Pink Ribbon Blues Contributor Lisa Valentine has written two essays for the PRB Blog: “What Lies Beneath,” which examines cultural expectations about women’s breasts, and “I Didn’t Know Then What I Know Now,” which shares how Lisa went from being an avid Komen supporter to a new kind of breast cancer advocate. Earlier today (Jul. 12) Lisa published an article in the Minneapolis Star Tribune highlighting the exploitive character of much of today’s pink ribbon culture.
In “Keep the Race Moving Toward the Cure,” Lisa Valentine remarks that it was 30 years ago that the largest breast cancer charity in the world — Susan G. Komen for the Cure — was founded, and 27 years ago that October was named National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. This significant amount of time and effort did yield some positive results. Advocacy and awareness activities destigmatized aspects of the disease and increased the visibility of the breast cancer epidemic. It also promoted fundraising and encouraged solidarity among some. These were important gains. But what else happened in three decades?
“Breast-cancer awareness is now a business, a big business. . . Plenty of money is being raised in the name of breast-cancer awareness, and there is seeming agreement on the ultimate goal of ending breast cancer. Follow the money trail, though, and it is disheartening at the least and downright troublesome at the most.”
Numerous exposés have revealed among other things breast cancer charities’ misappropriations of funds, declines in research allocations, pinkwashing for profits, and the need for greater transparency about how money for breast cancer is raised and spent. The profit motives in breast cancer advocacy sometimes feel insurmountable.
But the tide is turning. People like Lisa Valentine are speaking out not only with passion and conviction but with a sensible and evidence-based critique that calls for action and demands change. This is what gives me hope. Not promises or good intentions. Not a sea of pink. Not even the successes of the early breast cancer movement. What gives me hope is consciousness, and a commitment to act on clear evidence with a tenaciousness and compassion that will inject the new breast cancer movement with the power to remember its roots and, more importantly, to use that remembering to spur meaningful change.
Lisa Valentine asks, “Where will we be thirty years from now?” That is question for us all.
Lisa Valentine was diagnosed with breast cancer in May of 2008. Two of Lisa’s seven sisters have also had breast cancer. She is an active member of the Hastings, MN Breast Cancer Support Group, which created the DVD “Voices of Hope” in early 2010 for newly diagnosed women. The DVD, of which nearly 5,000 copies have been distributed, includes a special segment with ten women showing the results of their breast cancer surgeries. Lisa is one of those ten. (For more information go to www.hastingsbreastcancer.com or www.circleinthefield.org).
With a B.A. in Social Science and a M.S. in Guidance and Counseling, Lisa currently works as a school counselor. An avid runner, she has completed nine marathons, four post-cancer. A lifelong writer and poet, her recent publishing credits include opinion essays in the Minneapolis Star Tribune and The Des Moines Register.