Pink?
October 10, 2013 8:22 PM   Subscribe

"I am not a ranter by any means and I have been pretty quiet about “Pinktober” and what has come to be known as “Pinkwashing” in breast cancer circles, but seeing October 13th advertised as “National No Bra Day” and as a “fun” way to support people with breast cancer has pushed me over the edge." A perspective worth considering.
posted by HuronBob (138 comments total) 35 users marked this as a favorite
 
Yeah, this event seems about as tasteful as playing Operation in order to support people with Parkinson's disease.
posted by Sticherbeast at 8:28 PM on October 10, 2013 [39 favorites]


i hatehatehate the whole "protect the tatas" campaign. it's so fucking demeaning and awful - for the "hey flaunting what we lost sucks" way and in a "you're only worth protecting if it's related to your sexual attractiveness." ugh!

i will admit that i own on piece of pinkwashing, but it really is because i just like pink that much, and this was a nice dusty pink thermos, not the traditional barbie pink.
posted by nadawi at 8:29 PM on October 10, 2013 [31 favorites]


Not everyone who has been treated for breast cancer finds the wall-to-wall Pink comforting -- and instead sees it as a reminder of something pretty goddam awful. *shrug* I know that good intentions count for a lot, but I am with this author/survivor.

But among all the pins on my work ID lanyard, I include a pink ribbon. Who can stop this tide? :7)
posted by wenestvedt at 8:34 PM on October 10, 2013 [4 favorites]


I had a whole little diatribe written here, but I decided to delete it. Instead I will leave you all with this, which I saw rolling down the street last year about this time.
posted by phunniemee at 8:38 PM on October 10, 2013 [15 favorites]


Eff a no bra day, for personal reasons alone.


It's either this or a wheelbarrow.
posted by louche mustachio at 8:42 PM on October 10, 2013 [30 favorites]


Another well done anti-pink recent blog post. (Not endorsing or commenting on blogger's personal views toward chemo, which are not really part of the linked piece anyway.)
posted by ClaudiaCenter at 8:44 PM on October 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


I had been rolling my eyes. Now I'll be rolling my eyes and quoting Stitcherbeast.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 8:49 PM on October 10, 2013 [4 favorites]


See also Barbara Ehrenreich's Welcome to Cancerland.

"What has grown up around breast cancer in just the last fifteen years more nearly resembles a cult -- or, given that it numbers more than two million women, their families, and friends-perhaps we should say a full-fledged religion. The products -- teddy bears, pink-ribbon brooches, and so forth -- serve as amulets and talismans, comforting the sufferer and providing visible evidence of faith. ... And like most recognized religions, breast cancer has its great epideictic events, its pilgrimages and mass gatherings where the faithful convene and draw strength from their numbers. These are the annual races for a cure...

"I know this much right now for sure: I will not go into that last good night with a teddy bear tucked under my arm."
posted by Flannery Culp at 8:53 PM on October 10, 2013 [52 favorites]


I think women should be allowed to wear bras or not as they see fit. I'm fine with women choosing to make a statement with them, but I think that's dumb too. Wear one if you feel more comfortable. Don't if you don't.

I don't think all the women deciding to participate in in bra day will see it as flaunting. Many will see it as reclaiming the fear they live with just by having breasts.

There are better ways to support the mission of a cancer free world than buying a red iPod, but if you were going to buy it anyway....
posted by cjorgensen at 8:53 PM on October 10, 2013 [2 favorites]


"you're only worth protecting if it's related to your sexual attractiveness."

This. For fucks sake, this is about people fighting for their lives.
posted by nanojath at 8:54 PM on October 10, 2013 [24 favorites]


Yeah I hate the damn stupid protect the tatas business - it trivializes something terrible and sexualizes it to boot. Have been trying to not snarl at everyone who posts it on FB but it gets harder with each stupid, well meaning but utterly ignorant post.
posted by leslies at 8:59 PM on October 10, 2013 [20 favorites]


Why does breast cancer get so much more attention than lung cancer, which kills more women, and heart disease, which is the top cause of death overall?
posted by desjardins at 9:00 PM on October 10, 2013 [46 favorites]


I'm sure you all know this, but Breast Cancer Action is a community leader on these issues.
posted by ClaudiaCenter at 9:00 PM on October 10, 2013 [2 favorites]


Everyone I know who has experienced breast cancer personally is grossed out by the annual pink tide of hollow acknowledgement. Which is far too many people.

As you might imagine, the men (both trans and cis) I know who have experienced breast cancer find it infuriating in some very specific ways.

Fuck cancer of all kinds, forever, and fuck the commodification of illness and treatment.
posted by Sidhedevil at 9:08 PM on October 10, 2013 [56 favorites]


Why does breast cancer get so much more attention than lung cancer, which kills more women, and heart disease, which is the top cause of death overall?

I tried to start an hilarious Facebook meme by cryptically posting about the characteristics of my lungs and then getting coy whenever anyone asked about it. Sadly, it didn't catch on.

pink and spongiform
posted by Jpfed at 9:08 PM on October 10, 2013 [22 favorites]


I'm with Sidhedevil, the women I know who have experienced breast cancer have no respect for pink ribboners.
posted by BlueHorse at 9:10 PM on October 10, 2013 [4 favorites]


Zina Saunders - Pinkwashing.
posted by cashman at 9:14 PM on October 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


Why does breast cancer get so much more attention than lung cancer, which kills more women, and heart disease, which is the top cause of death overall?

Because, in the eyes of the public:

Breast cancer: Not your fault.

Lung cancer: Your fault for smoking (total bullshit, there are kinds of lung cancer not related to smoking at all...)

Heart disease: Your fault because of your weight, diet and lack of exercise
posted by Renoroc at 9:14 PM on October 10, 2013 [47 favorites]


I hate "save the tatas!" because it's so dehumanizing and it objectifies under the guise of benevolence. God forbid we go with the message of trying to save the people who are attached to the breasts.
posted by kat518 at 9:25 PM on October 10, 2013 [13 favorites]


when the NFL does that pink shit I can't help but wonder how much money they spent on all the shoes, towels, etc. that will be worn once and discarded. Has to be hundreds of thousands of dollars, right? Also, where did this braless promotion originate? I can't believe a group of women would create it.
posted by akaJudge at 9:26 PM on October 10, 2013 [3 favorites]


There is one of these things going around that says "Support Breast Cancer." Not "support breast cancer research" or "support breast cancer survivors," just "support breast cancer."

NO. Because, as a very smart friend of mine said, WORDS MEAN THINGS.
posted by Lulu's Pink Converse at 9:33 PM on October 10, 2013 [92 favorites]


And, of course, colon cancer can barely be acknowledged, much less discussed, because EWWWW -- despite the fact that it's the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths, and its occurrence rates are actually increasing for people under 50. But who can sexualize/cutesify that? So never mind!
posted by scody at 9:49 PM on October 10, 2013 [56 favorites]


Fuck that shit. I go braless pretty much every day I don't have work, a job interview, or something else with money riding on it.

How dare you make my natural state some kind of "save the boobies" awareness raising nonsense.

I'm just... not wearing a bra. It's not about you.
posted by Sara C. at 9:51 PM on October 10, 2013 [12 favorites]


Yup

Thanks for posting. We lost our mum to breast cancer, and I know this would be her sentiments exactly.
posted by mattoxic at 9:52 PM on October 10, 2013 [6 favorites]


There is one of these things going around that says "Support Breast Cancer." Not "support breast cancer research" or "support breast cancer survivors," just "support breast cancer."

The cashiers at the grocery store always ask me if I want to "support breast cancer" or "support diabetes" or whatever. I have to grit my teeth every time, because I realize they're required by the company to ask every customer and I don't want to make their lives worse, but... c'mon. If you're going to have to ask the same question hundreds of times a day, wouldn't you at least want that question to make sense?
posted by jaguar at 9:52 PM on October 10, 2013 [9 favorites]


I used to think this stuff was kind of harmless bullshit, but having heard from too many friends and strangers who've experienced it about how bad it makes them feel, I've come to realize it's harmful bullshit.

I get that once upon a time, breast cancer was a shameful subject that no one talked about openly and it needed a campaign of actual awareness and deshaming. But that time has long since gone by and now breast cancer's practically the only disease you can get that isn't shameful -- everything else is somehow your fault, because you smoked or tanned or drank or were fat or whatever.

Surely there are other diseases out there that we could be destigmatizing, instead of turning pink ribbons into a marketing industry all their own?
posted by jacquilynne at 9:54 PM on October 10, 2013 [7 favorites]


Just last week I realized what those "Save the Tatas" bumper stickers were for. I'd seen them from a distance for years and never really given them much thought. I thought it might have been an ad campaign for a bar in Ensenada or something.

Also, where did this braless promotion originate? I can't believe a group of women would create it.

Once again, the Onion blazes the trail?
posted by 2N2222 at 9:55 PM on October 10, 2013 [3 favorites]


Amen.
I've got nothing against community organizations getting together to raise funds for worthwhile causes. And I also expect that responsible companies should contribute to the welfare of the communities in which they operate. When charitable activities reach a certain critical mass though it seems inevitable that they will be co-opted by corporate PR interests.
In these parts Dragon Boating became a bit of a big thing a few years ago and the proceeds from events were normally donated to breast cancer research. Nowadays, any nearby Dragon Boat festival has become an opportunity for shameless corporate branding and any amount of money raised for real cancer research pales in comparison to the value of the marketing returns. It's no longer the Nanaimo Dragon Boat Festival, it's now the "SaveOnFoods (a huge regional grocery chain) Nanaimo Dragon Boat Festival". A certain amount of money is raised for breast cancer research, I suppose, but the event is mainly seen as an economic boon for the town and the sponsors.
posted by islander at 9:57 PM on October 10, 2013 [3 favorites]


colon cancer can barely be acknowledged, much less discussed, because...who can sexualize...that?

