Oh, the irony of finishing your chemotherapy breast cancer treatment just before the infamous Pinktober. I lost my left breast and everywhere I look there are perfectly round pink breasts!
Truth is I’ve always felt weird about this way of promoting a disease seasonally, but now I come to understand more problematic features of this yearly event. At the same time I’m of course very grateful for the advances made by modern medicine and all the time and money that went into that effort, making things less clear cut. Kind of like in life, where things rarely are black and white and easy to understand. I’ve even been using the platform myself, since I really want to advocate for flatness as a choice. There are several reasons for me feeling ambivalent to the concept of filling up space with pink ribbons and breast look alikes all around us for a whole month:
Breast cancer essentially isn’t about breasts, it’s about people. In Denmark the campaign is called “Støt brysterne” or “Support the Breasts” bearing similarities to the different campaigns around the world like “Save the Tatas” and “Save the Mama”.
The names are in my opinion unfortunate and the focus is off, they are definitely sending the wrong signal. The breasts don’t need saving, people having breast cancer does. I’m not complaining about the fact that there are private initiatives trying to collect money for a good cause. But we need to change the discourse so that we don’t force the idea of breasts as such a central thing on the ones affected by the disease. When we choose to put so much focus on the breasts in this disease, we will just make it even harder to cope with loosing them. What the campaigns are actually doing at the moment is putting even more focus to the very thing that is one of the hardest parts about breast cancer.
On top of this, breast cancer also affects men, if anyone wasn’t clear on that one. Framing the disease in this way, being all about perky tits, makes it harder for men to deal with something that is so strongly framed as “women’s” disease.
The people affected by the disease have more often than not gotten their breasts mutilated; let’s commemorate them by showing pics of… Breasts. Pinktober makes it impossible to escape the pink color and all the connotations that comes with it. When you have been deprived of one or both of your breasts, the last thing you want to see everywhere is breasts!
Right now I just want to get on with my life, but I’m constantly reminded of my illness in ads and campaigns. I can only imagine the trauma of people who have lost a dear one, having to re-live it every year at this time by being confronted by the unescapable and relentless campaigns.
Breasts cancer most certainly isn’t pink. The “pretty” color gives a clean or even cute appearance to something that is far from it. It kills, it’s bloody and it’s ugly. There’s no reason to sugarcoat a disease to make it appear nice and fluffy and sellable, it’s a lie and it’s not fair to all those affected.
Why only breast cancer? What about all the other cancer types and other diseases altogether? Save the colon! Doesn’t sound as good does it? It seems arbitrary to me, that this disease should have so much more attention than other cancer types. Pancreatic cancer has the lowest survival rate of all the most common cancer types. I know that breast cancer affects many people, myself including, but we should never favor one type of illness before another just because it’s more “appealing” or easier to sell. And I’ve only mentioned cancer in this context, there are many more less known diseases that doesn’t get any attention at all.
Donate to research, not arbitrary products that happen to be pink. What are you actually supporting when you buy pink? I definitely don’t like the way the disease is commercialized; going pink in pinktober is done to increase sales numbers. The pink ribbon is used to boost revenues.
A lot of the time it’s not transparent how much of the price you pay for a pink item is actually going to research on breast cancer? It often doesn’t say. If you want to be sure your money doesn’t go to waste you better donate directly to breast cancer research. Pink toenail clippers probably isn’t going to make a big difference, so save your money in that case.
In the end it’s not only the disease we are commercializing, it’s also the women/breasts that are objectified and sold as a product. Under the excuse of raising awareness, female breasts are portrayed everywhere, often without having a whole woman attached to them. Breasts (and sex) sells even in this context and it ends up trivializing a dangerous disease that kills.
Selling items by making a horrible disease look like perky “perfect” tits all wrapped in a appealing pink ribbon couldn’t be further from the real deal. It’s becoming an industry and the winners are not automatically new or former cancer patients – with or without breasts. Be critical when you see someone advertise for a pink product, who is it for and is it really making a difference, both directly – with research and money – and indirectly – with setting a standard for appearances – for the ones that truly need it?