Sunday, October 8

Trying to stay above the fray, but.

Breast Cancer Barbie.

Oh, I'm sorry. Pink Ribbon Barbie. Is she post-op? I wonder if she comes with stoma bags and a bill for the chemo drugs.

Coming soon, Hospice Patient Barbie, and Funeral Barbie (closed casket edition).

Breast Cancer is not pretty folks. All the pink ribbons in the universe will not make it so. 44,000 women die of breast cancer each year.

And what is all this "raise awareness" fuckness? If you are not aware of the pink ribbons, you are deaf and blind and there is a far less successful charity than the multi-million-dollar stock portfolio at Komen Foundation out there for you.

AL says it better than I can here and here. Just a snip:

If you think that breast cancer exists in a disease bubble with no political ramifications for its current and future victims, I urge you to shake the pink rhinestones out of your eyes. Read. Ask questions. Stop buying pink-ribbon crap.

Breast cancer isn’t making us stronger, despite the relentless campaign to celebrate “survivors”. It’s killing us.

Twisty put her chest out (and a real face to breast cancer, thank you) here. You can also read this. And "think before you pink" is here.

Sorry. I really didn't want to publicly choose sides against people with good motives, even if I think there's some attention-starvation psychosis going on. But it's time to move on to a new cause. Cervical cancer. Oh, wait, that might be (gasp) sexually transmitted. Can't make an awareness lipstick for that, now, can we?

Don't get me started.


  1. Oh, I'm glad you said it, because I sure think it.

    If Avon really wants to lead on this, why don't they give their own money? Why to they license some other company to put together a walk-a-thon for profit and anything left over goes to a foundation? Could it be, oh I don't know, ADVERTISING?

    It makes me really sad to see all these well-intentioned women duped by this sort of thing. If you want to give money to a cause, give to it directly, don't let the Avons of the world take credit for your money and effort.

    Sorry, that was a full-blown Julia Sugarbaker, huh?

  2. Thanks for your thoughts. I have a love/hate relationship with the pink ribbon. Last year, I wanted to leave the country for the entire month of October. You see, I really didn't need a reminder that it was Breast Cancer Awareness Month. I only needed to look down at my chest. As is so often the case, those who have good intentions and those who desire to profit from those good intentions get a bit carried away with all those good intentions.

    I have posted a bit on the topic, but I guess I am a bit of a hypocrit since I created my own pink ribbon design at CafePress which is donating 40% to non-profit breast cancer research/education organizations. My personal favorite is by the way.

    I'm a better designer than poet, but my personal take on the pink ribbon is reflected by this:
    Pretty pink ribbons are meant for little girls.
    Place them in your hair. Not upon your chest.
    Wear no pretty pink ribbons for a nasty thief who robs you while you are baking a cake or bathing the baby.


  3. I love the comments on this site.
    For an interesting twist on the topic of the "pinking" of breast cancer awareness, please see the link on my website,, to the article "Welcome to Cancerland: A Mammogram Leads to a Cult of Pink Kitsch" by Barbara Ehrenreich. (You can access the article by going to the left side of my site, under “articles of importance.”)

    This article will give you a different perspective on the topic! It is a classic.

    Julia Schopick

  4. crazyworld9:28 AM

    In your 'pink ribbon' comments, you made a passing reference to cervical cancer. This could be a very good issue for progressives to direct their energy towards, because:
    1)we now have an HPV vaccine, so a program similar to the old polio vaccination program could eliminate cervical cancer in the near future
    2)the right aren't really fond of the idea of a campaign against HPV, because it would take away one of the bogeymen they use to scare kids away from sex, so if anything is to be done, it pretty much falls to us
    (see excellent Ellen Goodman column:
    3)the stakes are being raised by studies that suggest that HPV by way of oral sex could be the cause of rising rates of tonsil cancer (

  5. I have kind of a love/hate relationship with the pink ribbon, too. And I understand why people don't like it, and I understand why people do.

    But I don't think awareness has reached the tipping point we may suspect when we've still got senators willing to halt important research in its tracks. And not only willing, but getting away with it.

