Foreword from Pink Ribbon Blues

What follows is an excerpt from the foreword to Pink Ribbon Blues, written by Bonnie B. Spanier, Ph.D., Microbiology and Molecular Genetics Emerita, Women’s Studies Department, University at Albany.

The grassroots breast cancer movement of twenty-plus years has been a force for progress for consumers interfacing with medicine. Over the years, much has changed in breast cancer biomedicine as well. Many of these changes have come from medical professionals and researchers who put the quality of life for women at the center of their concerns. The women’s health movement that came to the public eye around 1970 with the publication of Our Bodies, Ourselves, for example, has played a crucial role in pushing the medical profession, government regulators, and researchers into treating women as active agents and potential experts of our own bodies. Much of the particular change in biomedicine came from obstreperous women, like Rose Kushner, insisting on being heard by their doctors and politicians, in the National Institutes of Health and in Congress.

By 1990, frustrated women raised their voices, opened their purses, and organized to get the attention of the public and of politicians in order to highlight shortfalls in progress against breast cancer. Despite reassurances from most quarters of the medical profession, women faced the harsh reality that mortality rates had not improved in 50 years. The breast cancer advocacy movement became a revolution to increase funding for innovative research; to question standard medical advice so that the public could learn about the complexities of the disease, including its known and suspected causes; to address the conditions of survivors’ lives; and to dream of eliminating the disease for future generations.

We have much to learn from this extraordinary era and the many engaged citizens working to improve our health. Yet it is discouraging that, decades later, the same issues remain: Why are so many women living with, suffering from, and dying from breast cancer? What are the best ways to detect, treat, live with, and prevent this disease? Whose information is most reliable? What role, if any, should corporations play in disseminating medical information, encouraging particular modes of detection or treatment, or fund-raising for large breast cancer organizations? How do everyday messages about women and breast cancer survivorship help or diminish support for the diagnosed, or for those who are at risk? Whose voices are missing from the public debate? Where is the debate headed, and will it have any impact on the eradication of the disease?

Because we still cannot answer these challenging questions to our satisfaction, it is time to look at the problem with fresh insights. In order to increase our chances for improving quality of life, we must take stock of where we have been and where we are headed, re-evaluating the current culture and its powerful beliefs about what is best for women’s health.

Gayle Sulik’s thoughtful and provocative book gives us that opportunity. Her approach focuses us on the nexus of critical issues in women’s and men’s health, personal decision-making, and public policy. To understand the strengths and the limitations of the “pink ribbon culture” of breast cancer, Sulik looks at this complex cultural system it in its entirety, with its own language, norms, practices, and beliefs. She considers the history, the key players, the most prevalent messages, the key funders, and the most crucial outcomes of America’s war on breast cancer. She listens to the words and stories of women who have breast cancer, the people who care about them, and those who are involved with breast cancer advocacy and education. She examines the advertising tableau and the imagery associated with pink culture. Then she carefully documents and analyzes the impact of this culture on the lives of women living with a breast cancer diagnosis. Finally, Sulik offers understanding about why pink ribbon culture has avoided public critique, and how society and advocacy together can regain crucial ground.

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"women urged to get screened because it might save their lives. But that’s only 1 possible outcome, and it’s the least likely one" @cragcrest

“Pink Ribbon Blues”

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

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"Seeing clearly through the pink haze" Toronto Sun

*Sad face*: Being happy does not help you live longer" New Scientist

How should we address breast cancer when norms continually change? The Guardian

Your Fun 'No Bra Day' Photos Are Overshadowing Terminal Breast Cancer Patients Broadly

Backlash against “pinkwashing” of breast cancer awareness campaigns BMJ

Breast Cancer to Rise 50 Percent by 2030? Hey, Not So Fast! Health News Review

Breast Cancer: The Flaws in the Cause

How to Make the Biggest Impact With Your Breast Cancer Donations Money

The Very Pink, Very Controversial Business of Breast Cancer Awareness Racked

NFL, Pink Ribbons Not Enough to Win over Women CNN

3 Questions We Need to Answer for Breast Cancer Awareness Month Chronicle of Philanthropy

The problem with National Breast Cancer Awareness Month Women's Health Magazine

Pink Ribbon Envy: Living with an Uncool Cancer The Nib

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

Canadian Mammogram Study KCRW, NPR Affiliate

Time to Debunk the Mammography Myth CNN

Breast Cancer: Awareness, Activism & Pinkwashing NPR Charlotte

Buying Pink Al Jazeera's The Stream Watch »

The Pink Backlash Orlando Sentinel

Why Jolie's Test Costs So Much CNN

Preventative Mastectomies: Disease and Deception BlogTalkRadio

Angelina Jolie and the 'Breast Cancer Gene' 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