I have always been ethically opposed to the commericialization of breast cancer. I am uneasy about big businesses using breast cancer as a way to promote their own products, increase sales or absolve themselves of a multitude of sins. I am uneasy of many charities with very well paid CEOs who talk about “promoting awareness” but instead promote unscientific, discounted practices like breast self exams and screening mammograms for young women. I feel like the industry is more interested in their business goals than in actually helping women, and they purposefully cause women to fear their own bodies so they can make more profit.
However these opinions are often deemed antisocial — as if I don’t care about women with cancer. And so, for the most part, I’ve kept them to myself and instead read websites like “think before you pink” and “pink ribbon blues” or shared my views with close friends and family only.
But now my mother has been diagnosed with breast cancer and I find more and more well-meaning people asking me about pink ribbon campaigns or breast cancer runs/walks etc, or trying to show their support by buying into these campaigns.
How do I acknowledge their support without encouraging these activities to which I feel ethically opposed and without sounding like I’m preaching or am just a sour bitch?
Before we open it up to Offbeat Homies to chime in on this meaty question, we’d love to know if you’ve read Barbara Ehrenreich’s book, Bright Sided, or her article for Harper’s, “Welcome to Cancerland.” She addresses both the commercialization and the infantilization of breast cancer, and you might find some great thoughts in her work.
That said, it sounds like you’ve already got plenty of thoughts — the issue you’re looking for advice on is how to share your concerns about the breast cancer industry, without looking unsupportive of actual breast cancer patients, like your mother. It seems like perhaps you could head people off at the pass, by making proactive suggestions about non-pinkwashed practical ways people could support your mother, like all the great suggestions here.
Tell us, Homies: how can Jadeite acknowledge well-intended support like pink-ribbon teddy bears, while making her concerns about pinkwashing clear?