Oh, dude. You don't even want to know the answer to that.
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 9:57 PM on October 10, 2013 [17 favorites]


I find the entire concept of "Movember" pretty disgusting, conflating a hairy moustache with a smelly bum. What makes it worse is, like the pink t-shirts for breast cancer, Movember has colonized the workplace. So bland and unescapable.
posted by KokuRyu at 10:00 PM on October 10, 2013


i thought the nfl pink stuff was auctioned off. i mean, it supports koman and is hollow for a bunch of other reasons, but i think on that one specific point they aren't total assholes.
posted by nadawi at 10:08 PM on October 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


There is one of these things going around that says "Support Breast Cancer." Not "support breast cancer research" or "support breast cancer survivors," just "support breast cancer."

The Women in Engineering group at my uni sells pink hardhats at orientation week. They're utterly useless - even if I felt inclined to wear a pink hat to remind people that I'm an OMGWOMAN, they're not hi-vis and you can't wear them on an actual worksite. I brought this up on a university message board and was curtly told that the hats weren't pink because they were "for girls", but because they were "raising breast awareness."

Raising. Breast. Awareness.
posted by jaynewould at 10:23 PM on October 10, 2013 [71 favorites]


People don't even know what words they're stringing together, and it doesn't matter. The cancer is largely beside the point, it's about making random noises that sound like you're doing something acceptably noble. Bonus points if you get to act saucy for a day.
posted by naju at 11:14 PM on October 10, 2013 [46 favorites]


Metafilter: has colonized the workplace.
posted by oceanjesse at 11:23 PM on October 10, 2013




... this, which I saw rolling down the street ...

I'm a cement mixer for your love, Baby
A churnin', yearnin' urn of burnin' funk
posted by Bruce H. at 12:02 AM on October 11, 2013 [2 favorites]


I think the "save the tatas" merchandise is off-putting. It makes it sound like women are the sum of their body parts. I'm glad that I don't have to see "have the balls to fight testicular cancer" stickers.
posted by Nomyte at 12:13 AM on October 11, 2013 [5 favorites]


As someone who had to have breast surgery (turned out benign, but I was scared) some years back, I really resent getting shoved off the sidewalk by all those people arm-in-arm marching down the street of my city, who are getting off on their highly visible fellowship.

The whole brouhaha - last year? - with the Susan B. Komen Foundation and Planned Parenthood left a pretty sour taste in my mouth, too. Most of my reproductive health care for the first half of my life was from Planned Parenthood.
posted by Peach at 12:30 AM on October 11, 2013 [4 favorites]


Nomyte:
1 - I don't know where you live, but...
2 - Cafepress does exist!

Oh, so tempted...
posted by drfu at 12:31 AM on October 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


KICK TESTICULAR CANCER IN THE BALLS
posted by Nomyte at 12:36 AM on October 11, 2013 [25 favorites]


Why does breast cancer get so much more attention than lung cancer, which kills more women, and heart disease, which is the top cause of death overall?

I don't know much about it (though I suspect I'll learn a lot more about it in the next few weeks, as a close friend has just been diagnosed with Invasive Duct Carcinoma Stage IIB) but I suspect it's because breast cancer often strikes women at a much younger age than other types of cancer & diseases. The number of years lost (or put at risk) to any one individual can be seen as greater, perhaps.

Also, it seems that things like screening and early detection make it (breast cancer) one of the more treatable forms (I have no statistics to back this up) so it's a good target for fundraisers, treatment awareness, etc.

And yeah, there's the whole "we love boobies!" thing, which is an easy sell compared to "we love thyroid glands!" or what have you.
posted by ShutterBun at 1:14 AM on October 11, 2013


scody: "And, of course, colon cancer can barely be acknowledged, much less discussed, because EWWWW -- despite the fact that it's the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths, and its occurrence rates are actually increasing for people under 50. But who can sexualize/cutesify that? So never mind!"

SAVE THE BUTTHOLE!

Real Men Wear Brown!

Race for the Ass!

That's all I got. Y'all can go home now.
posted by Samizdata at 1:15 AM on October 11, 2013 [6 favorites]


Sara C.: "Fuck that shit. I go braless pretty much every day I don't have work, a job interview, or something else with money riding on it.

How dare you make my natural state some kind of "save the boobies" awareness raising nonsense.

I'm just... not wearing a bra. It's not about you.
"

That's okay. I'll stand with you!

(I'm an outie, so it's really not a problem.)
posted by Samizdata at 1:16 AM on October 11, 2013


'Raising awareness' is a legitimate objective but it's usually vaguely defined and very easily co-opted for almost any activity; and the focus on achieving publicity helps skew the choice of activity towards the ridiculous and irrelevant.

We should make it clearer that 'awareness' is the state achieved by someone who has read some stuff and spent a few minutes thinking about it, not just a kind of brand recognition. But it is hard to challenge anything done for charity.

Myself I blame the tyranny of the extroverts, who are keen (in fact they insist) that we get on to the fun part where we all strip off and feel pretty damn good about ourselves.
posted by Segundus at 1:17 AM on October 11, 2013 [2 favorites]


And I am currently trying to support a lady friend through her first biopsy. (Just went through a biopsy scare earlier this year myself, to discover I had keratinosis).
posted by Samizdata at 1:21 AM on October 11, 2013


There is one of these things going around that says "Support Breast Cancer." Not "support breast cancer research" or "support breast cancer survivors," just "support breast cancer."

An old office had soda machines set to a quarter a can, and a big cardboard box for the deposits next to each machine. The box said "Cans for Cancer".

Someone moved a second box over and changed the title. So we had two boxes, "Cans for Cancer" and "Cans against Cancer".

Then whenever you pitched a can, you could vote.
posted by cotterpin at 1:51 AM on October 11, 2013 [54 favorites]


'Raising awareness' is a legitimate objective but it's usually vaguely defined and very easily co-opted for almost any activity; and the focus on achieving publicity helps skew the choice of activity towards the ridiculous and irrelevant.

Raising awareness is code for 'we are going to use this cause as an excuse to pay ourselves huge salaries and do nothing to help anyone. You'd be better off giving your money to a hobo"
posted by empath at 1:58 AM on October 11, 2013 [14 favorites]


We have Carol Baldwin here in town, and those horrific "save the boobies" shirts were all over the State Fair a few years back. She even had worse slogans like "save second base" or similar. I saw young kids sporting them and found the spectacle demeaning. Haven't been able to see her group the same since.
posted by kinnakeet at 2:09 AM on October 11, 2013


Founded in 2008, Save the Ta-tas® Foundation is a private, non-profit, 501(c)3 organization that is dedicated to battling cancer at every stage by supporting break- through breast cancer research. Save the Ta-tas® commitment is to help create a world without cancer through the sales of Ta-tas ® Brand products. The Ta-tas ® brand portfolio includes a new collection of women’s and men’s premium shirts, as well as the original Save the Ta-tas® line of shirts, shorts, bags, hats, and lotion. To date, more than $820,000 has been donated to fight breast cancer.

I just checked their website, and it seems that they are about to hit the $1M mark, and you can see the direct effect of those contributions (see the researchers and their work). Shit, let em say whatever. That's a great way to draw attention to a problem in a way that isn't preaching to the choir. This money is coming from people who otherwise would not give to the cause. I mean, what is being all smug about sexualizing a disease gonna draw in donations?
posted by hal_c_on at 3:30 AM on October 11, 2013


Not sure if it was the preamble in the post, but I totally parsed the title of the linked to blog as Cancer In My Tities on first glance.

Any-hoo. I'm with empath on the whole "raising awareness" bollocks; seems to be a convenient way for people to give themselves the feel-goods without actually doing anything constructive, like getting involved in the hard, hard work of raising the horrendous amount of funds to actually make a difference.
posted by fatfrank at 3:33 AM on October 11, 2013


As a small digression, I'm planning to paint my sailboat stands pink. At the boatyard last week the old gruff boat guys were arguing "who's are these", "where are mine" , "someone stole mine" so I figgure if I paint mine pink it will totally exclude me from those disputes. And support a good cause!
posted by sammyo at 3:48 AM on October 11, 2013


How does pink, or bralessness, or any of this stuff "support" those with breast cancer?

If anyone actually wants to support those with breast cancer, any other type of cancer, or any other type of illness for that matter, that person should (1) support universal health care and (2) donate funds to an effective research organization rather than a cyclical nonprofit where the funds would be used to promote bullshit PR and marketing to get more funds.
posted by miss tea at 3:55 AM on October 11, 2013 [51 favorites]


Around this time last year Mr. Pterodactyl and I were around the Dupont Circle area in DC and we noticed a lot of bro-y guys, many with girlfriend or at least female friends, wearing pink shirts and little pink shotglasses on beaded chains; apparently there was a Breast Cancer Pub Crawl. I'm as big a fan of getting day-drunk for basically no reason as the next person (and more than many) but the whole thing really squicked me out; you're taking a disease that affects many people, including family members of those with the illness, and using it as an excuse to go to bars for cheap drink specials? Seriously? If you want to have an effing pub crawl have a damn pub crawl and advertise it well so I know which bars to avoid, but don't feel all smug about going to your shitty bars because of breast cancer. Using the veneer of "awareness" to justify what you want to do anyway is pretty gross.
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 4:12 AM on October 11, 2013 [3 favorites]


She even had worse slogans like "save second base" or similar.

I've seen this appear on my FB feed a few times in the last week or so.

I've decided that if, God forbid, I develop breast cancer, I will lie about it to friends and family so that I do not drown in a deluge of pink.
posted by Lucinda at 4:14 AM on October 11, 2013 [3 favorites]


I've decided that if, God forbid, I develop breast cancer, I will lie about it to friends and family so that I do not drown in a deluge of pink.

Yeah, that's a good point, too -- I don't, thank God, have cancer but if I did I'd be pretty pissed about all of this stuff. I'm not a cause and I don't want to be someone's damn inspiration and it's not my job to do that.

