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But What if the Juggernaut is Pink and Sparkly?

October 11, 2007

A few days ago I posted on breast cancer culture, and how breast cancer awareness campaigns sexualize the illness, acting as though the victims of breast cancer are breasts, and the people attached to them (usually women) are incidental. Later that day I was railing about it to a colleague and he, quite seriously, said “Ok, so what are we going to do about it?” To which I sheepishly replied, “Well, I wrote about it on my blog.” In one of the responses to that post, qmass asked “[How] do you slay this juggernaut? Most people won’t hear any of this sort of argument (to be “anti-breast cancer awareness month TM” means that you are… pro breast cancer?)” That point was on my mind as I composed the post, and I am aware of it any time I talk to someone about this issue. I always have to restrain myself from adding a disclaimer: “NOT PRO-BREAST CANCER, in fact, one of my best friends has it.”

So how do you slay this juggernaut? What can be done about it? I do admit that when I left my office a few nights ago and saw a sign for “Babes for Boobies” I wrote a note briefly stating my objections and affixed it to the poster. The next day it was gone, but I hope that whoever saw it at least thought about it. I obviously am not going to picket the breast cancer awareness events, and I do hope that they raise some money for whatever charity they are supporting. I have accepted pink-ribbon gifts from friends and family without going into a rant about the symbolism of their gift.

It’s a strange thing to be opposed to the fundraising campaign for a cause while still supporting the cause (in general) and understanding its need for funds.

Ok, so what can be done? Here are my ideas, and I’d love to hear more:

  • Read Pink Ribbons, Inc: Breast Cancer and the Politics of Philanthropy, by Samantha King.
  • Talk about breast cancer culture with people! Don’t be obnoxious, but if it comes up (and it often does in October) mention your objections to the campaign. Talk to your friends/family who have had breast cancer. Find out how they feel about it.
  • Don’t buy pink ribbon branded shit.
  • Write a letter to the editor of your local newspaper.
  • Write letters to the companies who exploit breast cancer for profit.
  • Donate money to organizations doing legitimate research on the causes and prevention of breast cancer. Does anyone have any organizations to suggest?
  • Go to your local women’s centre and find out what they are doing for breast cancer awareness month. Support them if you support them, and explain why you can’t support them if you don’t.
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