Oct 05 2013

The pink menace 2013

whitehousepinkribbonOctober? Already? I suspected as much when I saw a TV commercial for one of those bottled “energy shots.” Everyone was wearing a pink shirt; they were hawking a new pink flavor. Then I read some random article in the Houston Chronicle, and noticed that suddenly it has a pink ribbon on its banner.

Pink, pink, pink. It began to gurgle up from my spleen, that festering clump of fuchsia bile that gags the spinster craw every October, the month when “breast cancer awareness” metastasizes, spewing its foul Pepto-hued marketing spores over the countryside like a giant exploding tumor. Time for my annual anti-pink rant.

If you’re new to IBTP, here’s my whole breast cancer weltanshaaung in a nutshell: several years ago I was diagnosed with a pretty advanced case. I endured a couple years of humiliating, expensive, barbaric treatments, including the amputation of all organs, tissues, and glands associated with reproduction (they chopped off some other stuff, too, just for the hell of it). During this period I was introduced to the Cancer Industrial Complex in no uncertain terms. I came to resent the way misogynist outfits like Komen and Avon, with their positive-attitude survivor-nazis and sleazy, hypocritical corporate sponsors, had turned my life-threatening disease into a marketing juggernaut, a juggernaut with a white, middle-middle class face, a “shop for the cure” message, and no interest whatsoever in preventing cancer.

Well, I lived. Mostly. You can read all about my nauseating cancersploits, as well as elaborations on my jaundiced views on Komen et al, here. The book that opened my eyes to this shit was Pink Ribbons, Inc: Breast Cancer and the Politics of Philanthropy, by Samantha King. You can watch the trailer for the 2011 film “Pink Ribbons Inc” right here.

Anyway, the gist of my anti-Komenite argument is that all these thons and pretty-pink branding campaigns benefit corporate interests way more than they do women. That’s because Komen et al are entirely focused, not on preventing cancer, but on normalizing cancer. The giant corporate entities that align themselves with Komen line their pockets with loot from pink awareness editions of their cheap crap products. The mammoth cancer industry — drug companies, hospitals, manufacturers of pink dyes, etc — and its corporate leeches have nothing to gain and everything to lose should breast cancer actually be eliminated.

Let’s break it down. The aforementioned energy drink company, for example, donates a nickel every time some hapless sleep-deprived shopper buys the product. Most people don’t give a crap beyond the “donate” part, so they probably don’t know or care that the beneficiary is a charity called Living Beyond Breast Cancer, a non-profit assisting patients in navigating the eddying cesspools of the treatment industry. I don’t know much about them, but let’s just assume for now that they actually provide useful services.

But look out! It turns out that Living Beyond Breast Cancer is funded, among many others, by Komen, Avon, Myriad Genetic, Novartis, practically every other drug company you can name, Cancer Treament Centers of America, L’oreal, and an entity called — and no, I’m not making this up — “boobies rule !!!”

Let’s break down the breakdown. Komen is a breast cancer brand name, devoted solely to attention-diverting “awareness,” that corporations use to sell pink shit. Novartis is the pharmaceutical company that charged me $40,000 for a cancer drug that drained all the estrogen from my body and turned me into a creaky old bearded crone. Myriad Genetic is the company that charged me $4000 for a single test; they get away with that price tag because they have actually patented the gene that caused my disease.* Cancer Treatment Centers of America is a chain of clinics who advertise heavily on primetime TV and whose entire revenue stream depends on the perpetuation of cancer. Avon and L’Oreal are cosmetics companies that sell carcinogenic femininity-compliance supplies.

In other words, these are all entities who profit ginormously from a steady stream of cancer patients (or, in the case of Avon and L’Oreal, from actually causing cancer).

“But Twisty,” you say, “at least they’re funding this ostensibly benevolent organization.” Well, yeah, but it’s a charity that basically resigns to the inevitability of cancer. Living Beyond Breast Cancer looks good on a corporate resume, and in no way interferes with their revenue streams. In fact, through programs such as pharmaceuticals “education” and free advertising for new or “breakthrough” drug therapies, Living Beyond Breast Cancer can even increase their sponsors’ bottom lines.

By the way, I have no idea what “boobies rule !!!” is, but clearly it belongs to that juvenile, offensive, porn-informed save-the-tatas! faction who think that breast cancer is about tits rather than death.

Anyway, because breast cancer has been successfully marketed as a politically-neutral, warm-fuzzy cause, the aforementioned energy drink company can use the glowing pink ribbon association to burnish its corporate image even as it rakes in the dough off shoppers who confuse buying shit with philanthropy.

