Author and breast cancer survivor Barbara Ehrenreich’s op-ed for Salon.com tackles the issue of feminism and “the pink-ribbon breast cancer cult,” she says isn’t helping women where they need it, “To some extent, pink-ribbon culture has replaced feminism as a focus of female identity and solidarity. When a corporation wants to signal that it’s “woman friendly,” what does it do? It stamps a pink ribbon on its widget and proclaims that some miniscule portion of the profits will go to breast cancer research. I’ve even seen a bottle of Shiraz called “Hope” with a pink ribbon on its label, but no information, alas, on how much you have to drink to achieve the promised effect. When Laura Bush traveled to Saudi Arabia in 2007, what grave issue did she take up with the locals? Not women’s rights (to drive, to go outside without a man, etc.), but “breast cancer awareness.” In the post-feminist United States, issues like rape, domestic violence, and unwanted pregnancy seem to be too edgy for much public discussion, but breast cancer is all apple pie,” wrote Ehrenreich.
She points to two recent women’s health issues: the Stupak amendment and new guidelines for breast cancer screening that were endorsed by Breast Cancer Action, the National Breast Cancer Coalition, and the National Women’s Health Network. ”Once upon a time, grassroots women challenged the establishment by figuratively burning their bras. Now, in some masochistic perversion of feminism, they are raising their voices to yell, “Squeeze our tits!” And writes Ehrenreich, “When the Stupak anti-choice amendment passed, and so entered the health reform bill, no congressional representative stood up on the floor of the House to recount how access to abortion had saved her life or her family’s well-being.” But Anna at Jezebel.com counters, “But just as not everything a woman does is empowering, not every extra-scientific position a group of women takes is a blow to feminism. Also, plenty of us have been far from mutedon Stupak.”
“So welcome to the Women’s Movement 2.0: Instead of the proud female symbol — a circle on top of a cross — we have a droopy ribbon. Instead of embracing the full spectrum of human colors — black, brown, red, yellow, and white — we stick to princess pink. While we used to march in protest against sexist laws and practices, now we race or walk “for the cure.” And while we once sought full “consciousness” of all that oppresses us, now we’re content to achieve “awareness,” which has come to mean one thing — dutifully baring our breasts for the annual mammogram,” huffs Ehrenreich.
Her article goes into greater detail about her own battle with breast cancer and “chemo-brain” and while her words may seem harsh she does have a good point. The pink ribbon is a way to placate women. To draw us into their business. To show they care. And since when has breast cancer been the only women’s health issue we face? What about reproductive issues, domestic violence, pro-Choice (gasp!) or pro-Life? I care about breast cancer research and getting the treatment for women unable to afford it themselves but I often wonder when I’m buying a pink umbrella or pink shoe laces from Wal Mart if I’m really helping women or buying into a corporate gimmick?