Before even reading the article by Barbara Ley titled “The Cultural Politics of Sisterhood,” I thought that the risk of getting breast cancer relied almost exclusively on your genetic background. Surprisingly to me, as well as probably many other people who read this, the environment in which a woman lives in also plays a role in her likelihood to develop breast cancer. There are many advocates and groups that advocate for breast cancer, but they do not all do it in the same way. In 1999 when the Breast Cancer Fund wrote a letter to President Clinton, they showed breast cancer as an overall women’s health issue rather than an environmental issue, which was the main reason for them to seek out assistance from the government. While all advocates of breast cancer look at the impact of the environment on women’ health to some extent, some seem to focus more on the cultural and social side of breast cancer, which was dubbed in this article as the “mainstream of breast cancer culture”. Breast cancer has become very mainstream over the years with many breast cancer- themed products from wind chimes to jackets to candles. While this has helped to spread awareness about breast cancer, there are a few negatives that come along with it. While many people may know at least a little about breast cancer, there is a lot that we don’t know about that does not get covered in what is described as the “mainstream breast cancer culture” by Barbara Ehrenreich.
This breast cancer culture has been around since the early 2000s and in my opinion has both strength and weaknesses as it relates to women and breast cancer. One of the first weaknesses mentioned in the article that I agree with was that this culture made breast cancer cute and pink. When I searched “breast cancer” on Google images, most of the images were pink, or had ribbons, or both. When I searched “prostate cancer” on the other hand, many of the images were scientific diagrams rather than just ribbons. To me, this shows how we think a little bit less about the science when it comes to breast cancer. This could also be seen as a strength in the culture for someone who may have just been diagnosed with breast cancer and is terrified. We live in the age of technology and if someone were to be diagnosed with and illness or even suspect they might have an illness, one of the first things we do is run to the internet. If someone just found out that they developed breast cancer, it would be absolutely terrifying of the first images you’ve seen were of women who experienced severe forms of breast cancer. Ehrenreich mentioned how the culture directs diagnosed women to learn techniques to look prettier, which I believe can be seen as a strength for some and a weakness for others. While the main focus should be about getting treated for breast cancer, some women may be hesitant to start treatment due to hair loss or other cosmetic changes that they may have to endure. Looking at the vanity of breast cancer may cause these women to become more confident in themselves and their appearance, which would hopefully push them towards seeking treatment, with less worry about how they will look. In my opinion, overall it seems that the biggest weakness of this culture is that there is not much talk that happens regarding the political, economical, and environmental factors that play a part in women developing breast cancer.