Bees in My Bonnet: From the Archives

Bee in the Lavender

October is also Breast Cancer Awareness Month.  Last year my posts during October focused more on breast cancer so here’s a look at some posts from the archives.

Your Man Reminder” is an app and a campaign done by Rethink Breast Cancer.  I find the campain, and the video (hello, shirtless men) highly refreshing compared to some of the other stuff that show up around this time of year.

Breast Cancer is Not a Pink Ribbon takes a look at the work of photographer David Jay.  He also is working to put a new face to awareness campaigns around breast cancer; a raw and powerful one called “The SCAR Project.”

Last year my mother shared her story and our family history of breast cancer in a guest post.

I also watched and reviewed the documentary “Pink Ribbons, Inc.” in a two part series I called, “The Darker Side of Pink.”  Part onePart two.

Read about a woman who made the choice to undergo a double mastectomy and how it affected her life and her self image.

Some of the songs that helped me out when I needed it.

Last year’s “Bees in My Bonnet” wrapping up Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

Breast Cancer Ribbon

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The Darker Side of Pink: Part 2

Pink Ribbons, Inc.For me breast cancer is like the crack in my windshield I never bothered to get fixed.  I don’t always notice it, sometimes I even forget about it and try to scratch it off as if it were a piece of dirt.  Not dangerous now, but someday it could be.  It is a part of my story and my life.  It is not something that I need to be made aware of, or reminded that it exists.  It is a part of my nightmares.

This October I chose to focus on learning more about Breast Cancer Awareness Month and the big players in the awareness movement.  I watched the film Pink Ribbons, Inc., I asked my mother if she wanted to share her story, and I read countless stories of others.  I reflected on the life of my grandmother and the way she chose to live after she was diagnosed.  What I came away with is that the mainstream breast cancer movement is a sham.  It makes me feel sick to my stomach, exploited, belittled, and dismissed; like my story, and the stories of the people I love do not matter.  We live in the shadow of the almighty dollar.

After reflecting on the documentary Pink Ribbons, Inc. and the mainstream breast cancer awareness culture in general I have six major concerns.

1.  Awareness does not equal action.  This is something I had issues with even before I watched the film.  Awareness is not the same kind of issue now as it has been in the past.  You’d kind of have to live under a rock to have never heard of breast cancer.  So, why do we keep calling them awareness campaigns?  We know what it is and we know that it kills people.  What we don’t know is what causes it.

2.  Pinkwashing.  Pinkwashing is when a company promotes, creates, or uses something that is linked to breast cancer at the same time as “fighting for the cause.”  For example, when Komen partnered with KFC and the “Buckets for the Cure” campaign was launched.  Another great example of this is the now infamous Komen endorsed perfume, “Promise Me” that was proven to have chemicals that interfered with hormones.  There is no integrity.  Not only is the disease being exploited but the public’s trust is as well.  Why wouldn’t we trust someone who says the are working to fight breast cancer?  And that is the whole point.  Companies have learned that they can get people to pay a little bit more money for something if they believe it is going towards a good cause.  These companies are profiting from the people’s pain and desire to help.

A really great website to check out if you are wondering what is in your cosmetics is called Skin Deep.

3.  Thinking that a complex problem will be solved by throwing money at it.  Throwing money at a complicated problem is such a “privileged” thing to do.  I know I will be stepping on toes here but hear me out.  Think about poverty.  This is a complex problem that will not be solved by money alone.  Yet people do not want to get involved, or work towards actually solving the problem when they can just write a check.  It feels good to write that check.  It makes you feel like you are doing something good, working towards a cause, and donating what you can.  I would argue though that it is an empty satisfaction.  Money (alone) does not solve problems, and it often ends up creating more.

I see this with the breast cancer awareness movement.  Thousands of people will run/walk/jump/shop/anything for the cure.  But where is that money going?  How much of it is actually going towards research like they say?  What about prevention and causes?  What about research for women who are not white, middle class, and American?  Breast cancer does not just affect white women and yet this is the group that nearly all of the research focuses on.  There needs to be better coordination between organizations that are conducting studies.  Move beyond the “convenient” sample.

Many women who are diagnosed with breast cancer do not have the major risk factors, so why are they developing it?  The awareness movement has led women to believe that mammograms keep cancer away; that if you can just detect it early enough then you can get rid of it.  If you eat right and excercise you can prevent cancer.  This is so misleading.  Being a woman puts you at risk for developing breast cancer.  Period.  It’s scary, but it’s true.

