In these, the final hours of Breast Cancer Awareness Month ’06, it is the fervent hope of thousands of retailers the world over that everyone out there has finally heard of breast cancer, and, most importantly, is willing to buy stuff to prove it.
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So what charitable deed of unbridled altruism am I going to rip on today? you ask. Well, how about this one: if you’re a ‘young breast cancer survivor’ belonging to a group known as the Pink Ribbon Girls, you can “marvel” over being “pampered” for free at an Ohio beauty salon (it could scarcely undermine their philanthropic selflessness to mention Anthony’s Salon, 6403 Bridgetown Road, Cincinatti, right?). For it is a well-known fact that the primary obstacle facing young women afflicted with breast cancer survivorosity is difficulty “feeling good about themselves.”
You might think it natural for spirits to flag a bit when suffering a life-threatening disease and its punishing, antediluvian ‘treatments’. But breast cancer ‘survivors’, you must realize, are not like other sick people. They are Patriarchy’s Chosen Invalids. They are required by law and by commerce to feel good about themselves. Fortunately, any aberration or momentary decline in their pinkribbon enthusiasm for pluckily embracing debilitating illness has been clinically shown to respond positively to cosmetology. Hence the Cincinatti beauty salon’s emergency intervention with “hot towel stress relief treatment, paraffin dip, shampoo and finish, makeup lesson, mini-manicure, refreshments, a pink rose and goody bags.”
[That’s right, I said “paraffiin dip.” I dont know what it is, but it sounds like something toxic the nuclear medicine tech injects you with just before sealing you up in a PET scan tube for 2 days.]
Undoubtedly some readers will take exception to my cynical tone. They will propose that the aforementioned beauty salon owner is merely doing these poor gals a solid and what’s my fucking problem anyway.
Well, I’ll tell you.
My fucking problem is not that a few girls got a pink rose and a “mini-manicure,” or even that some well-meaning beautician thinks dipping cancer patients in paraffin is a good idea. My fucking problem is what these things represent : that breast cancer has been turned into a cult of Ã¼berfemininity. My fucking problem is the popular belief that the greater the obsequiousness with which the breast cancerettes comply with the infantilizing femininity mandate, the prettier they’ll feel, and the less likely they’ll be to drop dead at any moment. My fucking problem is our cultural narrative’s reification of those women, who for some reason didn’t die, as some kind of holy coalescence of the Virgin Mary, Joan d’Arc, and a fuzzy-wuzzy teddy bear.
My fucking problem is that femininity obliterates personal sovereignty. You wanna cut a breast cancer patient a break? Let her know that the pink self-esteem injunction is a crock of shit, and that attempts to solicit approval from patriarchal authority won’t smite a single cancer cell. Then take her to the beach and buy her a pitcher of margaritas (but don’t forget the SPF 40!).