Feminist Philosophers

News feminist philosophers can use

Think Pink, Part Two November 17, 2010

Filed under: beauty,medicine,objectification — jj @ 5:52 pm

To paraphrase a quote from the clip in Think Pink, Part One, if you must think of breast cancer, think pink!  And why not?  Pink is cheery, feminine, affirmative of all that one fears lost with breast cancer.  Peggy Orenstein in last Sunday’s NYTimes has a different understanding. 

But a funny thing happened on the way to destigmatization. The experience of actual women with cancer … — women like me — got lost. Rather than truly breaking silences, acceptable narratives of coping emerged, each tied up with a pretty pink bow. There were the pink teddy bears that, as Barbara Ehrenreich observed, infantilized patients in a reassuringly feminine fashion. “Men diagnosed with prostate cancer do not receive gifts of Matchbox cars,” she wrote in her book “Bright-Sided.”

Instead of bracelets with I ❤ boobies” we might be more in touch with cancer sufferers if we used the slogan,”“I ❤ My 72-Year-Old One-Boobied Granny.”

And now breast cancern concern is getting tied up with sexiness.  For example, there is “Project Boobies (the slogan on its T-shirts promoting self-exam reads, “I grab a feel so cancer can’t steal,” though the placement of its hot-pink handprints makes it virtually impossible for them to belong to the shirt’s wearer).”  Another example was discussed here before, in our post on the Save the Boobs Campaign.   According to Orenstein:

Rather than being playful, which is what these campaigns are after, sexy cancer suppresses discussion of real cancer, rendering its sufferers — the ones whom all this is supposed to be for — invisible. It also reinforces the idea that breasts are the fundamental, defining aspect of femininity. My friend’s daughter may have been uncertain about what her bracelet “for breast cancer” meant, but I am betting she got that femininity equation loud and clear.

How far the ‘think pink’ approach to breast cancer renders its sufferers invisible may be debatable, but surely the danger is real.  It  seems pretty clear that we have a problematic campaign that should be discussed for a variety of reasons. 

I think the thing that worries me most is that ‘thinking pink’ seems to emphasize getting women into medical treatment and renders the very serious topic of environment causes moot.

[Thanks to MD, who wrote us about the article!]

 

 

10 Responses to “Think Pink, Part Two”

  1. JoAnne Says:

    It’s unbelievable after all these years the only way to treat Breast Cancer is by poisoning the body or cooking it with Chemo and radiation, Science has become stagnant

  2. Anonymous Says:

    Not the only way. There’s proper nutrition and/or homeopathy. Chemo and radiation are not treatment but, as you write, poisoning and burning. The origins of radiation as “treatment” are fascinating and disgusting, based in helping corporations and governmental entities get rid of toxic waste.

  3. Claude Says:

    Not the only way. There’s proper nutrition with a plant-based diet and/or homeopathy, depending on how advanced.

  4. jj Says:

    We should stress that this blog should not be treated as a site for advice about treatments. We are not censoring opinions about the efficacy of one treatment or another, but we do not endorse any treatment, particularly not in cases as serious as breast cancer.

    All the evidence I myself have amounts to anecdotes, but I have to say that if I had a life threatening illness, I would not opt out of the standard medical approaches.

  5. Ben Says:

    “The origins of radiation as “treatment” are fascinating and disgusting, based in helping corporations and governmental entities get rid of toxic waste.”

    Uh, is this a joke?

  6. Anon Says:

    >We are not censoring opinions about the efficacy of one treatment or another, but we do not endorse any treatment, particularly not in cases as serious as breast cancer.

    When the case is as serious as breast cancer, there are compelling reasons to think that homeopathy is only as efficacious as a placebo, and your post has attracted some people seriously advocating it, it seems to me one perhaps ought to point out that it is not a sensible treatment. Sitting on the sidelines seems a little dodgy.

  7. elp Says:

    anon, it doesn’t look to me as tho jj is sitting on the sideline; she clearly is, tho, trying to keep to the topic at hand. for anyone interested, google ben goldacre; he has excellent, evidence-based information on the efficacy of homeopaty and the ethics of advocacy of ‘patient choice’. but i don’t think this is really the venue for trying to hammer out the rights and wrongs of ‘alternative’ treaments for cancer.

  8. jj Says:

    elp, I wish I had put it as clearly as you have. This is not the venue for deciding about alternative therapies for cancer.

  9. Anon Says:

    I guess my thought is that there is no need to hammer out the rights and wrongs of choosing homoeopathy – it has already been hammered out, and there are decisive reasons not to recommend it, which I think extend to not providing a platform for others to do so unchallenged. But yes, this is getting off topic on a philosophy blog.

  10. pimlico Says:

    i just taught audre lorde’s Cancer Journals, a book that makes all the points you make (and then some). it’s amazing how this small book written in 1980 can still be so incredibly relevant. thanks for this post.


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