Pink Ribbons, Inc.: Breast Cancer and the Politics of Philanthropy Paperback – May 19 2008
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The pink ribbon has come to symbolize efforts to find a cure for breast cancer. But it has also become a powerful symbol for corporate philanthropy, boosting the image of corporations, that promote products from yogurt to cars, slicing off a portion of proceeds to support breast cancer research. King, a women's health issues scholar, explores the phenomenal growth of Pink Ribbons Inc.; the annual massing for the Susan G. Komen Foundation's Race for the Cure 5K runs; and other high-profile events with huge corporate sponsorships. However admirable the effort to find a cure, King argues that it overwhelms efforts to learn how and why women get breast cancer and how it can be prevented. Prevention efforts could help more low-income women who lack the means to pay for treatment. King examines the history of philanthropy and how breast cancer became such a prominent cause, garnering far more support and publicity than other diseases, demonstrating the ability of American women to flex their political and economic muscle on behalf of an important cause. Vanessa Bush
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However, because it appears to be written for academics who specialize in breast cancer history, it glosses over the social and political context that these changes are occurring in. Anyone interested in this book should read Barron H. Lerner's The Breast Cancer Wars: Hope, Fear, and the Pursuit of a Cure in Twentieth-Century America or Robert Aronowitz's Unnatural History: Breast Cancer and American Society (Cambridge Studies in the History of Medicine) before reading this.
I've had King's excellent book for years, and yet I am surprised that I never got around to writing a review here, but attribute that omission to constantly referencing the book in the many articles, letters to editors, legislators, businesses, medical organizations, "pink" organizations, etc., I have sent in an attempt to remove the pink fog from the horrendous status of care for breast health and breast diseases.
I firmly believe that what King presents effects every single aspect of the care, or lack of care, women receive, as the more "pink," "feel-good," "infantilization," and all the rest of it that is allowed to numb and dumb. I grant that a small percentage of men get breast cancer, but I will not diminish the fact of gender-based disease by using the ubquitious, "people" when talking about breast cancer).
The big "K" has it's registered trademark. I thought of a new one today -- just popped into my mind after seeing a comic strip, no less, that was all about "pink." Caveat -- it's black humor. Here it is:
"Breast cancer for women, not for profit."
As to King's book being too academic - any woman who has had to deal with breast anomalies - learns so much about medicine, and the politics of medicine, than she might well be granted an honorary degree. And, having a very average brain, assure everyone that her writings, and the message, were crystal clear to me.
I hope the documentary receives a wide, and accessible release, because film has such power, and between King's work, (and the work of others), and film itself, I pray - I really pray -- that the public will be motivated to abandon pink profiteering, and focus on what exactly happens to women who have concerns about their breasts, the scattershot approach to care that they receive, especially if faced with unclear results, or absence of cancer -- that's poorly expressed - women who enter the cancer-system, and ultimately learns that she has a non-cancerous condition, is utterly abandoned. That's the next book I want to see written.
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