I think all of this pink stuff puts pressure on people who are actually dealing with a very serious illness to conform to our social narrative of them. "Look, we're supporting you! Do something brave and inspirational with dignity. Aren't you going to thank us? You know? For our support? I may not know you personally but I have a pink lanyard so if you could provide some words of insight and wisdom about life to make me feel better while you potentially die that'd be great."
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 4:18 AM on October 11, 2013 [12 favorites]


The cashiers at the grocery store always ask me if I want to "support breast cancer" or "support diabetes" or whatever.

Some time ago I was urged on social media to voice my support for research into an ailment that I have a personal stake in: Facebook then announced "Ricochet Biscuit likes multiple sclerosis." Actually, not that much.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 5:03 AM on October 11, 2013 [20 favorites]


Also worth noting: Karen Handel, a prominent executive at Komen, is also a classy conservative Republican with a strong anti-choice streak.
posted by pxe2000 at 5:08 AM on October 11, 2013


I think the thing about the pink ribbon is interesting. I don't know the origin of colored ribbons to show support for people living with a disease, but I know that when the organizers of the big awards shows (Emmys, Oscars) started giving red ribbons out to presenters in 1992 or so that it really helped change the thinking of a lot of average Americans in regards to HIV/AIDS. Obviously, breast cancer is a totally different thing, but I think I'm just pointing out that the pink epidemic, while incredibly overblown, has the same sort of origin.

For example, I'm running a 10k training run at some point next week (after my marathon tomorrow, God help me) to support a woman who is the mother of three, pregnant with the 4th, and fighting breast cancer. It's a virtual race/run where you donate some money to help the family, and the organizers send you a pink medal that says "Breast Cancer Awareness" I actually don't own anything else that's pink, but after I finish that run, I will be proud to hang that medal up with my other ones.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 5:09 AM on October 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


I was kicked out of seventh grade sex ed class for asking if men could get breast cancer. The whole class laughed so the teacher thought I was joking. To be fair, I was a class clown, and even though I did really want to know -- I had big nipples as a kid and was convinced there was something wrong with me -- it was a bit of a boy-who-cried-wolf scene. To his credit, after I explained in the vice principal's office that I really was curious about it, the teacher went and found out to his surprise that indeed men can get breast cancer. I decided to discover the truth about my big nipples on my own.

I had a lot of reasons to return home in my late twenties to live with my parents after my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer, but the biggest one was that she was precious to me and I wanted to maximize my time spent with her in case she died. My dad certainly appreciated a helping hand around the house. As it happened, her cancer was detected early and the radiation therapy worked, though by the end the treatments were so exhausting that I would carry her upstairs like a little girl asleep after a long car ride.

Years after her recovery she died suddenly, age 68, of a heart attack while meeting an old college friend for lunch at a chain French bistro. She was excited and happy up until her death. We spoke on the phone for an hour or two every week, and our last words together were "I love you, mom" and "Oh, you know I love you too, Sam." I'm lucky to have that.

Autopsy results showed that her coronary artery was more than 95% occluded by plaque, but her doctor visits were generally focused on monitoring signs of cancer remission and treating other long-term health issues, so her advanced heart disease went under the radar. The autopsy also revealed metastasized breast cancer cell buildup on her liver, so it may be that she was spared a painful, wasting death in favor of a quick, catastrophic one. I'm not sure how comforting that is.

When I see pinkwashing I think of my mom. I consciously ignore the problematic aspects of corporate sponsorship of disease treatment, of the idea that even though plenty goes to the right places someone, somewhere, is making lots of money off of these events. I don't spend my energy getting angry about all the other cancers that could be getting such attention but aren't, or the other women's health issues, including the heart disease that killed my mom, that are given less attention than breast cancer.

I think of my mom instead. She was a strong woman who weathered a killer disease with grace, who took time to appreciate her family for their help, who more than survived but thrived in order to be part of her grandsons' lives. I could spend my energy being annoyed by the NFL's pink shoes or offended by the "Save the Tatas" shirts. I know this is a choice I make, but I can't begrudge anyone else for being angry about it.

Instead, I think of of how light she was as I carried her upstairs, drained after another battery of x-rays. "Lean your head on my chest, mom, and put your arm on my shoulder, you're easier to carry if you hug me."

"Thanks, Sam. I'm going to make it through all this, you know."

I know, mom. You did.
posted by Ice Cream Socialist at 5:48 AM on October 11, 2013 [120 favorites]


Yeah I hate the damn stupid protect the tatas business - it trivializes something terrible and sexualizes it to boot.

It also makes the idea more accessible and less scary to some. I've seen some people though that I know are just taking advantage of people's perceptions. I saw a large man in an "I ❤ Boobies!" I heard a woman ask another woman, "Did you see his shirt?" The other replied, "It's a breast cancer shirt." First: "Oh." That guy was wearing it because of the shock value, or even if he wasn't that's what the shirt was designed to do. Shock people out of complacency then hit 'em with a message. I don't think it's a particular effective message, and perhaps my reading is incorrect.

If you say, "Let's go do a run to raise money for a terrible decease!" it somewhat takes the fun out of it. If you say, "Let's run for the love of boobs!" it isn't such a downer.

There's two side to the sexualizing coin as well. I find it a bit difficult to shame someone for professing a love of boobs. I think the reasons are fairly obvious, but if you aren't allowed to express such a love, then it says there's something wrong with the object of your desire. That's a bit messed up in my mind. I realize this gets complex when wrapping the whole issue around disease.

Personally I wish we'd prioritize our illnesses by the number of people they affect, and the cost of treatment, and start attacking these things in a more scientific manner. I wish people knew how to donate effectively and were willing to do so. It shouldn't take a celebrity, a sport, or a corporation to pry money out of people's hands, but I don't see enough people doing this. So I'll tolerate the pinkwashing without rage and take comfort in the idea it spreads awareness.
posted by cjorgensen at 6:01 AM on October 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


When certain people go on about the conspiracy that cancer will never be cured because it's too big an industry, usually you just tune them out and mentally hand them the tin foil.

Sometimes with all this lucre surrounding Breast Cancer I have to momentarily stop and wonder tough.
posted by edgeways at 6:02 AM on October 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


'Remove your support garments to support our cause'...very Orwellian.
posted by Confess, Fletch at 6:02 AM on October 11, 2013


...if you aren't allowed to express such a love, then it says there's something wrong with the object of your desire.

I think I understand what you are saying, and I'm honestly not trying to be fighty, not but as far as I can tell there are two major problems wrapped up there, one, it tends to promote the 'object' over the person (boobies vs women: we must save the boobs vs we must save the women) and two... well, "objects".
posted by edgeways at 6:08 AM on October 11, 2013 [12 favorites]


Just imagine if this kind of effort and media was put into getting people overall health care. Those NFL players with pink shoes and towels? They are on the public rolls 5 years after their careers are over because that's how much coverage they get from the NFL and because health insurance for former NFL players and their broken bodies is rather hard to get (though this changes with Obamacare at least until it is repealed).
posted by srboisvert at 6:10 AM on October 11, 2013 [2 favorites]


One of the reasons I stopped using Facebook was because I hated the 'awareness' memes - everyone should change their avatar to a cartoon character to stop child abuse! everyone should post the colour of their underwear because breast cancer but hee hee don't tell the boys!

The last one particularly irked me because it supposed that only women need to be aware of female cancers, as if men are not affected too by dint of being brothers, fathers or partners. And honestly, even if my knickers are awesome and have Sonic the Hedgehog on them, I don't really want to play some kind of coy titilating game about it. Most of the people I knew doing these things had the best of intentions, but if you so much as posit that these are pretty tedious and do the square root of fuck-all for 'awareness', people react as though you are wishing everybody with cancer dies.

Barbara Ehrenreich's book on the pressure to think positively when one is diagnosed with an illness is excellent. I haven't had a serious physical illness since I was little, but I am diagnosed with a mental illness, and it was eyeopening to me that the 'if you think positive and put a smile on your face you can beat it!' feeling applies just as much to physical conditions. The main thing a serious condition coming upon you teaches you is that in some ways, you really have no control over the outcome for you.
posted by mippy at 6:12 AM on October 11, 2013 [6 favorites]


Also, I can't even take out the bins without wearing a bra, so for that reason, I will support the fight against cancer by adequately supporting myself.
posted by mippy at 6:13 AM on October 11, 2013 [3 favorites]


I've been moved to stroke levels of rage lately by car dealership ads where they paint a car pink and park it in front of the dealership and use it to move inventory (during slow sales season of course) by promising to donate $50 (big fucking whoop) for each vehicle sold to the Komen organization. Opportunistic assholes; I've seen two local dealers doing this recently.
posted by aught at 6:20 AM on October 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


I hate that the Big Pinkwashing Machine is preying on the fears of young women. You know what the greatest risk factor for breast cancer is? Age. But I don't see anyone urging 60-80 year old women to flaunt their breasts, and they are by far the group most affected.

My young daughter-in-law was getting pain in one breast while she was pregnant with my grandson - she spent a week consumed with worry about breast cancer until her doctor diagnosed something relatively trivial. I could have pointed out that at her age it was more likely that she would die in childbirth than have breast cancer, but that was just too horrible to contemplate.
posted by Mary Ellen Carter at 6:21 AM on October 11, 2013 [2 favorites]


I think I understand what you are saying, and I'm honestly not trying to be fighty, not but as far as I can tell there are two major problems wrapped up there, one, it tends to promote the 'object' over the person (boobies vs women: we must save the boobs vs we must save the women) and two... well, "objects".

