The She-ro

Ch3 Cancer VixenSuperCROP

She is the protagonist of the epic breast cancer survivor story.

She exists in many iterations; in magazines, advertisements, news stories, and awareness events.

She is a superwoman who courageously, passionately, and aggressively battles disease.

She faces tremendous difficulties.

With style and optimism, she learns from her experience, is transformed, and shares lessons learned.

She is the SHE-RO, the triumphant survivor who fights breast cancer and wins.

Those who do not embrace her have no place in pink ribbon culture.

Cancer Vixen: A She-ro . . . → Read More: The She-ro

Promises of Hope. Not Cure.

Gayle and Rachel June 2011

A version of this essay was published on September 27, 2012 on Girl w/ Pen, a collectivity of feminist scholars, writers, and thinkers who publicly and passionately dispel modern myths concerning gender.

“I too used to secretly look forward to October, when I would drape myself in pride with all manner of garish pink, survivor-emblemed merchandise and take my place in the Survivors circle whilst bopping out to “We Are Family” or whatever the cheesy designated anthem was for that year, at one . . . → Read More: Promises of Hope. Not Cure.

16. Loss and Remembering: A Story of Heather Beyer

After Pink Ribbon Blues came out, Bill Noren periodically sent me photos, news items, and other tidbits about pink ribbon culture that concerned him. Several of the images and photos that are sprinkled throughout the Pink Ribbon Blues Blog and in the ever-expanding photo gallery came from him. Last Spring, Bill sent me some news stories about Heather Beyer and told me how it represented, for him, a turn in public culture that not only glorified survivorship but actually hid the real difficulties people . . . → Read More: 16. Loss and Remembering: A Story of Heather Beyer

“Whose Life Is It Anyway?”

Kathleen Kolb is a physical therapist, artist, breast cancer survivor, and writer of the blog The Accidental Amazon. With her permission, the Pink Ribbon Blues Blog republishes her recent essay “Whose Life Is It Anyway?” about the untidiness of breast cancer, the power and emptiness of symbolism, and the realities of living and dying with the pink ribbon disease.


As far as I know, I do not have metastatic breast cancer. But I cannot say that with absolute certainty. With most cancers, but particularly with . . . → Read More: “Whose Life Is It Anyway?”

Pink Ribbon Culture as a Form of Psychological Denial

Dr. Linda Rubin, professor and licensed psychologist, is today’s Pink Ribbon Blues contributor.

While reading the first few pages of Gayle Sulik’s book, Pink Ribbon Blues, it hit me: I had never heard any public accounts of women’s breast cancer experiences that were anything but positive, triumphant, and uplifting. I asked myself, how could this be? How is it that I had never noticed that the public discourse on women fighting breast cancer did not match the overwhelming psychological distress that so many . . . → Read More: Pink Ribbon Culture as a Form of Psychological Denial

On “Positive Attitude” posted a comic strip called “Positive Attitude.” In just three frames, the faceless, nameless stick figures capture a common American experience: the mandate for positive thinking in the face of illness.

1. After telling a service provider that s/he is sick and scared, the provider explains to the patient that having a good attitude is vitally important: “Think positively and you’ll get better.”

2. When the patient starts to inquire about occasionally feeling sad, afraid, or “like crap” the provider interjects that, “If . . . → Read More: On “Positive Attitude”

NY Times Magazine’s, “Think About Pink”

Peggy Orenstein, author of forthcoming book Cindarella Ate My Daughter, wrote a compelling article for The New York Times Magazine (Nov. 12, 2010) addressing contemporary efforts to make breast cancer “sexy” for an upbeat and stylized cancer marketplace. In Think About Pink, Orenstein critiques the “I ❤ Boobies” and “Save the Ta-tas” campaigns that detract from the truth about breast cancer and fetishize breasts “at the expense of the bodies, hearts and minds attached to them.”

