Breast cancer awareness and fundraising has become increasingly well known over the years. There is now a well recognized symbol for people that have been diagnosed with breast cancer or support the cause for eradicating the disease, the pink ribbon. There is also a whole month, October, that has been dedicated to breast cancer awareness. It is known that 99 percent of people with breast cancer are women, so breast cancer has become a women’s health issue. (Ley 2009) There are some strengths and weaknesses to the popularization of the breast cancer culture that has led to the mainstream breast cancer culture that we know today. However, after viewing Ley’s article I believe there may be more weaknesses compared to strengths in mainstream breast cancer culture.
The strengths of mainstream breast cancer culture are what everyone believe to be true when they are donating to the fundraiser to help those affected by this disease. This culture brings attention to the cause, it has showed people that are not personally affected by this disease the reality of this disease. The mainstream breast cancer culture has also helped to bring attention to the disease itself and how to properly screen yourself for the possible symptoms of the disease. This however is only helpful in treating the disease as soon as possible, it has no preventive information, because there is not really any known ways to prevent breast cancer. It has also helped to bring attention to the gender separation in the medical field. Gender plays a big role in health and medicine and how patients are treated within the system. (Lecture 7.1) Gender issues are present in the treatment of many disease, especially those that are related to female’s ability to bear children. (Lecture 7.1) The mainstream breast cancer culture has helped to make options other than mastectomies more widely known. “In the United States, we used to treat almost all breast cancer with radical mastectomies. The research on partial mastectomies, which turned out to have equally good outcomes, was not done in the United States. It was done in France.” (Lecture 7.1)
Some of the core weaknesses that are recognizable within the mainstream breast cancer culture are what the money that is being raised by the corporations are being used for. “a significant portion of the money raised through them goes not to the cause that they supposedly support but to overhead and advertising cost.” (Ley 2009) So when people are donating to what they think is funding research to help end breast cancer they are really paying the wages of worker that work for the corporations and the material items that have evidence that they belong to someone who supports breast cancer culture. There is often not much consideration done by consumers of how much of the money they spend on products is actually going to breast cancer research. There seems to be more research going into how to heal someone who already has breast cancer and not as much into the prevention of breast cancer.
Ley mentions in her article that eco-feminists are trying to stop the ecological problems that are causing the health issues. The main claim of eco-feminists is that the environment has an effect on womens health. Which is pretty clear to see, the environment an individual resides in can have a huge impact on their health. One feminist activist that Ley quotes in her article is Barbara Ehrenreich. She states that “although this mainstream culture emerged in part from the successful efforts of feminist breast cancer activists in raising public awareness about the disease, its critics argue that it is far from feminist.” (Ley 2009) So the question I would like answered is what makes eco-feminist efforts so different from feminist breast cancer activist? I believe one difference is that the feminist breast cancer activist fights the notion that “dominant breast cancer paradigm places blame for breast cancer on women’s lifestyle choices rather than the social, political, and economic systems that often hinder women’s opportunities to make healthy choices.” (Ley 2009) While eco-feminist fight that “mainstream breast cancer culture perpetuates complacency about the social, political, economic, and environmental policies that she and other believe are responsible for causing the current breast cancer epidemic.” (Ley 2009). This would lead one to believe the main difference is that eco-feminist fight to find the ecological causes of disease. Whereas feminist breast cancer activists are fighting for the women who are already diagnosed with the disease and the “ultrafeminine and infantilizing tendencies of mainstream breast cancer culture.” (Ley 2009) It is widely known that breast cancer could affect anyone as Ley mentions, “Women at risk for breast cancer—which is all women—are engaged in a battle to save our bodies and our lives. Until we arm ourselves with new intelligence about the causes of the disease we will continue to fight blindfolded.” (Ley 2009) Breast cancer research and research for other cancers needs to improve based on the amount of income that fundraiser are bringing in to support the causes.