I'm with you here as well, but there's also something to be said for the fact that we are sexual beings and culturally we're hammered with the idea that breast and asses and curves and bulges are healthy objects of desire. Like I said, it gets complex. I think you articulated the aspect that was giving me discomfort.
posted by cjorgensen at 6:24 AM on October 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


I mean, what is being all smug about sexualizing a disease gonna draw in donations?

first of all - it's all well and good for save the ta-tas to self report how much money they've gotten and how much they've paid out, but i can't seem to find them on the charity watchdog sites to verify that. according to some stuff i've found 5% of shirt sales goes to fund something related to breast cancer maybe, so where does the other 95% go? how much is spent on salaries? etc. secondly, if you think we object to sexualizing the disease because we're getting off on being smug, you're way off base.
posted by nadawi at 6:24 AM on October 11, 2013 [9 favorites]


isn't it weird that it's always women being encouraged to remember that we're sexual beings?
posted by nadawi at 6:26 AM on October 11, 2013 [28 favorites]


All the pink nonsense has honestly made me wonder if there's something wrong with me. My mom had breast cancer when I was in kindergarten, at an age that makes doctors' eyes widen a little when taking a health history, and I'm sure my parents made efforts to make it seem less scary to me and my brother, but breast cancer seems so firmly in the "So that happened. That sucks, but we'll manage" category. But maybe my mom's unusual. She hung about with the Y-ME people briefly and then decided it really wasn't her thing. I tend to get the same impression from the teacher I was closest to in school (who was much more ill than my mother)--the other teachers pooling sick days for her was way more important than anything anyone could have come up with involving the colour pink.
posted by hoyland at 6:29 AM on October 11, 2013 [3 favorites]


I couldn't agree more. I'm coming up on my one-year anniversary of the diagnosis of breast cancer (and have completed highly successful treatment). I have always disliked the whole Pink concept but find the game/fun element that has crept in to be absolutely horrifying. The Komen people invented some sort of scavenger hunt involving a visit to the USS Intrepid for middle schoolers so they would learn more about "awareness." what bullshit.
posted by etaoin at 6:29 AM on October 11, 2013 [3 favorites]


There is a similar campaign involving a giant air-powered gonad, thoughbut. I think in recent years there has been much more focus on male cancers, even before Movember caught on int he UK.
posted by mippy at 6:33 AM on October 11, 2013 [2 favorites]


I am against the "pinkwashing" thing from an intellectual standpoint. But I have a little pink ribbon regardless: my aunt recently died of breast cancer, so I wear the one I was given at her funeral. I do it in memoriam and in solidarity with my cousins and my uncle.

I am not particularly conflicted by the choice of whether or not to wear it. What does give me pause lately is engaging in the anti-pink-stuff rhetoric with the same righteous offense. I know the industry has massive problems, but now watching these companies turn the mortal suffering of others into a novelty just makes me feel depressed. I am too tired to be angry.

I am sure that most people who support these movements have the best intentions. How awful.
posted by one of these days at 6:35 AM on October 11, 2013 [3 favorites]


i hatehatehate the whole "protect the tatas" campaign. it's so fucking demeaning and awful - for the "hey flaunting what we lost sucks" way and in a "you're only worth protecting if it's related to your sexual attractiveness." ugh!

You know, I am the first person to support anyone else whose actual legitimate struggles are trivialized by bullshit ribbons - in my case it was yellow ribbons, but the same principle applies. I completely support anger at useless ribbons being touted as "helping breast cancer sufferers." But this whole "anger at the breasts" thing really bothers me. Do I think women not wearing a bra to show breast cancer support is idiotic? Sure. But I can see where they're coming from - they think that collective action of some kind is the only way to get real action, and they want to participate in it. They think that breast cancer is not cured due to shame of breasts, and they want to brazenly display them - to say, "Fuck yeah, I have breasts. Stop blushing and help."

The idea that some breast cancer survivors don't have breasts anymore and thus showing breasts is offensive - I don't even know where that really came from, but that sucks - just like anything encouraging women to be ashamed of their breasts sucks. There are enough. We don't need any more.
posted by corb at 6:44 AM on October 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


Recommended: the documentary Pink Ribbons, Inc. (trailer) which casts a light on the Susan G. Komen foundation as self-aggrandizing gangsters more interested in marketing and protecting their brand than helping the victims of breast cancer.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 6:46 AM on October 11, 2013 [8 favorites]


If these campaigns were really about health, then the focus would be on heart disease, the No. 1 killer for women. And then there's the buying pink doesn't mean you're helping breast cancer research.
posted by etaoin at 6:50 AM on October 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


Pink Ribbons Inc. is a great documentary and it shows there are consequences to pinkwashing. Road to hell and all of that...

What was illuminating to me, in that documentary, were the women they interviewed who had later stage breast cancer. They felt completely shut out by the breast cancer awareness movement because that movement is very much for survivors and those with early stage breast cancer.

It was also interesting to hear some women talk about how they didn't even like the term "survivor."
posted by girlmightlive at 6:55 AM on October 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


It was also interesting to hear some women talk about how they didn't even like the term "survivor."

"Not yet fallen out of the cancer-regressed statistics box" was deemed too clunky and a little frightening.
posted by Slackermagee at 6:59 AM on October 11, 2013 [2 favorites]


As my (6 year cancer free) wife says: "Fuck cancer, and fuck Susan G Komen."
posted by SPUTNIK at 7:00 AM on October 11, 2013 [9 favorites]


The first thing I thought when I saw the bralessness thing was "Do people think I wear one for fun?"

Why not "Hey guys! Why don't you play sports without your protective cup to support testicular cancer!" that's about the same kind of thing.
posted by emjaybee at 7:02 AM on October 11, 2013 [14 favorites]


money that goes to komen hurts women, full stop. you can't support women's health in the united states and be opposed to planned parenthood.
posted by nadawi at 7:02 AM on October 11, 2013 [34 favorites]


isn't it weird that it's always women being encouraged to remember that we're sexual beings?

I was careful to leave out gender or sexual orientation when I mentioned the one doing the desiring, and was careful to be inclusive of gender and sexual orientation when mentioning what was desired.
posted by cjorgensen at 7:06 AM on October 11, 2013


If these campaigns were really about health, then the focus would be on heart disease, the No. 1 killer for women.

The idea behind "breast cancer awareness" was that back in the day, women just didn't talk about their breasts or other health topics that dealt with sexualized parts of their body. I read a history of Mattel focused on Barbie and Ruth Handler. It discussed how when she was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1970 and had to have a masectomy, it was an incredibly isolating experience for her, and there wasn't a lot of postoperative support. I think sometimes we forget that Breast Cancer Awareness and community organization efforts like Susan G. Koman started for a reason. I absolutely agree with critiques of their practices and the idea of "Awareness" being a goal in and of itself. But I also understand the need that many women have for a sense of community struggle against an overwhelming foe. The fact that companies exploit this need as a marketing tool isn't new, but it's sickening all the same.
posted by muddgirl at 7:07 AM on October 11, 2013 [5 favorites]


cjorgensen - yes, in the context of a thread about pinkwashing/save the tatas. what sexual beingness of men needs to be remembered as it relates to a terminal disease?
posted by nadawi at 7:09 AM on October 11, 2013 [3 favorites]


Both of my aunts (related by marriage) and my mother have had breast cancer. They were all diagnosed and treated within months of each other and each had a slightly different form. Their reactions to cancer and the treatment have also been vastly different.

Aunt B told everyone in the family the minute she was diagnosed, requested that her college-age daughter drop out of school and stay home to care for her, and decorated every single vehicle and surface of her home with pink ribbons, bears, and other related objects. For the first year after she recovered I never saw her not in a pink shirt or something related to the Save the Tatas campaign. She did a full run of chemo and a masectomy but no reconstruction. She's five years cancer free now, but has other health issues related to her weight.

Aunt C calmly mentioned her diagnosis at a family gathering but downplayed the severity. It was only after my uncle called my dad from the hospital did we even know that she was getting chemo. She quietly mentioned something to my mother about the possibility of reconstruction but decided against it. When Aunt B gave her a Save the Tatas shirt that year for Christmas, she made that face that every good Southern woman makes when she gets a horrific present. She's five years cancer free now and never, ever mentions it. She's starting to get frail, but she is the oldest of the three.

My mother didn't tell the extended family until after all the procedures were done. She was lucky and didn't need chemo and was able to get away with a double masectomy instead. She opted for reconstruction and loves her new boobs a great deal. She jokes that she'll have the perkiest tits in the nursing home. Despite her initial reticence in talking about the diagnosis, she now is very vocal about her experience. She frequently encourages the young women in her life to get mammograms and make sure that they are doing monthly exams. And she loves to tell the story of my dad trying to figure out what to do with her new boobs (she went up from an A to a C). But when Aunt B tried to get her on the pink train, she politely declined. The more pressure that was applied to identify with the pink and the cancer, the more pissed she got. It's reached the point now, five years later, that a general mention of it on the news makes her go into full rant mode. It offends her that women are reduced to a color. It pisses her off that kitchen tool companies are making bank off of women's fears of the cancer. It drives her mad to hear the young women she works with declare that breast cancer is "no big deal."

Because as easy at it seemed for her and my Aunt C, she remembers the details and the fears. She knows it wasn't easy and while she doesn't want to scare the shit out of people, she doesn't want anyone to dismiss what happened as "easy". She knows she was lucky, she knows it could have gone much worse. And despite getting to wear low v-necks for the first time since she was breast feeding, she misses how she used to look. She misses who she used to be. Cancer took that from her and she'll never get it back.

To stare mortality in the face and walk away from it changes you. To then be told that what you experienced can be stopped with teddy bears and pink blenders is insulting and demeaning. The only pink breast cancer awareness thing that my mother has is her "lawn-mowing" t-shirt. She bought it for herself shortly after her first clean bill of health as a joke, but as time has passed it's message means a lot more to her. It wasn't pink, it doesn't have the ribbon on it anywhere, in fact, she's not even sure if it was for breast cancer. But she loves that shirt.

