Pink Ribbon Blues How Breast Cancer Culture Undermines Women's Health

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  • Edition: 1st
  • Format: Hardcover
  • Copyright: 2010-10-28
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press
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Since its introduction 1991, the pink ribbon and even the color pink itself have become a ubiquitous symbol for breast cancer awareness. Pink ribbon paraphernalia saturate shopping malls, billboards, magazines, television, and other entertainment venues. Thousands of everyday products have been produced in special "pink ribbon" editions, with some proceeds going to various awareness foundations. The pervasiveness of the pink ribbon campaign leads many people to believe that the fight against breast cancer is progressing, when in truth it's barely begun. In this compelling and provocative work, Gayle Sulik shows that although this 'pink ribbon culture' has brought breast cancer advocacy much attention, it has not had the desired effect of improving women's health. It may, in fact, have done the opposite. Breast cancer is not becoming less prevalent, nor are we gaining a better understanding of its' multifaceted causes. Every year, there are nearly 200,000 new cases of breast cancer, and 40,000 more women die from the disease; yet, there are still no guaranteed modes of prevention or treatment. Based on eight years of ethnographic observation, analysis of advertisements and breast cancer awareness campaigns, and hundreds of interviews with those affected by the disease, Pink Ribbon Blues examines the hidden costs of the pink ribbon as an industry. More importantly, though, it analyzes the social impact on women living with breast cancer-- the stereotypes and stigmas they face when their experience doesn't fit the idealized portrayals of breast cancer survivors. Sulik discusses the organizations that are making a real difference, analyzing their alternative policies and practices in hopes to provide a new agenda for the future.

Author Biography

Gayle A. Sulik is a medical sociologist and Assistant Professor of Sociology and Women's Studies at Texas Woman's University.

Table of Contents

Chapter 1: What Is Pink Ribbon Culture?

Chapter 2: The Development of Pink Ribbon Culture
I. The Breast Cancer Movement
a. Medical Consumerism
b. Aesthetics and Normalization
c. Investment in a Women's Health Epidemic
d. Solidarity, Fundraising, and Publicity
II. Unintended Consequences

Chapter 3: Mixed Metaphors: War, Gender, and the Mass Circulation of Cancer Culture
I. The Masculine and Feminine Ethos of American Cancer Culture
a. LIVESTRONG and the Masculine Ethos
b. Gilda's Club and the Feminine Ethos
II. Pink Femininity
a. Pink Femininity in the PRC
b. The She-ro

Chapter 4: Consuming Pink: Mass Media and the Conscientious Consumer
I. The Special Role of Women's Magazines
II. The Breast Cancer Audience
III. Branding and the Niche Market of the Socially Aware
IV. Warriors in Pink
V. The Breast Cancer Brand
a. Fear and the Pink Menace
b. Hope and Faith in Breast Cancer Awareness
c. Goodness, Fundraising, and the Pink Lifestyle
VI. Komen's New Logo

Chapter 5: Consuming Medicine, Selling Survivorship
I. The Breast Cancer Industry
II. Disease Classification
III. Medical Technology
a. The Benefits of Mammography
b. The Risks of Mammography
c. Cost/Benefit Analysis
d. Screening Programs and the Makers of the Machines
IV. Big Pharma
V. Industry Ties to Advocacy

Chapter 6: Optimism, Selfishness, and Guilt
I. Ruby's Story
II. "Becoming" a Breast Cancer Survivor: Learning the Rules
III. Feeling Rule 1: Optimism
a. Incorporation of the She-ro
b. Rejecting the She-ro
IV. Feeling Rule 2: Selfishness
a. She-roic Selfishnes (i.e., Rational Coping Strategy)
b. Selfishness as Confessional
V. Feeling Rule 3: Guilt
a. The Inadequate She-ro
b. Embodied Social Stigma
c. Family Disruption

Chapter 7: The Balancing Act
I. Taking Care of Myself
II. The Balancing Act
a. Setting Boundaries
b. Accepting Help
c. Asking for Help
III. Balancing the Sisterhood
IV. Final Thoughts

Chapter 8: Shades of Pink
I. The Limiting Nature of Words
II. Narrating One's Illness
a. Realism and Transcendent Subversion
b. The Picture Outside the Frame
c. The Terrible Stories

Chapter 9: Re-Thinking Pink Ribbon Culture
I. "Not Just Ribbons"
II. "Think Before You Pink"

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