The fact that people are willing to do all these things to “fight breast cancer” show how motivated people are.  It is coming from a good place and has created an amazing network.  I would just challenge people to be more critical of where they are spending their money and what that money is actually going towards.

4.  Women’s stories are being minimized under the pressure to be optimistic and perky.  The optimistic, warm, fuzzy, pink approach to breast cancer puts enormous pressure on patients to be positive.  As if women need more influences in their lives silencing their anger.  This approach is alienating.  Breast cancer is not a soft disease.  It is not pretty.  It is not feminine.  It is not normal.  And it is not pink.  It is ugly.  It is shocking and jarring to hear that you have cancer.  Women who have been diagnosed need to feel safe to feel angry, cheated, and spiteful.  They should not have to ask for permission.  They should not have to apologize or feel like a grinch if have negative feelings.  They should not have to feel okay about having cancer.  If they want to get to that point they should be able to do it in their own time, in their own way, even if that includes screaming, ranting, and a lot of tears.  When you see a pink ribbon instead of a woman who is afraid and hurting something needs to change.

5.  Militarization of language.  The way cancer is talked about can also be alienating to patients.  The mainstream breast cancer organizations focus on celebrating survivors.  Breast cancer is something to be fought, conquered, and survived.  What about the women who develop stage four cancer and die?  Did these women lose the battle?  Did they not fight hard enough?  Did these women fail?  These are things that are implied through the use of militarized language.  The message that if you fight hard enough you can beat it is so damaging.  There is no balance and it leaves people vulnerable, both patients and the people who care about them.  Breast cancer is not an army to be mobilized against.  It is a disease.  It is a put down to the women who have not and are not “surviving.”  You cannot have this message without seeing people who die as having failed.  This is so not the case, and even as I’m sitting here typing this I’m tearing up.  This message does not allow women who do not recover to die with dignity in a perfectly healed state.  That is so wrong and unfair.

We need to be teaching women to balance hope with the understanding, and the reality, that it may not work.  You may not respond to chemo.  Even if you get your breasts removed it may come back.  This does not mean that you have failed or that you are losing the battle.  Not every story is happy, shiny, pretty and pink.

6.  Reducing women to a body part.  Women are more than their breasts.  Enough said.

What do you think when you see a pink ribbon?

 

Read Part 1 Here

Check out these great websites:

FORCE

Think Before you Pink

Breast Cancer Fund

Breast Cancer Action

The Darker Side of Pink

APink Ribbons, Inc.s pretty much everyone knows, October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month.  The color pink can be found everywhere, the isles of our stores, the backgrounds of websites, the white house and even the NFL.  You can get virtually anything in the color pink to support raising awareness for breast cancer.  But have you ever stopped to wonder what good “raising awareness” does?  Or where your money is going when you buy that pink kitchenaid mixer?  What exactly is being researched and is your money going to support a product that is linked to breast cancer?  These are all questions that Samantha King asks in her book Pink Ribbons, Inc.: Breast Cancer and Politics of Philanthropy.In 2011 Léa Pool made a documentary featuring King’s research and her book.  This last week I was finally able to watch it.  The follow is part one of my take on the documentary, what I took away, the “pink ribbon culture,” and some add-ons from outside sources/experiences.  Basically a mash-up.

**Spoiler Warning:  If you plan on watching this film do so now then come back and read the rest**

The documentary itself occasionally felt a little disjointed and could have flowed better from one scene/topic to the next.  I also wish that it would have shared a little more about the history of the Breast Cancer Awareness movement.  There was a section where is spliced back and forth from shots of the past to the present.  It wasn’t clear what was going on other than it was showing the contrast of marches versus the current onslaught of pink run/walk/jog/shop for the cure.  The film was also not very objective, it had a very clear agenda it was pushing, but you have to admire the straightforwardness and honesty in presenting its case against the current breast cancer culture.  Overall I felt that the film was fairly well done and informative.  I would definitely recommend seeing it and if you don’t have Netflix, I’d even recommend getting the free trial to watch it.