It says, "I survived cancer and all I got was this stupid shirt."
posted by teleri025 at 7:10 AM on October 11, 2013 [38 favorites]


god do i get the shame angle - my grandmother has cancer and i don't even know what kind because it involves her "lady parts." her son didn't know until she was already getting chemo because all other doctor trips had been to a gynecologist so she wouldn't tell him. as far as any of us can tell it's something that could have been caught much sooner but she didn't see any reason to raise a fuss about that "area" in the years between being widowed and remarried.

she's also a huge football fan and talks openly about the pink campaign. the message of "it's ok to talk about your body without shame and it's ok to seek treatment when something goes wrong." just didn't make a dent.
posted by nadawi at 7:17 AM on October 11, 2013


I've never heard of "No Bra Day" before this post, and I'm on Facebook all the time (it seems like a FB sort of thing). Have other people run into it?
posted by The corpse in the library at 7:26 AM on October 11, 2013


miss tea: How does pink, or bralessness, or any of this stuff "support" those with breast cancer?

It's the easiest way to show the world you care about something that other people also care about, part of the "full-fledged religion" notion from Barbara Ehrenreich, as mentioned upthread by Flannery Culp. It's like the Cult of Yellow Bracelets, where people were so desperate to belong that they paid $10+ on eBay for a $1 bracelet, paying some 3rd party instead of donating money to LiveStrong.

One problem is that people doing actual research generally focus on said research, and aren't great at (or even interested in) marketing their cause. That's where these other non-profits come in, raising money to raise awareness to raise money for the cause. There is some benefit to the research, and with breast cancer there's probably more money going to research now than if there wasn't the Religion of Pink, but at the same time, a lot of money is going to keep the Religion running.

One solution would be to get the government involved, either in regulating non-profits more strictly (there are plenty of loopholes, if you are in the charity business to make money), or *gasp* do a better job funding research directly. That means research is tied up in more government bureaucracy, so I'm guessing there would be less potential to fund some out-there/beyond the cutting edge ideas, but this is just me brainstorming and thinking about how things could work.

Until something changes, more companies non-profits will cluster around popular causes, drawing more money in, but only passing a bit to assist the cause itself, making us all poorer, and pinker, for their efforts.
posted by filthy light thief at 7:35 AM on October 11, 2013


You know, I've always wondered what the fuck "awareness" is supposed to achieve anyway -
"Hey, have a pink crouton! It's pink for Breast Cancer Awareness month!"

"...Are you collecting money for research or something?"

"No, we're just spreading awareness!"

"So...is there anything I should....do?"

"Nope, just be aware breast cancer happens!"

"Uh....okay, uh, thanks, I guess?"
Seriously, "awareness" just means "remember it happens" from what I can tell. And yep, I'm aware it happens, and a lot of people are. People get cancer and it is bad.

What I really want to do is fund research, educate people about the early signs, and empower women to feel like they can talk to their doctors. That's way more important than this dippy "awareness" shit - my paternal grandmother was too modest to tell her doctor about the discomfort she had in her own breasts and was too uneducated to think it was anything more serious than an oncoming cold - and so the only memory I have of her at all was when I was four years old and Dad came home early from work to tell us she'd died. ...Of breast cancer.

The biggest breast-cancer related activism I've done was a 60-mile walkathon to raise funding for an Avon-sponsored charity - but only because it could name concrete things it did. Their angle was promoting early screening, so they were funding things like a Chinese-language BSE educational campaign in Chinatown, or mobile medical vans that could park in the middle of an underserved community and give mammograms, that kind of stuff. Definite, concrete "we are doing [foo] and [baz]" stuff, rather than just a simpering kind of "awareness" thing.

A lot of the people on my Facebook friend feed probably know not to post this kind of pinkwashing shit where I can see it because the few times they've done those dippy giggly girly "awareness" bullshit things I have gone off on them.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:39 AM on October 11, 2013 [8 favorites]


Oh - and there was no damn pink anywhere in the Avon 3-day walkathon gig. It was all blue and yellow, and for that I am quite grateful.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:44 AM on October 11, 2013


what sexual beingness of men needs to be remembered as it relates to a terminal disease?

When the whole "Save the tatas" and "I ❤ Boobies!" movement is predicated on encouraging people to rally behind breast cancer treatment based on the sexualization of said breasts I think it's fair ground for examination. And for a second time, I didn't bring gender into it. There are a individuals of both sexes wearing these shirts. I am guessing their motivations are similar. If not they would be wearing "Kick cancer's ass shirts."
posted by cjorgensen at 7:52 AM on October 11, 2013


Why breast cancer receives so much support and heart disease is barely mentioned?
Lot of speculation, but I think not to be overlooked is "breast cancer" threatens something that the majority of males love and objectify. It's amusing and awareness raising to see some dude wearing a shirt saying "I <3 boobies", right? Oh so titillating (sorry) , but as others have pointed out, it all sort of seems aimed at young women. Where is the young dudes with "I <3 aging, sagging boobies" shirts? The "I care about my grandma's tits". Not so much eh? It's gotta save the breast. not gotta save the women. Because it's so much about TITS, and what we (hetro males) value even more than the person behind the breasts.. or at least it seems that way. I believe in the perniciousness of "the patriarchy" to be sure, but sometimes tiptoe around over-ascribing social woes to it, because, I believe, sometimes what we label "patriarchy" is just general human fuckery. But, uh, I gotta think the success of pinkwashing is it taps into strong patriarchical tendencies. The protector vs the protected, the focus on the sexual.... Hell it can be argued even the ascribing PINK as the dominate fem color is a leftover from tagging homosexuals with the color during WWII. (both boy and girl babies prefer pink over blue, and early 1900s blue was for girls and pink for boys).

ach
posted by edgeways at 7:54 AM on October 11, 2013 [3 favorites]


I have a good friend who caught highly invasive breast cancer early, when it was still in situ, and underwent a mastectomy, radiation, and reconstruction when she in her thirties. She's now had a precancerous mass removed from her uterus, and since these cancers cluster, she's undergoing a hysterectomy / oophorectomy next month. She HHHHATES the pinkwashing campaign, and has declared publicly that anyone who posts any of that crap to FB will be unfriended until she's done healing from her surgery. That's good enough for me.

I also think there's a lack of understanding that "breast cancer" isn't one disease. Some breast cancer really is, for lack of another phrase, no big deal -- it's cancer, and it sucks, but we know how to treat it. Some breast cancer is an incredibly vicious killer, though; my friend Ellen was diagnosed when she was 22 weeks pregnant with her youngest child. Rather than terminate the pregnancy, she had an immediate mastectomy and started large-molecule chemotherapy (of a type that wouldn't cross the placenta), delivered her baby as soon as his lungs were mature, pumped colostrum for him from her remaining breast for three days and then had the other breast removed, and began extremely toxic chemotherapy while her son was still in the NICU. She never went off that chemo until her insurance stopped paying for it because she qualified for a clinical trial; in the three weeks between when her insurance denied payment for her chemo infusion and that clinical trial was scheduled to start, she died.
posted by KathrynT at 7:57 AM on October 11, 2013 [12 favorites]


KathrynT: "I have a good friend who caught highly invasive breast cancer early, when it was still in situ, and underwent a mastectomy, radiation, and reconstruction when she in her thirties. She's now had a precancerous mass removed from her uterus, and since these cancers cluster, she's undergoing a hysterectomy / oophorectomy next month. She HHHHATES the pinkwashing campaign, and has declared publicly that anyone who posts any of that crap to FB will be unfriended until she's done healing from her surgery. That's good enough for me.

I also think there's a lack of understanding that "breast cancer" isn't one disease. Some breast cancer really is, for lack of another phrase, no big deal -- it's cancer, and it sucks, but we know how to treat it. Some breast cancer is an incredibly vicious killer, though; my friend Ellen was diagnosed when she was 22 weeks pregnant with her youngest child. Rather than terminate the pregnancy, she had an immediate mastectomy and started large-molecule chemotherapy (of a type that wouldn't cross the placenta), delivered her baby as soon as his lungs were mature, pumped colostrum for him from her remaining breast for three days and then had the other breast removed, and began extremely toxic chemotherapy while her son was still in the NICU. She never went off that chemo until her insurance stopped paying for it because she qualified for a clinical trial; in the three weeks between when her insurance denied payment for her chemo infusion and that clinical trial was scheduled to start, she died.
"

Awwwww, fuck. There goes my good mood this morning. Thanks for the story, though.
posted by Samizdata at 8:34 AM on October 11, 2013


My mom was first diagnosed with breast cancer in her mid-30s when I was in fifth grade and was fortunate enough to fight it off with extensive surgery and chemotherapy. But 18 months ago (on my birthday) she went to the ER in severe pain, and was diagnosed with Stage IV breast cancer. I moved back to the Bay Area to help, and I've been watching her suffer and slowly deteriorate now for over a year. In that time my 40 year old sister also was diagnosed with breast cancer (fortunately she's doing very well), and I lost a good friend to the disease when she was only 28 years old. Say all you want about how heart disease kills more women (and men) than cancer, but if I had to choose between cancer and heart disease, I'd choose the latter in an instant.

My experiences did make me swing far to the left politically though since we had to rely on Medicaid, welfare, and food stamps when I was a kid once the medical bills and my single, uninsured mom's inability to work while recovering bankrupted us and she may have been diagnosed before stage IV if she didn't have a big "pre-existing condition" that left her unable to get affordable insurance before hitting 65 and qualifying for Medicare.

I don't have a strong opinion about all the pink, but if we default and Medicare payments stop going out, I'm hoping some of these pink ribbon folks will donate to cover the ~$12K/month bills of people like us instead of just going on long walks and going bra-less for a day.
posted by Thoughtcrime at 8:36 AM on October 11, 2013 [8 favorites]


Wow. A lot of really jaded people here.

