Why I Don't Support Breast Cancer Awareness Month

BlogHer Original Post

I wrote my first post protesting “Breast Cancer Awareness Month” in October 2006. It focused on how breast cancer is a sexy illness that corporations exploit to rake in profits galore. In October 2007, I wrote a second post discussing the profitability of selling products that may actually cause cancer to make women aware of breast cancer. My October 2008 post compared the best and worst marketing campaigns. Then, in October 2009, I rehashed the same ideas about corporations using women’s fears to make serious money. This, then, makes my fifth annual plea for people to stop supporting the insidious marketing machine that is “Breast Cancer Awareness Month.”

NEW ORLEANS - OCTOBER 03: A pink ribbon in support of Breast Cancer awareness month is seen on the field during the game between the New Orleans Saints and the Carolina Panthers at the Louisiana Superdome on October 3, 2010 in New Orleans, Louisiana. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

I am aware of breast cancer. My mother had it when she was 33-years-old. Back in the early 1980s, she was an anomaly to have breast cancer at such a young age. I get mammograms alternated with MRIs regularly and check ups by doctors twice a year. I’m lucky because my insurance company only puts up a minimal fight, and my doctors battle back until I get the care I need. My sister’s insurance company refuses to pay for her to have a mammogram although the recommended guidelines are to start ten years before the age at which your relative was diagnosed. My sister is 30. None of her health care providers have pushed back hard enough. Thus I offered to pay for her mammogram because I think it is important.

I think, in general, most people are pretty aware of breast cancer. I’m excited that Think Before You Pink -- an excellent resource that helps people who want to do the right thing ask critical questions before they buy pink products -- debuted a blog this year to help people get through the month. As Alicia wrote in the first blog post:

Do we need pink M&Ms to remind us about an epidemic that threatens one out of every eight women throughout their lifetime? These cause marketing opportunities are great for corporations who want to improve their image — but for women affected by breast cancer, they fail to address the source of the epidemic and are therefore a source of intense frustration.

I think that last line is crucial. (What really scares me is that I thought this article on how Susan B. Komen profits from breast cancer partnerships was real - that’s how out of control the marketing is.) Where are the campaigns to figure out why, once diagnosed, black women have longer delays in getting diagnostic results than white women? TheTheologiansCafe is soliciting topless photos to raise money for free mammograms for low-income women and asking women if they would pose nude for a good cause. (I’ll pause for a moment so I can be polite.) While that’s a nice idea -- helping women get a mammogram -- the real question is how are these low-income women supposed to pay for treatment if they find out that they have breast cancer? Will there be more topless photos taken? Maybe we can get the low-income women to make others aware of their plight by asking them to sell topless photos of themselves to raise awareness of the fact that a free mammogram does not save a life unless there is free follow up medical care. Why aren't we making people aware that buying crap isn’t going to cure cancer? (Siel at Green LA Girl explains why shopping isn’t buying a “cure".)

Right. We don’t deal with these topics because it requires people to do more than buy a pretty (potentially cancer-causing) lipstick to make our society look at the discrepancies in how we treat women with breast cancer. Also, companies don’t make any money off of social justice.

To spit in the face of the “Breast Cancer Action Month” profiteers and actually make a difference to someone who has cancer, I suggest making a direct donation to any of the groups that Siel cites in her post. Not only do you know exactly who got the money and how much, but you can also write the donation off on your taxes. That’s something else the pinkwashers don’t want us to be aware of ...

Suzanne also blogs at Campaign for Unshaved Snatch (CUSS) & Other Rants and is the author of Off the Beaten (Subway) Track.

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