[singlepic id=181 w=320 h=240 float=right]I’m glad this aspect . . . → Read More: NY Times Magazine’s, “Think About Pink”

Is Any Awareness Good Awareness?

According to an article in The Vindicator by Kristine Gill, Susan G. Komen for the Cure stands firm that there is not enough pink. Carrie Glasscock, manager of corporate relations, states:

“There’s not enough pink when every 69 seconds a woman is diagnosed with breast cancer around the world. Women are still dying from this disease.”

Similarly, a representative from the American Cancer Society, Al Stabilito, said about awareness messages:

“Whatever clever way they want to come up with as . . . → Read More: Is Any Awareness Good Awareness?

Awareness Umbrella

The Ad for the pink and white awareness umbrella reads:

“A beautifully constructed umbrella is appreciated rain or shine! Recipients will know you care when you pick gifts that show you’re there! Umbrella comes in clear vinyl sleeve. Awareness Pink Ribbon Design.”

Awareness. We see and hear that word a lot, especially when it comes to the cause of breast cancer. The pink ribbon signifies awareness. People want to raise awareness. Products and services claim to spread awareness. But what exactly does . . . → Read More: Awareness Umbrella

Unfashionable Diseases and Less Glamorous Cancers

“Cancer charities which work with less glamorous cancers, bowel, lung, pancreatic for example, let alone charities working with distinctly unfashionable diseases…mental health charities and Alzheimers… envy the ease with which consumers spend on pink products, though some cancer charities may welcome the ‘trickle down’ effect.” –comment to The New York Times article Pink Ribbon Fatigue

What is it about breast cancer that is so glamorous? It’s pink. As I write in What’s in a Color? “the cause of breast cancer has been . . . → Read More: Unfashionable Diseases and Less Glamorous Cancers

“Pink Ribbon Blues,” Book

Paperback includes new Introduction on fundraising controversies and color insert with images of, and reactions to, the pinking of breast cancer (2012).

Order the Paperback » 

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Recent Sulik Interviews

A Year After Bombings, Some Say 'Boston Strong' Has Gone Overboard NPR, All Things Considered

Canadian Mammogram Study KCRW, NPR Affiliate

Breast Cancer: Awareness, Activism & Pinkwashing NPR Charlotte

Buying Pink Al Jazeera's The Stream Watch »

The Pink Backlash Orlando Sentinel

Preventative Mastectomies: Disease and Deception Listen to BlogTalkRadio »

Angelina Jolie and the 'Breast Cancer Gene' Listen to KCRW »

Our Feel-Good War on Breast Cancer. The New York Times Magazine.

The Story Behind the Pink Ribbon Campaign Sisters Talk Radio

WISH Interview Women's International Summit for Health

Making Cancer About The Patient, Not The Body Part CBS Pittsburgh

Sexy breast cancer campaigns anger many patients USA Today

The perils of pink The Daily

Komen pink campaign creates breast-cancer blues for some Dallas Morning News

A yellow flag for the NFL's pink New York Daily

Gayle Sulik named #7 in SharecareNow’s Top 10 Online Influencers in Breast Cancer

"Breast cancer cancer causes so easily derailed" Philly Inquirer

"Komen Charity Under Microscope for Funding, Science" Reuters

"The Fight Against Cancer - And Abortion?

"Susan G. Komen For the Cure defunds Planned Parenthood." In Deep with Angie Coiro

"Amid Breast Cancer Month, Is there Pink Fatigue?" NPR's All Things Considered

"How is Breast Cancer Culture Undermining Women's Health?" America’s Radio News Network

"Pink Ribbon Culture and Breast Cancer" The Kojo Nnamdi Show

"The Big Business of Breast Cancer" 
Marie Claire

"Does Breast Cancer Awareness Month Crowd Out Other Diseases?" Slate

"Pink Inc. Has Many Starting to See Red" The Sacramento Bee

"Get Your Pink Off" Ottawa Citizen

"Komen Pink Ribbons Raise Green and Questions" USA Today