Mainstream breast cancer culture is aimed at creating a bubble and idea that only shows hope and prosperity for women with breast cancer. Breasts, which were once a taboo topic, are now highly publicized and marketed to an audience. Companies are looking to align themselves with the movement by finding innovative ways to tailor their products towards a certain audience. However, when finding out personal stories about women who have ‘battled’ breast cancer they actually feel like they’re not battling a disease, rather they are complying with drugs in their system. This hurts the culture that says, “everything will be fine, keep pushing along” and while the sentiment is nice there are women who are still dying from this disease despite huge rallies for a cure.
From Pink to Green by Barbara Ley, maps out the Feminist Politics of Environmental Health. Reading her chapter about the cultural politics of sisterhood I found it interesting how after making certain demands for environmental health research, “the coalition did not simply construct breast cancer as an environmental health issue. Rather, it framed the environmental breast cancer problem as a women’s health issue”. This is cause for concern because the most important risk factor for breast cancer is being a woman. The language that Ley describes how the Breast Cancer Fund’s letter was received is scary. Ley continues on, “until we arm ourselves with new intelligence about the causes of the disease, we will continue to find blindfolded”. I find this scary to read because women truly were not equipped to fight this disease. Pollution, and environmental factors play a part. Officials should look to stop cancer at the “source” and instead labeling it as a women’s health issue decreases general awareness of how the environment plays a huge role in our health.
With breast cancer aligned as a women’s health issue a disease kinship was formed with the attempt to interest organizations working in the name of women’s health. Awareness is formed, traction is gained for finding a cure but the mainstream media could be doing more harm than good. The pink ribbon makes an appearance and symbolizes solidarity, hope, light, family, growing old, and eventually surviving the disease. Awareness is different than making change, taking action in the fight seems more fit. It seems like the message isn’t clear too. Getting a mammogram doesn’t stop breast cancer and early detection only works for some. What about the women who don’t catch the onset of breast cancer? Oversaturation of uplifting survivors takes a toll mentally on women who aren’t as fortunate.
Companies have started looking for profit by aligning themselves with the movement. 80% of women make the household purchases (Pink Ribbons, inc). Mainstream breast cancer culture perpetuates the positive sides of the disease and blatantly disrespects the negative side. These companies such as the NFL, and Ford’s warriors in pink looks to market the disease for personal gain in their business. Because of organizations like the NFL the movement has constructed an idea that breast cancer is middle class white and corporations are only interested in selling to that demographic.
Mainstream breast cancer culture appears on the outside to be a put down on those that don’t survive, which doesn’t align with the other symbols (solidarity, hope, light, etc.,). The message is if you try hard enough, if you just do it, if you ‘livestrong’ you can beat the disease. That is certainly not always the case. Mainstream breast cancer culture shouldn’t have a message that is that clear cut. The message needs to include the dark side of the disease.
Ley, Barbara. 2009. “The Cultural Politics of Sisterhood.” In From Pink to Green, by Barbara Ley.
2011. Pink Ribbons, Inc.Directed by National Film Board of Canada Production. Performed by Lea Pool.