I think most people are familiar with the pink Susan G. Komen breast cancer awareness ribbon. Products ranging from golf balls to pens to batteries have all been painting pink at one point to support breast cancer research, even if most of their dollar goes to the company selling the product and not actual research. In addition, fundraisers like the Race for the Cure, are very popular means of spreading awareness for the disease, raising money for the efforts of the charity, and building a sense of sisterhood between women affected by breast cancer. Susan G. Komen’s charity as well as other big names like the Avon make up what is considered the “Mainstream breast cancer culture”. This culture that includes cause-marketing and consumerism is sometime at odds with women more relatively known as eco-feminists. Both groups seek to help women but come at the issue in two different ways.
As I stated above, Susan G. Komen gathers a lot of donor money from corporate sponsorships and cause-marketing. Big companies can get behind this issue because it might not have any connotations tied to it like other diseases, AIDs for example (Ley 2009). These large companies to stand to make a profit from partnering with foundation like Susan G. Komen, but as well there are large amounts of money raised that goes to things like research are other causes. Fundraisers like Race for the Cure also can raise a lot of money as well as give a place for women who may currently have or not have breast cancer feel supported and loved. However, some feel this culture drains and deflects the militancy of the cause (Pink Ribbons, Inc. 2011).
In contrast to the mainstream breast cancer culture, eco-feminists take a different view of approaching the disease. They critique the mainstream culture for placing the blame of breast cancer on women’s lifestyle choices versus the social, political, and economic systems that hinder women’s opportunities to make the right lifestyle choices (Ley 2009). These feminists also saw the lack of research on women’s health issues and in 1999 the Breast Cancer Fund framed the environmental breast cancer problem as a women’s health issue (Ley 2009). A letter signed by many women in varying breast cancer foundations and feminist organizations was sent to President Bill Clinton and called for more research to be done on the environmental causes of breast cancer. In this way eco-feminists and mainstream breast cancer culture also differs. Large foundations focus on research for a cure and early detection, while eco-feminist tend to focus of finding the causes of cancer and prevention (Pink Ribbons, Inc. 2011). Ehrenreich, while critiquing the pink ribbon movement said that it, “perpetuates complacency about social, political, economic, and environmental policy that are responsible for breast cancer”.
Although there are differences between these two movements, even Barbara Ley later on in her article acknowledge that companies like Susan G. Komen actually does some environmental work. She also recognizes that personal worldviews are often time multifaceted and even contradictory. Especially considering Susan G. Komen works on the community level all the way up to an international level, It is difficult to use blanket statements to describe the foundation as a whole. There are strengths and weaknesses to both methods of handling the issue of breast cancer.