This whole thing came out of raising awareness about the danger of breast cancer and the need for research. Yeah, the pink thing can be overdone and yes people shouldn't lose sight of the real issues. But at the end of the day this about bringing an issue of women's health in our consciousness. That's a good thing. And I'm pretty sure that all the runs and Komen and pink stuff resulted in at least a net of one more dollar than would have been otherwise spent on cancer research. Could it be better? Sure. But don't make the best the enemy of the good.

Did y'all get this upset about the AIDS red ribbons? There was a time period where that red campaign was everywhere. It brought discussion out and raised awareness and donations. And we've made significant progress on that front in terms of AIDS effect on public health.

There are a lot of people who do really awful things each day. I just can't see getting annoyed with someone who makes even a failed attempt to support a good thing.
posted by dios at 8:46 AM on October 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


Pinkwashing is also insidious because the only time race is highlighted is when it's linked with "for the cure." Black women are more likely to die of breast cancer than white women, a rate that might partially be explained by economic status and lack of access to health care (and, if you're an asshole, because they have all those abortions). But improving and expanding health care is socialism. Buying stuff is American.

If you look at a sample of breast cancer awareness ads, you'll see more men represented than women of color. And the message is always "get a mammogram," not "fund a mammogram."

Jazmine Walker's essay Saving the Boobies Will Not Save Me has a better overview on the subject, as well as a picture of the most rage-inducing poster I've seen yet (but the day is young).
posted by bibliowench at 8:52 AM on October 11, 2013 [4 favorites]


Wow. A lot of really jaded people here.

This is obviously a complex issue for a lot of people and the simplified, shotgun approach you're using is likely to wound more people than it enlightens. Please make more of an effort to be kind and specific when discussing sensitive topics surrounding womens' health.
posted by Ice Cream Socialist at 8:58 AM on October 11, 2013 [14 favorites]


My Mom and my wife's Mom are breast cancer survivors, and neither one of them likes the pink stuff.

Mom's breasts were how I was fed and how I bonded with her as an infant. I generally don't think about my Mom in relation to "second base" or her "ta-ta's".
posted by Cookiebastard at 9:02 AM on October 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


Let me add one clarification: I am not opposed to suggestions on how to improve the consequences of people's willingness to support the fight against breast cancer. For instance, for the last decade I have been a big financial supporter of the Bridge Breast Network in Dallas which is an organization that helps provide access to diagnostic and treatment services for breast cancer to low income, uninsured and underinsured individuals. (It has been the only thing on profile page for almost a decade now--unchanged. Warning: their website actually has the color pink on it for those of you are rage-filled by such things). I try to get people to support that and it would be awesome if instead of buying a pink t-shirt you gave the $20 to the Bridge. So I get the idea of trying to better utilize the good will that people are showing.

But the impression I get from reading a lot of this is that the whole thing should be scrapped because of the belief that people's motivations are not in line with what some of y'all want them to be. That seems different than saying things could be improved by doing X instead of Y. I just don't understand that mentality.
posted by dios at 9:04 AM on October 11, 2013


Hah! The pulp fiction paperback blog "Pop Sensation" has the perfect entry for today: Nightmare in Pink.



It's also a really good blog, if you're looking for a new one to read.
posted by bibliowench at 9:10 AM on October 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


Please make more of an effort to be kind and specific when discussing sensitive topics surrounding womens' health.
posted by Ice Cream Socialist at 10:58 AM on October 11


Are you suggesting I don't care enough about women's issues, am not as highly-enlightened on the topic as you, or that I am somehow bad because I view the issue differently than you. No. I won't let you play that card on me. There is nothing wrong with supporting breast cancer awareness month and thinking it is a good thing. The fact that you perceive yourself to be more highly nuanced or enlightened on the issue does not make the general public's support (or my comment) a bad thing because it doesn't meet your standards. I do think it is jaded to throw it into people's faces that their well-intentioned efforts to support a women's health issue do not meet your view of how people should exhibit that support. I happen to think it is should be applauded and guided to better purposes, but those people should not be made to feel bad.

It the difference between:
1. "I am glad you are supporting breast cancer awareness. We need and welcome your help, and here is the best way for you to make a real difference with that $20" and
2. "Your uninformed actions in wearing that pink ribbon is offensive because it sexualizes women and does not show proper consideration of the matter, shame on you."
I think #2 is jaded, and it is what I am seeing here. I think #1 is the more reasonable approach. I don't think pointing that out is being "insensitive to topics surrounding women's health" and it is bullying to suggest it was.
posted by dios at 9:20 AM on October 11, 2013


The other problem with National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and all the associated pinkwashing crap, is that it focuses on detection, not prevention. Be Aware! Get screened! Because breast cancer is an act of God, it just HAPPENS to you! There's almost nothing in the public campaign about the risk factors associated with xenoestrogens and chemical exposure, despite the fact that there is a lot of preliminary evidence indicating that the correlation is highly suggestive.

I suspect that this is largely because National Breast Cancer Awareness Month was originally sponsored by Imperial Chemical Industries, and is now sponsored by AstraZeneca, who is one of the parent companies of Syngenta, who makes pesticides and herbicides. But maybe that makes me too cynical.
posted by KathrynT at 9:20 AM on October 11, 2013 [14 favorites]


My stepmother died from complications of her breast cancer treatment.

Our brand of bottled water is currently pinkwashed, and has a woman on the side of the packaging declaring she knew she could beat breast cancer, because she was so strong and positive.

I don't think I'm ever going to be able to read that bullshit without thinking, "oh, I see. If only my stepmother hasn't been so weak. Maybe if she'd been even more positive. Maybe then she wouldn't have died at about 44. Doing everything her doctors told her did not save her. Racing for the cure didn't save her. Being a health nut didn't save her. So it must be how weak she was!"

Sorry, messages like that are damaging, and they are a gigantic part of the pinkwashing that I've been exposed to. I'm all for positivity (my stepmother was pretty positive herself), but not for messages that imply that death from cancer is a personal failure of willpower.
posted by Coatlicue at 9:24 AM on October 11, 2013 [28 favorites]


Yeah, a lot of the "your belief can save you" bs is just a repackaging of the "just world" fallacy. My good fortune is due to my superiority, your bad fortune is a sign you're just not as good/strong/whatever as me.

I haven't had to deal with breast cancer, but - having had uterine and ovarian cancer - I'm at a high risk for that and for colon cancer. I don't want to "save the ta-tas", and I don't want "awareness" - I want research and actual health care access for folks who need it.

I will say that I think there may be a subsection of women who have benefited from "awareness" in the form of encouraging women to do self-exams. Self-exams themselves (last I heard) aren't actually an efficacious thing - lots of false positives and such. However, I think getting women thinking about that may be a net good for the women (generally much older women, who are at higher risk for breast cancer now) who have grown up socialized to be really avoidant about their genitals and breasts. But I think that awareness is there, now, and it was a corner case to start with. Overall "breast cancer awareness" is just a way for companies to sound like they care about women without actually having to DO anything to support women.

ps: still pissed at you, Komen, so no money for you!
posted by rmd1023 at 9:36 AM on October 11, 2013 [3 favorites]


I don't think anyone is saying that people who wear pink to raise awareness are bad people. Just don't lose sight of, you know, the people who are actually facing breast cancer. They are more than their breasts. And if you really want to support people facing breast cancer, it would be more productive to donate to a group that is doing research on breast cancer than buying anything pink.

If you want to buy something pink because you like pink or because you were going to buy something and you can buy the thing that gives three cents to some charity, go nuts. But when I buy a pair of Tom's, I don't kid myself by thinking that I donated money to help barefoot children. I bought a pair of shoes.
posted by kat518 at 9:38 AM on October 11, 2013 [6 favorites]


Are you suggesting I don't care enough about women's issues, am not as highly-enlightened on the topic as you, or that I am somehow bad because I view the issue differently than you. No. I won't let you play that card on me.

No, I'm not doing any of those things. I don't have a card to play. I just meant that, at this point in a thread in which many people have written many different opinions and shared many different stories, a tack like, "Wow. A lot of really jaded people here," casts that variety into a single negative light that, by reducing a variety of opinions of "pinkwashing" into a single target, frustrates discourse.

I don't think pointing that out is being "insensitive to topics surrounding women's health" and it is bullying to suggest it was.

Here you have placed quotes around something I did not write. I asked you to make an effort be kind and specific, and characterized the topic as sensitive. That's a major difference but it's understandable that if you see my request as an attack, you might change my words to suit your defense.

In your follow-up you made your point clearer and more specific, and I applaud that. Thank you for your response. I hope this eases your misunderstanding.
posted by Ice Cream Socialist at 9:39 AM on October 11, 2013 [4 favorites]


This is just a trend that has run its course and become too familiar. There was a time when people didn't talk much about deadly diseases - wearing red ribbons for AIDS was a meaningful cultural shift. There was a time when people weren't comfortable talking about diseases that affected sexual characteristics - seeing a football player wearing pink or a traditional person referring to tatas was a social shift. Now it's everywhere and so last season, but I don't think that's a reason to denigrate it. People who still find it helpful can wear pink. THose of us who don't, don't need to.
posted by mdn at 9:43 AM on October 11, 2013


I don't think anyone is saying that people who wear pink to raise awareness are bad people.

Oh my, no. Just to be explicitly clear, when I say something like "Overall "breast cancer awareness" is just a way for companies to sound like they care about women without actually having to DO anything to support women." I am talking about the commercialized side of companies that seem to be leveraging their pinkness as a marketing tool without actually backing it up with substantive support.

Actual people being supportive in whatever way they can is awesome and I would never want to denigrate or snark on someone who is, for instance, wearing a "save the ta-tas" shirt or who is proudly wearing their pink-ribbon-model sneakers.
posted by rmd1023 at 9:47 AM on October 11, 2013


Did y'all get this upset about the AIDS red ribbons? There was a time period where that red campaign was everywhere. It brought discussion out and raised awareness and donations. And we've made significant progress on that front in terms of AIDS effect on public health.

