17. Excerpt from “Being Sarah”

Following press coverage of Sarah Horton’s honest, opinionated diaries during her treatment for breast cancer in 2008, Sarah then began writing a book about her experiences. Being Sarah is a true story that brings into sharp focus society’s perception of breast cancer, the politics of the disease, and the need for prevention. Opinionated, outspoken, and life-affirming, her book is also a protest call that is angry and questioning of the pink culture surrounding breast cancer.

Being Sarah is the book that brings many of the issues about breast cancer culture and industry . . . → Read More: 17. Excerpt from “Being Sarah”

“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?”

What Good Is Awareness If…

…the root causes of breast cancer remain unchanged?

…the information disseminated is inaccurate, incomplete, or decontextualized?

…the messages trivialize, misrepresent, or marginalize the disease or the diagnosed?

…the campaign uses sexualized language and imagery to sell itself?

..the campaign intentionally or inadvertently supports products or services that contribute to the total cancer burden (i.e., pinkwashing)?

…the campaign shifts attention and funding toward programs that will not have an impact on the eradication of the disease, and detracts attention and funding from innovative measures and research that will?

…the . . . → Read More: What Good Is Awareness If…

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

Birth of the Perpetual Fundraising Industry

On the first day of National Breast Cancer Awareness Month (2010) GoComics published the comic strip Non Sequiter by Wiley Miller. It explains the “Birth of the Perpetual Fundraising Industry.” When approached by a dragonslayer, the dragon offers a rational explanation as to why sparing its life would be a win-win proposition. The dragon says:

“Look. You’re dead if you lose and out of a job if you win. So what I propose is a win-win that can be summed up in 3 . . . → Read More: Birth of the Perpetual Fundraising Industry


An Excerpt from Pink Ribbon Blues–

In the early 1990s, it seemed as though society was ready to confront breast cancer. Breast cancer activism was starting to gain momentum in extending public outreach, increasing research funding, and gaining a seat at the public policy table. In August 1993, the New York Times Magazine published a story about the achievements of the breast cancer movement with the title, “You Can’t Look Away Anymore.” The caption referred both to the success of the movement in agitating . . . → Read More: Remembrance

“Fatigue Indeed” – NY Times Well Blog

Barron Lerner MD published a review of Pink Ribbon Blues in The New York Times yesterday with the title “Pink Ribbon Fatigue.”

The title captured the reality that many of us warily and wearily march through Pinktober as we try to discern whether all of this pink is doing any good. Lerner rightly points out that breast cancer events do have the potential to create “emotional uplift” and a “sense of community” for survivors, and that “the pink ribbon has been a spectacular success . . . → Read More: “Fatigue Indeed” – NY Times Well Blog

Swimming In A Sea of Pink

Talking about gender, says Sociologist Judith Lorber, is for most people the equivalent of fish talking about water. It is so common, routine, pervasive, and normal– that “questioning its taken-for-granted assumptions…is like wondering whether the sun will come up.” It seems natural and predictable. The same is true for pink. Pink ribbons are so commonplace that we’ve just gotten used to them.

Pink is supposed to signify awareness. But how much awareness can there be when people casually swim through the pink without noticing its texture, intent, presuppositions, . . . → Read More: Swimming In A Sea of Pink

Pink Kitsch, Brought To You By NBCAM

During National Breast Cancer Awareness Month (NBCAM), and throughout the year, pink ribbons and products abound in supermarkets, shopping malls, magazines, newspapers, television shows, billboards, and work places with inspirational stories from pink ribbon culture to accompany them. The media-friendly interplay of pink femininity and cancer culture provides a light, entertaining, and at times comical depiction of the cause of breast cancer that some, including myself, find disturbing.

Like most everyone else spreading the pink, NBCAM has its own store for pink products. These . . . → Read More: Pink Kitsch, Brought To You By NBCAM

Go Pink, or Go Home!

Last year, NASCAR fans at at Lowe’s Motor Speedway cheered, “Go Pink or Go Home” as five pink cars raced around the track in support of Susan G. Komen for the Cure. The president and CEO of Komen served as the honorary race director, and Candy Coburn performed the song “Pink Warrior” during the pre-race celebration, which was written for Komen and for breast cancer survivors. Komen includes a write-up about the event in the organization’s website.

The cheer unequivocally reinforces the us/them scenario . . . → Read More: Go Pink, or Go Home!

A billboard tells you to try harder so you can beat cancer? I'm aghast @NancysPoint! #BCSM fb.me/1fEeq8sAh

“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? Salon.com

"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