    I don't know what the answer is, and certainly I recognize that the ubiquity of the pink ribbon could be accused of lulling people into a false sense of complacency that everything that can be done, is being done.

    In any case, I hesitate to condemn people who are trying to do something, even if misguided, when there are still so many people who are actively obstructionist as regards finding both causes and cures. Just my $.02. :-)

  6. Marketing people are the bane of my existence. They are always looking to be "on message" and find creative ways to co-opt worthy causes to garner ink, which is how they measure success.
    They move from one worthy cause to another so they can stay current with "people issues"
    But the fact is they get paid for their work and only a damn few work for free.
    As a cancer survivor, lymphoma, I have emphathy and sympathy for the afflicted and their families. Twisty is an amazing woman to so openly share her story. Bringing the truth to breast cancer for everyone to see.
    Scar tissue is a more powerful message that pink accoutrements.

  7. I just posted about an experience with breast cancer, too.

    Thank you for putting the spotlight on it.

  8. mikey5:29 PM

    You're absolutely right.

    We should stop buying anything with a pink ribbon. We should destroy everything with a pink ribbon. And, for God's sake, we shouldn't participate in any more "raising awareness" fuckness.

    Instead, we should just blog about what we feel regarding breast cancer. That should be enough to find a cure.

  9. Maybe we should advocate for more investigation into the causes of breast cancer, on blogs and in the halls of our legislatures, rather than depend on a corporate sponsored "support" organization with ties to big pharma and General Electric.

  10. But I LOVE t'get ye started...

  11. Race for the Cure was my post of 08 OCT last year. I thought this was the right thing to do, both to raise money and awareness. If better informed bloggers say this is wrong I'll stop. Was only trying to help.

  12. Well, I guess I'll be the (somewhat) dissenting voice.

    I buy the stuff. If I know the money is going to The Cause - whatever that might be - I spend it. I have a pink Eagles tie. I wear it, people comment on it, I tell them it's something they too can buy to support cancer research. I buy lemonade at Alex's Lemonade Stands (don't know if you guys know about this) because it funds pediatric cancer research. My students walk or run for JD, I sign up, buy a shirt or a bandana or whatever. I wear it to school. I give to the Red Dress Ladies every year, because heart disease killed my mom right in front of me.

    And my sister, the one with MS? She's always hawking stuff. And I buy it. And I wear it or I plant it or I stick it on my car, whatever it is.

    You know why? Because I fucking hate her MS, and I feel so fucking helpless and there's almost no other fucking thing I can fucking do about it other than watch her fucking die a little every fucking day right in front of my fucking eyes, right in front of her kids and her amazing husband. That's why.

    So while I understand and appreciate everything that everyone has said here, understand that some of us don't know what else to do, other than getting out our wallets or checkbooks every time someone asks, and ranting on other people's blogs as well as our own.

    Sorry about the language. Not very Quakerly, I know.

  13. Guys.

    My argument is not what any individual feels in their heart of hearts will make a difference. We all follow our highest sense of right in those individual instances. But with corporate America it is about the bottom line so often and I see so much CRAP being sold in the name of the cause it makes me upset. That our whole economy is based on consumerism and shopping for more stuff makes me upset. That WalMart is so big because people just have to have toilet seat covers with Santa Claus on them makes me upset. Well, not too upset, just sad.

  14. Right. Check out who's getting the money. But if they turn out to be really the giving type, buy the stuff. Write the check.

    's all I'm sayin.' Time for sleep.

  15. When Daddy was diagnosed with lung cancer, I started reading up on it and realized that it is one of the forgotten cancers. There are no corporate sponsors, fun runs, ribbons, etc., for those who suffer from this disease that kills far more people than breast cancer. While I cringe at the idea of anyone losing breasts, removing them is not life-threatening in and of itself. Meanwhile, my father is now living with one lung, remaining cancer cells that are unresponsive to chemo, and the hope that perhaps a new oral medication that is now used to treat breast cancer may be approved for lung cancer as well.

    Lung cancer is one of those "it's your own fault" diseases. The first question is almost always, "Is he a smoker?" I've asked that question myself about others who've contracted the disease. I find myself jumping in with the explanation that, yes, Daddy did smoke when he was younger, but he quit almost thirty years ago. Even his doctor, after asking about his history and current habits, told him he didn't "deserve" this. Well, who does?

