This week we dived into Barbara Ley’s book, From Pink to Green, which had integrated a strong eco-feminist view that compares and contrasts to “the mainstream breast cancer culture” that has been developed overtime. The book specifically goes over the environmental movement of cancer as well as how the movement itself has a significant amount of resistance. As mentioned in lecture, most of the money fundraised for breast cancer research is set aside to study genetic factors that relate to cancer in comparison to the environmental factors which we know makes a larger impact on breast cancer. Ley covers this topic by writing about “the National Organization for Women” (NOW) and their strives to “increase federal research on environment causes of breast cancer” (Ley, 2009). The “mainstream” additionally contrasts Ley’s views by having a tendency to “perpetuate complacency about the social, political, economic, and environmental policies that many believe cause the current breast cancer epidemic,” (Ley, 2009). Ley also emphasizes how a different tone should be utilized in comparison to the “mainstream” use of sisterhood. This includes how women utilize masculine terms to help achieve male supporter which is why we typically hear the words fight, battle and survivor, (Ley, 2009).
Moreover, this “mainstream breast cancer culture” has many strengths and weaknesses to it, and unfortunately a lot of the weaknesses are the portion that a lot of us are guilty of relating to. To start, what is this “mainstream” that we are referring to. Think of Relay for Life and any Race for the Cure events. Now, these events are definitely impacting society at more than a physical level of walking. These events are utilized to spread awareness to breast cancer as well as to the health and well being of the individuals that have it. These events are symbolized with the color pink and the ribbon symbol of hope. These events also bring society together. It does not matter if you are rich, poor, black, white, young or old. It also brings women together and gives them a sense of sisterhood. These events also allow many to feel less alone as well as give these same people more of a reason to fight. These events really impact everyone. At these events, it is often stated, “raise your hand if you know somebody who has been affected by cancer.” Naturally, everyone raises their hands. These events vary based on how people participate, and they can be derived even further into events like marathons and happy hours at bars. Most of the time, these events will also spread awareness through clothing and accessories. This includes, but is not limited to shirts, hats, keychains and wine glasses. The list goes on. As you can imagine, these events raise a huge amount of money. Just a few years back, my very small hometown Garden City had reached the $100,000 mark, and to be completely honest, that is nothing compared to actual big cities that participate.
Unfortunately, a lot of these strengths are in a way weaknesses. To start, This is a multi-component issue that has a variety of factors. This includes biological genetic factors as well as environmental factors. I would say one of the biggest weaknesses is point that was made in Lecture 7.2 stating that a main issue with breast cancer fundraising is that very little bit of it is put into research that environmentally links women and the actual development of cancer.
We also focus too much on the material aspects of fighting cancer. Yes, it is important to not give up hope, and these acts of spreading awareness correlate to some sub-goals of Ley’s eco feminist views, but it is crucial that we focus on more than the symbol of the ribbon, or on the money. Instead we should be focusing on the cancer itself which has integrated from countless years of gender inequality. This goes hand in hand with many not knowing the fine details of the issue and focusing on slogans as well as many just wanting to wear a shirt that has a sexual reference on it. We have all seen the shirts that pretty much just emphasize boobs. Yes, this spreads awareness, but it almost filters the seriousness of the issue. I personally believe that we should be a little more sensitive. That being said, I do understand how many battling cancer rely on humor and on sexualized slogans to help numb the pain. I know what it is like to laugh misery away. I am in no way about to compare my issues with something as serious as breast cancer, but masking your face is sometimes easier to do. An additional weakness to the mainstream of breast cancer culture. Is that there seems to be a tendency to push women with cancer to maintain their beauty. People at events, or in general, will “help” these women with breast cancer by doing their make-up and nails. There is usually also effort to scarf bald heads in hopes to make these women look less sick. Do you think this is right? This is a topic that I definitely see both sides to. I see how it is meant to empower women, but I also think that it sometimes does the opposite. Why do these women need to prioritize their looks. We should be prioritizing their comfort and focus on giving them support in other ways. Furthermore, there should be no resistance. Women with cancer should be able to be sad, and they should be able to get upset. The issue is clearly nothing the smile about, but I do see why people have moved towards this approach overtime. It is easy to swallow issues and fake your feelings as I stated before. It is easy to mask yourself from society, but if we have learned anything from this course, it is that the health of these women is also determined by a plethora of many other factors derived from the five theoretical perspectives.
In From Pink to Green, Figure 5.1 covers the topic of charity towards breast cancer organizations. Specifically, Eureka and American Express are donating so much of their profits to the cause, but are putting a ridiculous amount of money towards the advertisement of their contributions. (Ley, 2009). Yes, this gets more participation, but it seems more practical to just donate that money towards the cause. The last issue/ huge argument that is made toward the “mainstream of breast cancer culture” is where exactly the money goes. I am not going to get that in depth, but there has been claims that the American Cancer Society (ACS) actually only donated one penny for every dollar received in 2010, (Inkletter, 2017). For someone as involved as I am, that is a very difficult statistic for me to hear.
Going on a personal tangent, I was very happy to relate the class to breast cancer this week. Breast cancer as well a a variety of other cancers such as colon can has impacted my entire family for many years. I have lost my uncle, and my mother has had quite a few scares. I will always personally be a part of events like Relay for Life, so I apologize if anyone thought I was bashing the organization in anyway shape or form. I think it is awesome how everyone comes together to spread awareness. That being said, I see where there are many holes that need to be addressed.
Inkletter. (2017, July 16). 200 Billion In Cancer Treatment vs DCA Cancer Research. Retrieved August 12, 2018, from http://inkletter.com/2017/07/16/200-billion-cancer-treatment-vs-dca/
Ley, B. L. (2009). From pink to green: Disease prevention and the environmental breast cancer movement. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press.