The difference is that the people who organized, ran, and participated the red-ribbon campaign were people who actually were active in the fight against AIDS. The pink-ribbon stuff, meanwhile, is largely because companies are saying "we have stuff that isn't selling too well...eh, let's paint it pink and throw a couple thousand bucks to the Komen Foundation, that'll get women to buy it."

Moreover, there was more of a need for awareness about AIDS back in the 80's and 90's because it was an effectively brand-new disease and there was a lot of misinformation about how it was spread and who was at risk, and sufferers were being ostracized. Whereas with breast cancer, it's a disease that's been around since the dawn of breasts, so we are already aware of its existence. So the calls for "awareness" seem really...mealy-mouthed? Self-serving? Pointless?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:49 AM on October 11, 2013 [9 favorites]


Filthy light thief quoted me and replied:

It's the easiest way to show the world you care about something that other people also care about . . . like the Cult of Yellow Bracelets

Yeah, that was my point. "Caring" isn't doing anything for anyone because it isn't support for researching and improving treatment methodologies, or helping lengthen and/or improve anyone's quality of life. "Caring," as presented by all the pink stuff isn't support of the ill, but internal validation for companies and individuals.

There's nothing wrong with contributing funds to foundations that support research. But Komen isn't strong in that area - in 2011 15% of its funds were spent on actual scientific research. That is bullshit.
posted by miss tea at 9:52 AM on October 11, 2013 [2 favorites]


one of the issues with all the pink stuff is that a lot of it pushes products or supports companies that harm women, and they use our raise awareness dollars to do it.
posted by nadawi at 9:52 AM on October 11, 2013 [3 favorites]


My mom died of liver cancer that came about after her breast cancer metastasized, and I kind of hate all this crap, too (especially the "save the Ta-Tas" nonsense). So it's nice to hear I'm not alone. My wife told me it bugs her, too. Aesthetically, it's like one of those awful Carl's Jr/Hardees ad campaigns focusing on a serious public health problem as if it were a tasty new burger.

Corporate PR people just don't get concepts like human dignity and tact or something.
posted by saulgoodman at 10:06 AM on October 11, 2013


Caring and $2 will get you a cup of overpriced coffee.
posted by edgeways at 10:10 AM on October 11, 2013


Hm. From their total revenues in FY12 (197,088,455) Komen paid out 71,697,843 in grants. Another 89mil is cited as "other expenses". It's a little better than I expected.
posted by elizardbits at 10:11 AM on October 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


Whereas with breast cancer, it's a disease that's been around since the dawn of breasts, so we are already aware of its existence. So the calls for "awareness" seem really...mealy-mouthed? Self-serving? Pointless?

Somewhere along the line in the land of Big Pharma, I saw a presentation on how the mortality rate of breast cancer has changes in the past 40 years vs. the mortality of prostate cancer. What mostly boiled down to "women have been coached again and again about the importance of early detection and treatment while men hide from their doctor until it's far too late and then they die" so I don't think it's fair to say that it's been pointless. The problem is that breast cancer awareness has been a victim of it's own success and the law of diminishing returns. You reach a point where the pink crap is the signal and the notion of early detection and treatment is lost in the cotton candy colored haze.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 12:12 PM on October 11, 2013 [3 favorites]


I got this as a facebook message the other day.
Hi Beautiful Ladies, So here is the time of year again when we try to raise awareness for breast cancer through a game. It's very easy and I would like all of you to participate.Two years ago we had to write the color of our underwear on our wall. Men wondered for days at what was going on with random colors on our walls.This year we make references to your love life status. Do not answer to this message just post the correspondent word on your wall AND send this message privately to all the girls in your contact list!!!!!!BLUEBERRY = single; PINEAPPLE = it's complicated;RASPBERRY = I can't / don't want to commit;APPLE= engaged; CHERRY= in a relationship; BANANA=married;AVOCADO= I'm the better half; STRAWBERRY= can't find Mr. Right; LEMON = want to be single RAISIN = want to get married to my partner.Last time the underwear game was mentioned on tv, let's see if we get there with this one !!!!! Copy and paste this message into a NEW message and send to all your girly friends - then update your status with your answer ONLY.
There's a long bitter rant that I swallowed down, and am going to refrain from venting on all you kind people. Telling the source why that sort of thing angers me so would miss the target, but, oh, argh.
posted by Karmakaze at 12:40 PM on October 11, 2013 [7 favorites]


Karmakaze - I will make that rant for you if you like. I have no problem with my facebook friends thinking I'm a stuck-up fogey, if it convinces only one of them to abandon this sort of giggly tee-hee girly approach and taking grown-up-woman responsibility for their own damn health.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:57 PM on October 11, 2013 [5 favorites]


Strange, here's the one I got last week:

OK pretty lady, it's that time of year again...support of breast cancer awareness! So last year's game was writing your bra color as your status...or the way we like to have our handbag handy. Last year, so many people took part that it made national news... and the constant updating of status reminded everyone why we're doing this and helped raise awareness! Do NOT tell any males what the status means...keep them guessing!! And please COPY and PASTE this in a message to all your female friends. The idea is to choose the month you were born and the day you were born. Pass this on to GIRLS ONLY and let's see how far it reaches. The last one about the bra went all over the world. Instructions: The month you were born is the Place you are going, and the day you were born should be how many months you are gone.... January - Mexico; February - London; March - Miami; April - Dominican Republic; May - Paris; June - Rome; July - Hawaii; August - California; September - New York; October - Puerto Rico; November - Las Vegas; December - Australia. If your birthday is 21st January, YOUR STATUS SHOULD READ: "I am going to Mexico for 21 months". Don't reply to this, put your answer ina status on your wall. Please do it, don't be a spoil sport!....

Truth be told these instructions were almost too complicated for me.
posted by muddgirl at 1:04 PM on October 11, 2013


Wow, muddgirl, that sounds like a great way to social engineer a lot of folks to reveal their birthday.

Kid Charlemagne: Yeah, that's the sort of thing I was talking about with (generally elderly) women who were socialized to avoid discussing their ladyparts. I'm not a guy, but from out here it certainly looks like a lot of guys are socialized away from anything involving health care and their prostate, and there's an added bonus of a large segment of (at least American) male culture pushing men to avoid health care at all. It's a shame, because early detection can make a huge difference in survivability rates, and that's hugely short-circuited by "oh no! someone will touch my ass!"
posted by rmd1023 at 1:20 PM on October 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


Did y'all get this upset about the AIDS red ribbons?

Yes.
posted by desjardins at 1:23 PM on October 11, 2013


The month you were born is the Place you are going, and the day you were born should be how many months you are gone....

My sister, who's a 40-something single mom very active on the FB, posted something along these lines like a year ago. (These memes ebb and flow around the net I guess.) She and her friends were highly amused by all the dudes in their friend lists replying with comments like, "What, huh, you going on a trip???" Sigh.
posted by aught at 1:26 PM on October 11, 2013


Aesthetically, it's like one of those awful Carl's Jr/Hardees ad campaigns focusing on a serious public health problem as if it were a tasty new burger.

I try not to but often find myself thinking of the I Heart Boobies and Pink paraphernalia stuff in similar way as I did the frats back in the day who threw a kegger and got wasted and justified it by routing the cover charge to benefit some local charity. "Whohoo, fighting homelessness and getting faced!!!! Totally cool!!!"
posted by aught at 1:31 PM on October 11, 2013


i thought the nfl pink stuff was auctioned off. i mean, it supports koman and is hollow for a bunch of other reasons, but i think on that one specific point they aren't total assholes.

For Every $100 Of NFL Pink Merchandise Sales, Only $3.54 Goes Toward Cancer Research
posted by inigo2 at 3:10 PM on October 11, 2013 [2 favorites]


Worse still, it looks like it's actually only about $0.74 of every $100 spent on NFL merch that goes to actual cancer research.

$5 goes to the American Cancer Society. The 70.8% cited of ACS revenues that go toward Program Expenses (the $3.54) is further divided as follows, per the FY 2011 data the ACS posted here:
$148 Million spent on Cancer Research [=21% of Program Expenses]
$280 Million spent on Patient Support
$150 Million spent on Prevention Information/Education
$130 Million spent on Detection and Treatment
I'm not saying that those other programs aren't valuable, but it's a pretty crap deal for people who actually think their NFL purchases are supporting medical research For a Cure (TM Komen).
posted by argonauta at 3:45 PM on October 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


yeah - that's the merch sold, not the gear the players wear. it's my understanding most of the on field stuff is auctioned off and that money goes to the american cancer society (not koman anymore which is awesome). the new merch is totally the typical tiny percentage bullshit.
posted by nadawi at 6:19 PM on October 11, 2013


Since my previous comment was removed by moderators, I will comment again, more seriously, with the expectation that a contrary opinion is "perspective worth considering" (as the OP put it).

I found the tone of the article abhorrent. The author asserts she has the right tell people how they ought to feel about breast cancer, since she had breast cancer, and is thus the rightful gatekeeper to all opinions related to breast cancer. Her wrath is focused on people who are supporting (or at least trying to support) the medical research and treatment that saved her life. She displayed photographs of her post-operative bandages covered in blood and suctions filled with drainage from the wound. She establishes herself as a martyr. She says:

So the thought of seeing bra-less women flaunting two body parts that I have lost to cancer — more than I already see this on a regular day — does not feel all that supportive. In fact, it feels quite the opposite.

I consider myself to be an open-minded person. I do my best not to judge others or their beliefs and ideals. I have a pretty good sense of humor and am usually the first to poke fun at myself. And I make light of breast cancer and my struggles, treatments and their side effects, lack of breasts, fear of death, etc. fairly frequently. It is how I cope. But, given what I have been through, I think I have earned the right to joke and make light of how this terrible disease has affected me. But if you haven’t been there or taken care of someone who has been there, then you should think twice before you publicize a day that jokes about putting the first body parts we usually lose to this disease “out there” on display even more conspicuously and then labeling it as an activity that helps our ’cause’.