    So what corporate sponsor would like to take on this disease? To fund research into more effective treatments, to fund universal testing for radon gas, which is a huge factor in the development of lung cancer? To figure out some way to avoid the removal of entire lungs, which, after all, are a bit more essential to ongoing life -- as well as quality of life -- than are breasts.

    Okay, sorry. I didn't mean to rant so. We got bad news this week, and I'm not handling it well. Thanks for writing about the pink ribbon industry; I'd never really given it any thought before.

  16. Pink Ribbon Rubber Duckies.

    Pink Ribbon Cell Phone Charms.

    Pink Ribbon underarm deodorant.

    Have we raised awareness yet?

    Those of you who have suffered or have watched someone suffered, or like me, have lost someone before you even got a chance to know they were suffering (yes, cancer can be that fast) my heart goes out to you.

  17. Your readers are amazing, BG. Smart and thoughtful. I feel like I've already been part of a great discussion without yet getting in my swipe at corporate greed.

    When diseases like lung cancer, MS, breast cancer and heart disease strike someone close and snuff out a life too soon, we are helpless. It's horrible. I've been there. Recently. Raging anger sometimes feels like my best friend.

    I would remake the point, however, that funding for research into the causes of breast cancer is blatantly political in nature and the "pink ribbon" campaign and its corporate sponsors would like you to forget about that element. Why? Because if significant funding were to show a cause/effect relationship between the chemicals and polluntants these same corporations depend upon for making a profit, they might be forced to spend real money cleaning up their act.

    From a political standpoint, breast cancer is a high profile disease that strikes the young, the middle-aged, the elderly, all races and both sexes. There isn't the "blame factor" associated with lung cancer - as horribly unfair as that is - but research into environmental causes would most certainly provide useful link information for other forms of cancer as well.

    MS, too, is thought to have some relationship to environmental factors. They already know there are geographic hot spots where MS is far more prevalent. I know. I live in one of those areas.

    My point is that we have to keep the pressure on. That means asking questions, writing to corporate pink ribbon sponsors and to politicians.

    My heart aches for anyone who has to stand by and experience the death or slow wasting away of a loved one. There's no right or wrong way to deal with that pain. I only wish to draw attention to the political nature of how research and funding is funneled into the quest for a breast cancer "cure."

    Thanks for the link, BG. And, thanks to your readers for the elevated level of discussion.

  18. Blue Gal.

    Yes, the pink ribbons are everywhere. Yes, it's shameful marketing.

    Use it.

    Even though you hate pink ribbons, every time you see one, you should see it as an opportunity to raise awareness. So what if it was put there by some corporate sponsor - the fact is, it's there, and you can use it to help raise awareness.

    Some kid gets a pink ribbon Barbie, and she might not know what's up with the pink ribbon. Maybe her mom tells her. Maybe she finds out that a lot of her friends' relatives died of breast cancer. Maybe she raises awareness throughout her entire neighborhood.

    Nah, that'll never happen. Screw pink ribbon Barbie, right? She's probably off with G.I. Joe somewhere, anyway.

    Oh! Just the other day, I was watching a heavyweight title (boxing) fight. One of the boxers was wearing pink gloves and trunks with a pink ribbon on it. Can you believe the nerve? Bringing breast cancer into a male-dominated sporting event? That's crazy! Because, God forbid that any of these wannabe alpha males wonder why he's wearing pink gloves. God forbid that they recall how many of their friends have been affected by breast cancer. God fucking forbid that someone who's been touched by breast cancer show his support for other victims by getting in bed with Komen like this! Because anybody with a pink ribbon? They're obviously profiting from other people's pain!

    That, or, they're geniuinely concerned, and want to publicly show their support.

    I mean, so fucking what if there are pink ribbon duckies. And pink ribbon cell phone charms. And pink ribbon underarm deodorant. At least you know people care.

    Plus, you're never gonna raise awareness unless you stop preaching to the choir, and start trying to reach everybody.

