Is Breast Cancer Awareness Month Bad?

Jeff likes to stutter, “B…b…b…but the corporations!”

Below is a point-by point response to a particularly gratuitous attack on the Breast Cancer Awareness phenomenon. Please read the article first, and then take a look at my responses.

“These events have been inundated with corporate sponsors who pledge to donate a small portion of their proceeds to breast cancer research—provided, of course, that you continue to buy their products. Everything, it turns out, sells better in pink.”

Yes, businesses piggyback on cultural phenomena for their own benefit. But that this purportedly “soils” the integrity of the phenomenon itself is ridiculous. First of all, businesses, especially brand-name corporations, also help to promote and propagate the cause. Yes, businesses grow because of the cause, but so does the cause. Secondly, Why is the fact that they are raising money through sales a blemish on the donations themselves? Should they not seek to make those marginal sales and have less profit from which to donate?

“The great hypocrisy of these corporations is that they purport to be raising money for a cure while simultaneously using ingredients in their products that can serve as risk factors for the disease.”

This point is totally valid. I agree with the author 100%.

“In 2011, only 15% of Susan G. Komen’s donations went to fund research grants.”

According to the same article from which this statistic was taken, “The organization’s 2011 financial statement reports that 43 percent of donations were spent on education, 18 percent on fund-raising and administration, 15 percent on research awards and grants, 12 percent on screening and 5 percent on treatment.” Such unworthy causes! It’s as if the author wants us to believe the majority of funds are going towards lavish Caribbean cruises.

“Much of the breast cancer awareness movement focuses on early detection and treatment, while a shockingly small amount of resources are allocated to prevention and research exploring the root causes of the disease.”

…So start your own damn non-profit that focuses on the root causes. It’s like saying Greenpeace is at fault for not funding aeronautics research.

“Breast cancer has only become relevant to wider society because white, middle class women have become the face of the disease.”

Thank you to all white, middle-class women who helped promote an important cause.

“The intense focus on breast cancer has also been used to water down feminism and divert attention from other more “controversial” women’s health issues, such as access to contraceptives and abortions.”

If charity is indeed a zero-sum game (which it is not because there are still untapped pockets of society who give less to charity than others), then use the force of those other important issues to divert resources back to those causes. Don’t tear down an important cause because it is getting in the way of your pet cause. That is chutzpah.

“Talk of “survivors” and the “fight” against cancer inherently suggests that those who succumb to their disease—those who “lose their battle”—have failed in a way that survivors have not.”

This strikes me as unwarranted hypersensitivity. That OBVIOUSLY is not the intent of the movement as a whole. Also, it is not the role of the “zeitgeist” to ensure the emotional security of every dying cancer patient. Different patients probably require different types of emotional support. The current culture offers an outpouring of optimism and hope, which probably soothes and comforts many, many, many patients. If the author would like to see a more realist message, she can start her own non-profit rather than shitting on hope.


– Winch