Since the film missed out on some of the history here’s what I found.  Breast cancer used to be somewhat taboo to discuss, especially your breast cancer if you were unfortunate enough to be diagnosed with the disease.  In 1974, First Lady Betty Ford was the first women to speak publicly about her diagnosis.  From there it was a chain reaction of outrage, advocacy, and support for women to speak out and to talk to one another about their experiences.  Women began to learn more about it and to get mammograms.  They fought for it to be recognized as a problem and for there to be different, better options other than an automatic radical mastectomy.  You don’t have to hide it, or be ashamed of it, was the main message.  In 1991 the National Breast Cancer Coalition was formed.  They pushed for breast cancer to become a national priority (http://www.healthcentral.com/breast-cancer/c/4535/15438/lesson).

Breast October is all about pinkCancer Awareness Month is a different story.  This was started by a public relations expert at AstraZeneca in the 80’s when it was the largest pharmaceutical company in the world.  According to the film this was done to encourage women to get mammograms.  In doing so, they make more money and therefore benefit by the increased numbers of women getting screened.  From there cost-marketing capitalism took over.  Corporations learned that all they had to do was associate with a cause people cared about and their sales would increase.  Women are known to make more of the buying decisions and are more likely to pay more if it’s “going to a good cause.”  Breast cancer is the poster child for such cause related marketing campaigns.  And people get to say breast out loud, on public television.

The Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure and Avon Foundation for Women were really the spear-headers for the mainstream breast cancer culture.  They created the momentum for others to jump on the bandwagon.  Unfortunately these mainstream players have jumped into bed with corporations.  They have to “sell the disease” or risk alienating their customers.  So, they find more and more innovative ways to tie to the cause.

One example in the film was Yoplait and their lid campaign.  For every lid off of Yoplait yogurt that was mailed back the company would donate 10 cents to research.  But think about it, if you ate one container of yogurt a day for a month and mailed in the lid Yoplait would be donating $3.00.  $3.00?  Might as well just write a check if you want to donate money.  Another example is the NFL.  When they went through a bit of a character crisis and were looking to rehabilitate their image they went pink.  They found out that they had more women viewers than they originally thought and voilà pink cleats and sweat bands emerge.

These companies are exploiting cancer to boost their profits.  They are exploiting the desire to support a good cause and they are exploiting the love people have for dear ones affected by this disease.  It’s disgusting really.

Stay tuned for part two where I will break down specific problems I see with the mainstream breast cancer movement, other than what I’ve mentioned above.

UPDATE: Read the second half of this post here.

A Reminder to Give Yourself Some TLC…From a Hot Guy

October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and I have been hanging onto this video for way too long.

I find this video highly refreshing compared to the usual barrage of sexist campaigns such as “save the ta-tas,” or the silly Facebook memes.  I’ve seen a couple in the past that were meant to be provacative, and dare I say, titilating.  The “I like it on the _____” comes to mind.  How are you bringing awareness to something when no one knows what you’re talking about or thinks you are way oversharing?

Back to the video.  Who wouldn’t want a gorgeous man reminding them to do a self-breast exam?  First of all the method is great.  It’s simple and easy to remember.  TLC – touch, look, check.  Got it.  Second of all, if you want to argue that it is going the opposite direction and objectifying men, it is totally obvious these guys are having fun in the video.  They are not being used, demeaned, or demoralized.  There are in on it.  I beleive whole-heartedly that men can be, and are objectified.  It is not just something that happens to women.  But, I would argue that it is not happening in this video.  So enjoy the visual, get a check up, and maybe take a cold shower.  😉

This campaign is done by Rethink Breast Cancer.

“Launched in 2001, Rethink is the first-ever, Canadian breast cancer charity to bring bold, relevant awareness to the under-40 crowd; foster a new generation of young and influential breast cancer supporters; infuse sass and style into the cause; and, most importantly, respond to the unique needs of young (or youngish) women going through it.”

I have a couple of things planned for this month and it is not all going to be light and fun.  Breast cancer is a tough reality for far too many women.  It is something that affects far too many families.  My own included.  I lost my grandmother to cancer when I was thirteen and there are still days it knocks me down, panting for breath.  I hope to balance my posts with not only stories and hardships, but hope as well.  If anyone has a story they’d like to share please feel free to contact me.  Also, I just found out the documentary Pink Ribbons, Inc. was on Netflix.  I plan to watch it and write a review.  I would love it if others wanted to watch it as well and join in on the discussion.