Moving Beyond Pink

Yesterday on the Monday evening #bcsm TweetChat, the hashtag started to morph from “breast cancer social media” to “breast cancer sadomasochism.”  I like them; it’s a frenetic pace, but with good ideas and thoughts moving back and forth.   They’re run by a great team with lots of smart folks out there of all stripes participating and that is actually pretty awesome in and of itself.   And if you have the chance, please do join in on Monday evenings 9:00 pm EST.  The topic this month is to redefine or reclaim pink and the questions that have gone out have generally tried to get to the heart of this.  Last night’s chat (Oct 8) put forth some good questions for discussion.

Q1. What’s right about the ribbon? What about breast cancer awareness worked for you?
Q2. How do we get the pink ribbon back on track?
Q3: BC is beyond the community. And it’s global.  How do we best educate to those who are underserved?  Or in developing countries?

Overcome with my own pink fatigue and a day where I hit the cancer wall, I had to bale shortly in because I grew tired of the constant pink is right and pink is wrong; pink is good, pink is bad; pink is a statement, pink is useless.  FUCK THE PINK ALREADY!  We’re stuck with it and debating esoteric meanings of fabric and a mix of red and white is an instant dead end.  I mean, we all hate it in one form or another.  What needs to change is the paradigm.  And the paradigm is bigger than the pros and cons of pink.  This is what I wanted to say in more than 140 characters.

First of all, pink is about awareness.  And if you are about basic good health information, early detection, and five year survival rates, then pink is doing its job and, in fact, it’s an over achiever.  Setting aside the valid arguments against commercialization or sexualization, what it does is marry the words breast cancer with pink.  Breast cancer is no longer in the shadows.  It’s out there.  And money should continue to be raised to support early detection and treatment so that it doesn’t get tucked in the box again.  You will never hit everyone and you’ll still get the women who should know better and don’t.  But this is only one level of the conversation.

Second, coordinated research.  The way research dollars have been appropriated tends to pit organizations against one another, but much could be gained through collaboration or just coordination among research scientists.  If IUPAC scientists could set aside their politics for the sake of empirical science and work through WWI, WWII, and US/USSR Cold War from the 1950s-1980s, then I think it is possible for research scientists to collaborate on some level to combat breast cancer.  At the VERY LEAST the will should be there for folks to collaborate and make sure that research is targeted and that which needs to be focused should be focused.   Who can work to establish that will?  We can.

Third, coordinated fundraising.  Komen isn’t going to collaborate with anyone.  And neither is Avon.  But there are a lot of smaller and perhaps even more effective organizations that could actually coordinate their efforts toward more effective  and targeted fundraising.  Most organizations are afraid of doing this for fear that their brand will be lessened or the other organization will look better.  But, for crissakes, if you really want a fucking cure for breast cancer, then put your money and your effort where your mouth is.  If  all you want to do is to run a business, then open a bakery.  This is not impossible IF the desire for action is real philanthropy and not organizational/personal success.  Who can determine that desire for action and collaboration?  We can.

Fourth, political activism.  If you think a cure for breast cancer is important enough to be considered a human right, then get off your ass and lobby for this on the governmental level.   Breast cancer is political. In the United States right now there is the pervasive idea that everything the government does is evil, we have to reduce the federal deficit, we need to cut programs.  You know this is all bullshit.  You have to fight for your share of the pie.

The one thing about the pink ribbon, which has been pointed out by many, is that somewhere along the line women were pulled from the picket and marching lines to passively walk for the cure.  Passively raise money, dump it into a big fundraising machine, and walk away feeling like they’ve cured breast cancer.  Bullshit!

If you want real change here then you have to change the political landscape and stop worrying about abortion, prayer in schools, and vote what is in your real interest: individuals who will represent us in our fight to allocate more funds for research.  I’m not going to die because I didn’t have a moment of private prayer through 12 years of public school or because Roe v. Wade is the law of the land.  I’m going to die because of breast cancer.  And if the National Cancer Institute doesn’t like research targeted toward MBC, then organize, get on the fucking horn as a group and demand that this governmental body do the research that you want it to do.  Who can march in the streets and block traffic and hold politicians accountable?  We can.

I realize that this is rather simplified.  But if all we’re going to do is bitch about pink (and believe me, I have plenty of bitch left in me about the pink) we will never get anywhere.  Bitching about the pink is the perfect foil for these organizations.  If they keep us busy complaining about the symptom, then we won’t complain about the cause.  We’re not going to “reclaim” or “rethink” the pink–and who give’s a damn?  Fuck the pink.  Circumvent the cause and find new targets of entry and attack.

Will any of it be easy?  No.  Will any of it be free?  No.  Will any of it be worth it? Yes.

So pick your poison, but know if you’re going to freak out on the pink ad nauseum nothing worthwhile will get accomplished–neither in the short term nor the long term.  Like my mother always says: Actions speak louder than words.

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10 Responses to Moving Beyond Pink

  1. Jenn says:

    WOW! Thanks for setting me straight. All this time I have been coordinating events with Komen and others and watching the local Komen affiliate grant funds to American Cancer Society for Road to Recovery etc. Geesh, I had know idea I wasn’t supposed to do this. You must have read the Komen policies and procedures that I didn’t… I will call them tomorrow to make sure they revise it!

  2. Shorespinner says:

    I hate pink, but pink is a tool for awareness. Awareness fosters research. Research finds medication to treat, and someday, prevent. I’m alive because someone found Herceptin and fought to get it accepted. Pink is a tool, pinkwashing serves no purpose IMO.

    • Scorchy says:

      Awareness doesn’t foster research in and of itself. That takes constant pressure. If ribbons fostered the kind of awareness that leads to research for treatment and a cure, then ACT UP! would have never been as successful as they were. The BC movement needs to adopt a more militant posture. Squeaky wheel gets the oil.

  3. Katie says:

    Great post. Promoting awareness and opening people’s eyes is never without its efforts, unfortunately a lot of people would rather bitch behind clothes door than make their convictions known. I wanted to tell you yesterday I saw a house decorated with pink plastic pumpkins–some ill-conceived hybrid of breast cancer awareness month and Halloween.

  4. Jen says:

    You make great points Scorchy!

  5. @rupertbu says:

    This could have been a 3 part post, a la Dickens, yet you have been involved in a tweetchat and then respond, not even a 100% healthy person could keep up such prodigious output!

    Take a break or keep us on the edge of our seats with what will be in the next part.

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