Commercializing Cancer, Ctd

by Chris Bodenner

Marcy Wheeler shares her firsthand perspective:

[A]s a breast cancer survivor, I learned to hate the pink ribbons purportedly serving my interests. It may have been when Eureka developed an ad campaign around the pink ribbon. I was less than thrilled that Eureka tried to use my cancer as a reason to sell women more vacuum cleaners along with their stale gender stereotypes. But I think the moment when I most realized that the cancer industry was about turning breast cancer patients into profit centers came when I went to a Komen-funded Young Survival Coalition conference. The organization itself–focused on breast cancer resources for those diagnosed under the age of 40–was a godsend. But the conference insisted on calling us patients and survivors "customers."

More on the money-making here. The Dish also posted a similar takedown of Livestrong bracelets recently. A reader offers a qualified defense of Komen:

I've been reading all of the Komen stuff, and I couldn't agree more that it was a stupid decision that will have a negative impact. However, I have to write and say that the pink ribbon campaign has had a very profound influence on my 10-year-old son and his sports playing friends. They proudly wear pink socks, armbands, hats with ribbons – you name it – and when you ask them why, it's "to cure breast cancer."

How do I take this away? Or explain that this group is bad? There's no laughing or nervousness in saying "breast" out loud; they know it's a serious, life-threatening disease that could impact their moms or sisters. It's the most mature response from them you can get (a more mature response than most older men who think the word "breast" is verboten in public) and they mean it. My son wants this disease eradicated (he has said he wants to become a doctor to cure it, though sports doctor shows up in his choices too!), and his only awareness are from the sports leagues proudly wearing pink, his heroes wearing pink, and the maturity of his friends and families in talking about what wearing pink means.

Komen may have made a big mistake, but they must've done something right. My son knows nothing about the issue, and I won't be saying anything. To him, wearing pink means curing breast cancer, and it always will if we have our say.