an environment where women can speak openly about their experiences, bring women with similar struggles together, even though they might now be together in other circumstances. I cannot help but recall the experience Barbara Ley recounts in “From Pink to Green,” where she attends one of Komen’s “Race for the Cure” 5Ks, one of the events that personifies mainstream breast cancer culture, and the positive energy she seemed to feel, and how moved she was by the experience, and how other women seemed to gain quite a lot from the event and the overwhelming support everyone gave to one another.
But there are also weaknesses. Mainstream breast cancer culture presents breast cancer as an enemy, that if fought hard enough against, it can be defeated. This does not leave room for women to be angry about their diagnoses, or question what caused it, they more focus on overcoming it individually.
Mainstream breast cancer culture also consists of many corporate sponsors, who very often profit from their allegiance by increasing sales of an item, or test drives of a car, while contributing a limited amount of their profits, or very often putting a cap on the amount they will contribute. Now there is an argument to be made, that something is better than nothing, but how that something is used should also be examined.
The majority of fundraisers and donations are for breast cancer research towards a cure, rather than preventative measures, or what is causing the prevalence of breast cancer. This goes back to the ideas of cancer being something to be conquered by strong personal effort and it is an individual battle. This keeps women from coming together to unite to lobby and fight for more research into the environmental causes of breast cancer.
It appears that many people that align themselves as eco-feminists, feel they are at odds with mainstream breast cancer culture, and in some respects, they are. But one of the critiques given by eco-feminists when talking about mainstream breast cancer culture, is that it is individualizing, and keeps women from banding together to ask the questions of why they have breast cancer, and what can be done to keep other women from getting it as well. By dividing themselves from mainstream breast cancer culture, I believe they could be potentially alienating a large group of people that might interested in getting behind some of eco-feminism, and asking the tough questions. There could be incredible power if everyone found a way to come together and talk about the environmental causes of breast cancer, and what can be done about it.