Mainstream breast cancer culture is the current way that society treats breast cancer. Almost every single person in the United States is aware of what a pink ribbon stands for. A decent amount of people have even participated in some kind of fundraiser for the cure, such as a marathon or other event involving/promoting physical activity. But behind this surface of smiling faces and pink shirts championing “the fight” is a dark side. At every event there is a company giving away free items to promote their brand and every store has something pink colored that they are selling to “support breast cancer research” while making a profit. Most of breast cancer research, however well intentioned the companies donating may be, goes toward slightly increasing the life-expectancy of cancer patients rather than finding the environmental factors behind the disease, preventing it, or making the lives of people affected more comfortable (Pool, 2017). This is starkly different from the eco-feminist view that Barbara Ley describes in her book. The pink ribbon movement is symbolized by a hot pink ribbon, which the author claims shows an unecessary femininization of a disease and infantalization of women who have cancer. Furthermore, the author views the movement as strictly focusing on early detection and treatment rather than prevention or finding a cure (even though events are usually named something like “Walk for a Cure” or “Run for a Cure”) (Ley, 1997). The eco-feminist movement, on the other hand does not seek to ‘brighten up’ or ‘make pretty’ breast cancer with colorful ribbons and cheerful salesmen. Instead, the seek to empower women during times of hardship and focus on finding a cure and not dehumanizing the process by allowing more than positive emotions to show. However, the pink ribbon and eco-feminist approach have similar aspects as well. For example, the pink ribbon labels women who did not die of cancer and are in remission as ‘survivors’ and women who have cancer still as ‘in a battle’. Many war like terms are used and having the disease is considered a war within. The eco-feminist movement, in all its desire to get away from this terminology has adopted a symbol of a coil that represented a moon that ancient Maltese women wore to battle. Although they believe that this is not an empty symbol as is the pink ribbon and that they are not merely comparing women to warriors but channeling the power that ancient women believed these symbols had (Ley, 1997).
One obvious strength is that we are all aware of breast cancer. Every woman knows that it is critical to get a regular mammogram in order to diagnose breast cancer as early as possible. Additionally, millions of dollars have been allocated to breast cancer research, which should be beneficial.
However, there are many weaknesses to this movement. For example, although millions of dollars have been put toward research, that research is not comprehensive and is most of the time repetitive. Furthermore, the atmosphere that the movement has discourages actual cancer patients. Many women feel as if the movement is too happy or cheerful and many more do not like the labels associated with it such as “survivor” and “battle” (Pool, 2017). In my opinion a movement that is so commercialized that it has become dissociated from the actual cause. Many people happily wear pink but do the supporters of this cause really advocate for change or know what they’re advocating for or do they just like to look empathetic. When I was younger, Lance Armstrong’s charitable bracelets were the biggest craze but as soon as the public found out about his steroid use nobody wanted to buy them. I wonder if people knew how little the breast cancer movement actually does if they would stop supporting them like they did with Armstrong.
Ley, Barbera L. The Cultural Politics of Sisterhood. University of Wisconsin-Madison, 1997, anthropology.msu.edu/anp270-us18/files/2016/06/7.1-Ley.pdf.
Pool, Lea, et al., directors. Pink Ribbons, Inc. Dailymotion, Dailymotion, 3 Aug. 2017, www.dailymotion.com/video/x5vqdad.