Similarly, to what was mentioned in this weeks material, when I think of breast cancer culture I think of a band of women joining together all seeming very happy and empowered by each other’s support. I also think of all the pink memorabilia you see everywhere and the option to donate at many of your favorite places during breast cancer awareness month. There are many weaknesses and strengths to the approach of the mainstream breast cancer culture. As for the weaknesses, the main problem being the approach to most breast cancer research, generally aimed at either methods for early detection of the disease or finding a cure. The idea for cause often ends at “poor lifestyle habits”, without considering what could be the most prominent factor: toxic environmental factors (Ley, 2009).
The Eco-feminist’s perspective can vary greatly depending on the topic, but they are all in tune with the impact of environmental degradation on women’s health. Whether starting as a feminist and then connecting the ties to the environment or starting as an environmental activist who strongly supports women’s rights, eco-feminists understand there lies a connection for not only breast cancer but many other lifestyle and disease risk factors. One eco-feminist, Barbra Ehrenreich argues that breast cancer culture only shows the side of women who have beaten the disease but neglects all the difficulty those face while battling for their lives as well as the true causes behind why it happens. Ultimately, she argues that the movement pushes people to buy memorabilia to help support research to find the cure, where they should actually be spending a large portion of those funds to delve into: why is breast cancer occurring in such large numbers? And how can we prevent it? This is a negative theme throughout much of the criticism surrounding any sort of money raising efforts, whether it be fundraising for runs or large businesses donating part of their proceeds towards breast cancer research; no one seems to be paying much attention towards exactly what part of breast cancer research the money is going towards. With fundraisers, generally around a third of the money raised goes towards advertising for the event. With corporations or organizations donating some of their proceeds, very little money is actually donated for how much you spend on products and this can even be used as a marketing ploy to earn more money for the company (Ley, 2009). For example, Yoplait will donate $0.10 for every breast cancer lid you send in, but it costs well over $0.10 to mail any sort of letter, so why not just donate straight to the cause? This also involves you not only having to buy the product, but additionally sending in the lid. American Express used to donate during one month of every year and promote the phrase, “every dollar counts.” When reading the fine print, it was discovered that they were only donating $0.01 for every purchase (NFB, 2017). In this case, eco-feminists would likely argue we are being tricked into believing we are helping a good cause, when in reality we are ignoring the social, cultural, political and economic factors that have disrupted women’s opportunity to enjoy physical and emotional well-being (Ley, 2009).
Personally, I believe that with the right motives and a shift of focus, popular breast cancer culture could do great things and, in some cases, already is. For those with the disease, having a large group of women to support you during and after seems like a great thing; whether that be through races or ribbons. Although getting makeovers during treatment might seem crazy to some eco-feminist, maybe this is what some people need feel good and to give themselves the power to get through treatment and survive. Having coping mechanisms and a support system is a huge positive to breast cancer culture. The changes that need to happen lie in a shift to environmental research, as opposed to so much money just going towards a cure or early detection. If more people were conscious about wanting their money to go towards toxic environmental research links, much of the money that is already being raised could get funneled towards a great cause that might actually change the future for understanding why breast cancer rates are so high and how we can limit detrimental environmental factors.
NFB (2017). Pink Ribbons Inc. [Video file]. Retrieved from https://www.dailymotion.com/video/x5vqdad
Ley, B. L. (2009). From pink to green: Disease prevention and the environmental breast cancer movement. New Brunswick, N.J: Rutgers University Press.