I don't see any jokes here, or the least bit of lightheartedness. Her tone is completely self-centered and selfish. She does nothing in this article BUT judge others, expressing her contempt for people who are trying to express their support for her own cause. But they are "bra-less women flaunting two body parts" (her exact words) which sounds more like slut-shaming than someone who is "open-minded."

I cannot blame this poor woman for lashing out, she has been through an ordeal. But IMHO that gives her no special rights to condemn people for not living up to her expectations about how they should deal with breast cancer charities. She has an opinion, perhaps she even has viable alternatives for charitable donors. But she admits this topic "has pushed me over the edge."

The tone of this article was completely unnecessary and verges on irrationality. If her point was to draw attention to her list of charities, she certainly managed to go viral. But she could have done that without the martyrdom, and without condemning people for "flaunting" their breasts and contributing to inefficient charities. She is throwing out the baby with the bathwater.

But ultimately what this article reminds me of is the people going around with a chip on their shoulder, except these days they call it a "trigger." Oh no, someone has visible nipples, and I have none, they should not be allowed to show their nipples because it triggers me. Let me tell you how this goes, by a vaguely related anecdote.

At my university's school of social work, there was a sculpture of a family in the lobby, it had been there for decades, since the school was opened. It was a lumpy grey, semi-abstract sculpture of a man and woman, and two children, all holding hands, in a sort of retro 1960s futuristic fiberglas sculptural sort of way. They lined up with the man and woman in the center, and the children flanking them, in a posture like they were confidently walking forward together. The figures could not really be said to be nude or clothed, they were irregular, indistinct forms, even the faces were not clearly defined. The sculpture was inoffensive, and intended to be uplifting, even mildly spiritual in a clumsy sort of way. That's why it was commissioned for this lobby, to give a symbol of family togetherness.

One day, the sculpture disappeared from the lobby. A student newspaper reporter looked around and found it smashed, in a dumpster behind the School of Social Work. Some artists brought a truck and retrieved the sculpture, to determine if it could be restored. There was a huge public controversy, who could destroy such a symbol of family togetherness?

A public forum was scheduled, where people could come to express their opinions on this controversy, it was scheduled for live broadcast on the local TV channel. When it became obvious this publicity refused to die down, the sculpture-smasher came forward. He was the Dean of the School of Social Work. He agreed to come to the forum and tell his story, if nobody asked him any questions about it. Right, that's just what a public forum is for, right?

So he said a student of the school complained to him that the sculpture triggered her. She would walk in the door and see the family sculpture, and it made her flash back to her father molesting her, since the little girl was holding hands with the father. So he removed the sculpture all by himself, late one night when nobody was around. He did not consider that this might actually be University property. He had to smash the sculpture into pieces small enough so that he could drag them to the dumpster by himself.

Well when the public forum heard this, they were enraged. The Dean had decided unilaterally to destroy a well known public sculpture, in order to satisfy one whining student with a clearly irrational demand. They compared it to burning books. Then a professor from the Art department said he had investigated the sculptor. He was retired and elderly and was no longer fit enough to restore the sculpture. Nor were there any artists he could locate who worked in fiberglass and could restore it affordably. The cost of restoration ran into 6 figures. The sculpture was too badly damaged to restore properly.

It took a while for the true story to come out. It turns out the Dean was retiring. He never liked that sculpture anyway, he thought it was ugly. There was no way to get rid of it within normal University procedures, it was a permanent fixture. But as the Dean, he figured it was his personal property to dispose of as he saw fit, ignoring the symbolic importance of the sculpture that was the centerpiece of the lobby, the very gateway to his school. So when a student demanded its removal, he decided to destroy it. He had nothing to lose, this close to retirement. His successor could clean up after him. But the public symbol of the school had been destroyed. They never recovered their reputation after this event, and lost support of both the community and the University.

The point of my story is, symbols are important. You may not have the symbols that you would have chosen for yourself, but they are already established, and public opinion is centered on them. So it is clearly unreasonable to insist that the public kowtow to a minority point of view that these symbols must be destroyed because they trigger someone and reactivates their sense of victimhood. It is not any different to lash out at a public sculpture, or at pink ribbons. People need symbols. They may not be your symbols. but that doesn't give you the right to condemn people that consider these symbols as important to them. Your symbols aren't their symbols. My local community has an annual Dance Marathon fundraiser for cancer charities, especially children's charities. They may wear pink t shirts, but they don't wear the "Cancer is a Jerk" shirts that the author suggests. Does this make their millions of dollars of fundraising somehow less worthy, because it uses symbols that the author disapproves of? Certainly the families of cancer patients who are supported by this money don't care about the author's declarations about "proper" fundraising methods and symbolism. Perhaps the author should consider how the public consciousness-raising around those public symbols benefitted her as well.
posted by charlie don't surf at 8:24 PM on October 11, 2013


OMG, Mrs. Pterodactyl, not only what you say about the pink pub crawl, but alcohol is associated with breast cancer. So, they're "fighting" breast cancer by binge drinking, something that is a risk factor for developing breast cancer.
posted by ClaudiaCenter at 8:31 PM on October 11, 2013


charlie don't surf, that anecdote, while interesting on its own, is completely irrelevant.

And the growing concern that the "Breast Cancer Awareness" industry is in fact hurting the women it claims to be helping (as in, physically hurting -- many pinkwashed products contain known carcinogens) is not one person being triggered by a symbol.

And especially given that bralessness has not until now even been proposed as a symbol for breast cancer awareness, I think that speaking out against a proposed counterproductive symbolic act is perfectly appropriate.
posted by jaguar at 8:34 PM on October 11, 2013 [10 favorites]


The blog author has an updated blog post up.

My message is NOT that people who wear pink ribbons are bad! I know this an easy way for people to feel connected and a visible way to show that you support a cause and that there are a rainbow of ribbons out there. In fact, I often wear a pink ribbon that was given to me from an organization that gave the money from the purchase to cancer research. One of my messages — and I believe what so many people have been saying in their comments here — is that pink has become a marketing tool that certain companies have used to prey on well-meaning people. I know this is not ALL companies/organizations, but it is certainly enough for it to be a problem.

And, yes, I do believe that breast cancer has been glamorized and cutesied up by all of the pink. I will stand by that. From the people I have polled — with and without breast cancer — it has become clear to me that when many people think of breast cancer, they envision smiling women covered in pink having a great time on a walk for the cause.

But as most women and men (and their caregivers/loved ones) who have faced this disease will tell you, there is nothing pink about this cancer — or any cancer for that matter. And these images of pink actually detract from the fact that this is a horrible, often disfiguring disease with harsh treatments and brutal side effects. The awareness mission has been accomplished — we are aware that breast cancer exists. But we still don’t have a real understanding of what causes it and why one woman will develop it and another won’t. Or why one woman will die from it and another won’t. And with these awareness campaigns we have largely ignored metastatic disease. And we have ignored the women (and men) who are suffering or the women who are dying or who have died. Fine, have the pink, but also incorporate the reality.

posted by jaguar at 8:40 PM on October 11, 2013


My message is NOT that people who wear pink ribbons are bad!

Gosh, I wonder how anyone might have come to that conclusion.
posted by charlie don't surf at 8:47 PM on October 11, 2013


Gosh, I wonder how anyone might have come to that conclusion.

They didn't read very carefully?
posted by jaguar at 8:54 PM on October 11, 2013 [7 favorites]


Seems to me they read it pretty carefully.

And these images of pink actually detract from the fact that this is a horrible, often disfiguring disease with harsh treatments and brutal side effects.

The author seems to object to people who envision their healthy lives without cancer. That is the goal, for everyone to live a healthy life without cancer, right? The pink is an affirmation. She wants everyone to wear black mourning clothes.
posted by charlie don't surf at 9:01 PM on October 11, 2013


Founded in 2008, Save the Ta-tas® Foundation is a private, non-profit, 501(c)3 organization that is dedicated to battling cancer at every stage by supporting break- through breast cancer research.

I wish there were breakthrough breast cancer research, but progress right now is stalled at best. It's so misleading to act as though we're on the brink of "the cure" if only people would contribute more money, buy more products, wear pink accessories. The most useful recent discovery has been that what we know as "breast cancer" is actually many different conditions, some of which should be treated, and some of which should not be treated. Scientists do not yet know how to tell the difference. Related, the promise of "early detection saves lives" through universal mammograms is also misleading, as has been discussed here (insert all provisos re individual risk factors).

For this reason, lots of people want to continue to fund relevant cancer research but also to fund prevention (environmental factors including chemicals, health factors) and care (like the Bridge Breast Network supported by dios). People want to support work that is situated in reality -- the real lives of women (and men) with breast cancer, the real characteristics of mammograms (for populations), the real status of breast cancer research. The pink corporate stuff, many of the stylish or "fun" charities, seem so far away from these realities that they are unhelpful at best and harmful at worst.
posted by ClaudiaCenter at 9:20 PM on October 11, 2013 [4 favorites]


She wants everyone to wear black mourning clothes.

i didn't get that at all. maybe there's room for different interpretations...
posted by nadawi at 9:28 PM on October 11, 2013 [3 favorites]


Charlie, I have never experienced anything as devastating as Leisha has, so I believe I should allow her considerable leeway in expressing her feelings, even if I felt that her point was unjustified. Which I don't. She is not saying, as you put it, "someone has visible nipples, and I have none, they should not be allowed to show their nipples because it triggers me." She does not object to visible nipples, nor even to encouraging women to show their nipples. Her message is, "Don't listen to those who tell you to show your nipples and say it's to support people like me, because it doesn't make me feel supported." I agree with HuronBob; it's a perspective worth considering.
posted by ogooglebar at 9:03 AM on October 12, 2013 [8 favorites]


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