Week 7 Blog Post

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.

4 thoughts on “Week 7 Blog Post

  1. It’s crazy to think that many people don’t realize that breast cancer is not just based on genetics. I think people mistake having a higher risk as being the exclusive cause of getting a disease, but this isn’t the case. I have learned through many of my public health courses that diseases, especially cancer, are due to a significant number of factors and genetics are often just one piece of the puzzle. Genetics are a difficult factor to understand though. How do people with a history of breast cancer end up never getting cancer, but people with no history do get breast cancer? It’s clear that there are other environmental causes and they are not being as heavily researched compared to finding a cure/treatment. The American Cancer Society only has 28 known and possible environmental causes of cancer and in my opinion this number is far too low. There are so many things that can influence a person’s body to develop cancer and while we do need to work on finding treatments, we need to start turning the focus deeper to causes.

    American Cancer Society. (2018). What Causes Cancer? Retrieved from https://www.cancer.org/cancer/cancer-causes.html

  2. I agree 100% with you in the statement you made about the breast cancer culture being cute and pink. It seems like every time I turn around, there is a oink ribbon or a logo for a breast cancer slogan in pink writing. I think we think more in terms of money and less in terms of the actual science behind breast cancer and fixing it. I think the other thing is we need to stop thinking of it in terms of a “women’s health issue”. In the Barbara Ley article, she says that 99% of breast cancer cases are in women (PDF: 7.1). And while that is very true, I think people would be more inclined to fight for the cause in the first place if we did not see it that way. I feel like more men would join in the fight knowing its a disease for everyone and not just seen as being “for women”. With that being said, even then, we need more people to be interested in the science and not the money to be made on such things as tee-shirts and ribbons. If more people cared about the science, we could start taking more steps towards a solution such as how we can make our environment a bit better so it doesn’t lead so many women to get breast cancer. In the video Pink Ribbons Inc. you here women making testimonials about what the pink ribbon means to them. How it stands for hope and solidarity and family. You even here one women say she thinks of herself because she is a survivor. But I think what these people are not thinking about is what each and every one of them do (the small things) to help make the environment a better and safer place to live? What can they do to reduce the risk of other women in their area getting breast cancer? We need to think in terms of that.

    PDF: 7.1. Ley, Barbara. Chapter 5 – “The Cultural Politics of Sisterhood”. In From Pink to Green

    Film: 7.1 Léa Pool – “Pink Ribbons, Inc.” (24:39)

  3. Hi Diamond,

    I agree with you when you mention that we live in the age of technology. With any diagnosis, most people will rush to the internet to look up pictures, symptoms, and other people’s stories. Seeing the pink ribbon might be a sign of hope of people. I do disagree with Ehrenreich and some other feminists point of view of mainstream breast cancer culture. Sure, the effort of an entire foundation’s goal shouldn’t be to give women tips on looking prettier throughout a diseases treatment, but it does have its uses. Some women need that boost of confidence to get through the day, and it might be emotionally beneficial for them. One women shouldn’t be able to tell another that her actions are not feminist enough. In addition, as Barbara Ley mentioned in the chapter that we read, the Susan G. Komen foundation does do some work with raising money to fund research into the emotional links to breast cancer. I do agree that the foundation could do more work with this regard to breast cancer, but things like Race for the Cure and the Pink Ribbon do serve an important purpose in breast cancer culture.

  4. Greetings,

    I am agreeing with your opinion regarding the image of breast cancer as cute and pinky like what we search in the internet make people think that we should not feel terrified of breast cancer or give bad expression to the breast cancer patients. With the advanced technology nowadays, people should create a less intense symbols of the cancer disease for people to give support but not run away from it. Like you mentioned, when we search other cancer diseases, it will show a scientific image rather than something that people could attracted more to read. The question is why the government do not make a competition or activity for public to create more cute and attractive symbols for other diseases just like what they do to breast cancer. The other cancer diseases are important too for people to know and appreciate their fight through the journey of the cancer.

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