I’m often forgetting that this blog is still so new, there is so much I haven’t said here yet. So let’s talk about breast cancer, awareness, and giant expanses of pink in October.
Breast Cancer Awareness is important. It is easy enough for me to say, “I’m aware!!”, but some people, even amidst all the pink ribbons, don’t know that breast cancer is still prevalent, can surface in young women, and that men can get breast cancer. In fact, the incidence of breast cancer has increased over the past 40 years for women.
So, awareness of signs, symptoms, and who gets breast cancer is important.
But pink ribbons aren’t a great answer for this much-needed information. Did you know that you can slap a pink ribbon on anything, regardless of whether your company donates to breast cancer related organizations, how much your company donates, or if your product actually contributes to the causes of cancer? It’s true! This behavior is called pinkwashing, and it is SO easy to see on shelves this month.
The biggest name in breast cancer is arguably the Susan G. Komen foundation. While they host the Race for the Cure, their financial statements show the bulk of their money goes to things other than research (at 15%), including screenings and treatment (17%), and education (42%). They also spend 18% of their money on fundraising and administrative costs. While education, screening and treatment are excellent goals, they are not a cure. As the largest name in breast cancer research, to not spend the vast majority of your money on research is dishonest.
With such a large focus on pinked out awareness, it is easy to assume that breast cancer isn’t a big deal anymore. But breast cancer incidences are increasing in women, and so many people are still dying every year. Erin Hyman talks about this in her article “Why I hike“:
…I’ve heard a few people say, “No one dies from breast cancer anymore.”
But there you’d be wrong. Forty thousand women in the U.S. die from breast cancer every year. That’s more than the entire population of the town I grew up in. That’s more than the undergraduate enrollment at the very large UC campuses I attended. That’s many thousands more than total automobile fatalities or gun deaths each year (both statistics hover around 33,000). It’s more than the 38,000 suicides that constitute a major public health crisis. And this 40,000 represents almost entirely women. From where I sit, it feels like a plague….
When we say “Save the boobies”, ”Save the ta-tas”, or “Save second base”, we’re not saying “save the woman”. I get it, boobs are fun, I like mine a lot. But to place the importance of breasts above the person is tacky as heck. It also leads to the sexualization of breast cancer, so much so that in the name of awareness, people talk about their bra color on facebook, or pretend to celebrate ‘no bra day’, in the name of awareness, ignoring the fact that women with breast cancer are often left with no reason to wear a bra! The author of Cancer in my Thirties shares her feelings in her article “National No Bra Day and Breast Cancer Awareness Month -or- Please Put That Pink Soup Can Down“:
…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….
…We live in a society that makes a huge hoopla about breast cancer while at the very same time trivializing the seriousness of the disease. How can we be so contradictory?…
…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’…
She also talks about great organizations to give to, and ways to best raise awareness and support those already affected.
Awareness, prevention, research, treatment, and support are all important. So often, we half-heartedly take on the ’fun’ aspects of awareness-raising, and drop the rest.
Let’s ALL knock that off.