    Bottom line - people in the pink ribbon crowd want the same thing as you - an end to breast cancer. You people - you've made the pink ribbon into the bogeyman. It's a fucking ribbon.

    The pink ribbon is a symbol for breast cancer awareness. Not Komen awareness. Please, don't equate the ribbon with corporate sponsorship.

    Methinks that anyone who's quibbling over the ribbon has lost sight of the "true" fight.

  19. Weazl really luvs Blue Gal, but weazl thinks Mikey is spot on.

    Weazl's mother died from breast cancer and so is personally touched by this issue. But weazl, like Mikey, was really pleasantly surprised to see Monte Barrett wearing pink gloves that will be auctioned off to charity for breast cancer research. And sure, he's a bum, and his used gloves may not be the price of a new pair, but is sure was a great gesture, and sends a message out that breat cancer is an issue for us all. At a minimum, each of us has or has had a mother.

    Weazl also agrees with Mikey that we need not lose sight of the message. Corporatism is here to stay for a while, and it is nice to have them selling their wares with a message that we can defend.

    Weazl doesn't have children, but if they came out with an Antiwar Barbie, weazl might be tempted to buy one anyway. Does that make weazl a sucker? Maybe, but who among us isn't?

    And I really don't know if any extra proceeds from the products you mention go towards breast cancer research, but if they did, then I really would support it. I mean hell, I myself, who considers himself quite a manly man, would perhaps start a Barbie collection on my own, if there were Stop Torture Barbie, Stop Global Warming Barbie, Save the Whales, Tigers, Gorillas and/or Polar Bears Barbie, Bring the Troops Home Barbie . . . Do I make myself clear?

    I dunno, but as I said, I think Mikey's onto something here.

  20. I certainly think everybody's heart is in the right place here. And yeah, it doesn't do to get distracted by pink ribbons, though I suspect that the "portion" of profits from the "made in China" Pink Ribbon Rubber Duckies given to benefit breast cancer research is extremely small.

    If we follow the pink money and give as generously as we can when the money goes to help (and even buy the pink ribbon deodorant over another brand just to make a statement) I think we're raising awareness and doing the right thing.

  21. Also, we could all stand to lighten up with a visit to The Onion.

  22. My God, but do I ever agree on the cervical cancer issue. If a woman has had sex with more than one partner, damn her to eternal health hell forever!

    What bs.

  23. Timely post for me, bg, as a very dear friend is waiting for her biopsy results (this friday).

    Welcome back!

  24. wow. quite a group of folks here. lots to think about.

    quakerdave: i've never heard you swear so much! but sometimes it makes the point, don't it.

    kathy: sorry to hear about your father. i know people who had lung cancer who never smoked a day, so that doesn't matter. best of luck to him.

    i also posted about the HPV vaccine, btw. there is so much out there, good and bad. i think you have to be smart and donate where the $ is going to do the most good.

    love to read your words, bg. thx.

  25. I just posted on the "BC" cause... it has touched my life - my aunt, and so had another, much more sinister type of cancer which killed my dad when I was 17.

    My beef is that with the trendy, popular, in style support of breast cancer research, there're a lot of other cancers being overlooked. I prefer to give to cancer societies that put the money where its needed most - not based on who yells the loudest.

    Did you know prostate cancer kills as many men as breast cancer kills women? Yet the Canadian prostate cancer research group were proud to have raised about 400K. 400K. That's not enough to fund a single research project. Now how many millions are being raked in for breast cancer research???

  26. Please take a look at this other horrible cancer:

    Too many find out too late.

  27. Anonymous12:09 AM

    » International Trial Of Novel Breast Cancer Drug
    14/12/06 07:03 from Breast cancer blog from
    A clinical trial of a new targeted breast cancer drug, led by
    physicians at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) Cancer
    Center, has begun enrolling patients. The TEACH (Tykerb
    Evaluation After CHemotherapy) trial will investigate ...

    For useful content on mammograms, reduce your risk breast cancer and early breast cancer detection: check
    the url is


I really look forward to hearing what you have to say. I do moderate comments, but non-spam comments will take less than 24 hours to appear... Thanks!