Breast cancer patients may indeed benefit short-term from such services as Living Beyond Breast Cancer provides. But what they really needed was for all this bullshit cure-based cancer money — the dough raised by pink-visored walkathoners and purchasers of pink caffeine drinks — to have gone into prevention, so they wouldn’t have had to get fucking cancer in the first place. Because, let me tell you: even if it “cures” you, which of course it never completely does, cancer treatment is torture. Actual, physical, months-long torture. Not to mention, it bankrupts you.

I mean, look what cancer did to Walter White.

If you wanna help giant corporations make money off the backs of cancer patients, by all means go Walk, or Drink Caffeine Shots, or Lick Yogurt Lids for the “Cure.” If you wanna read about celebrity breast cancers, or check out photos of philanthropic socialites wearing pink dresses at galas, or view clickbait on some backyard grilling tips to add to your pointless cancer-prevention regimen, thank the lard for the enpinkened Houston Chronicle. But if you actually want to help prevent cancer, check out Breast Cancer Action, the San Francisco-based feminist social justice advocacy group whose mission is — not to endlessly treat existing cancers with barbaric drugs, surgeries, and radiation — but to end the breast cancer epidemic once and for all. Their motto is Think Before You Pink. They’re the official breast cancer charity of Savage Death Island.

* I had really good insurance at the time, but, surprise, it covered neither the Novartis drug nor the genetic test. I was only able to afford that shit through the generosity of my family.

Pink ribbon at the White House pic: still from Pink Ribbons, Inc trailer.


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  1. Ellesar

    Not for the first time SO glad that I am from the UK and having breast cancer here is VERY different tot the US experience. We do not have too much of that ghastly cloying pink shit, though there is a bit. I am post chemo radio and 2 surgeries, and I LOVE the ‘socialised’ health care system that saved my life – no financial hardships, just thoroughly and effectively treated.

    For interested readers – a blog called ‘But Doctor, I Hate Pink!’ is by a US woman with terminal cancer. She takes no prisoners either!

  2. Ellesar

    Something else I read from the US perspective that is highly critical of the breast cancer culture/ industry – Barbara Ehrenreich’s ‘Welcome To Cancerland’. This was written in 2001, but is still relevant in many ways.

  3. Twisty

    “Welcome To Cancerland” is among the Ancient Texts of Savage Death Island. Click here.

  4. HolyCrap

    You can’t even do anything other than BITCH about the treatment that saved your fucking life?

  5. Leslie

    Ocyober is/was also domestic violence awareness month. Funny how that got subsumed.

  6. quixote

    Lard. So that’s why the nice woman at my grocery checkout was asking whether I wanted to donate fifty cents to breast cancer. It’s October.

    If it matters, it matters always. If it doesn’t matter, watching the corporatocracy put on its (pink) pompoms for a while is just revolting. I hate those people.

    I guess domestic violence was subsumed because there’s no way to make that warm and fuzzy, even if all you’re doing is being “aware.”

  7. Twisty

    @HolyCrap God you’re sexy.

  8. Redpeachmoon

    Thanks for breaking it down so eloquently Twisty.
    I admire you greatly.

  9. R Na

    @Holycrap She isn’t bitching about the treatment,but about the corporate mugging of the treatment by the greedy bastards who also would sell snake oil in disguise on every street corner, if they could.

  10. R Na

    Hi Twisty, been a while since I was here. And you’re still as feisty, cantankerous forthright…and as correct as usual in your observations.When last here, or perhaps at the finall…101 site discussing if a white gingerbread liberal man like me gets to be called a Feminist, and even then the talks were a few years old, I think.
    Since then a coach tried to coverup a rape by his players, and a Steubenville councilwoman said of a gangrape victim, ‘she was out for a good time,’ and a CA judge,also a woman told a gangrape victim she should not have dressed the way she did and that was why the 5 or 6 guys thought she wanted it.
    You should know I’m one of the harnless hapless quiet guys who wants a real egalitarian world, alas, though, I’m also one who holds the door for a woman who tells me, “I don’t need a man to hold the door for me,” never mind that she was trailing a somewhat long line of men and women for whom I held the door, and rather than slam it in her face, I waited for her.Like I said, hapless.
    I do so love to hear you rant and vent your spleen, as there’s so many good reasons today for doing so, and I get outraged that less than a few are in fact outraged, especially when we should be storming the Bastille and carrying a guillotine.behind us, or in front to show we mean business. In the ’70s I talked my ass off touting the need for the ERA Amendment to pass, and even though its been introduced in Congress every year it hasn’t passed yet. With the shit going on in states and the House ruled by Repugnants to send women back to a time when they died before giving birth due to unsterile conditions by hacks, and in birth itself. Yes, poor women to be sure, since for rich women illegal abortion meant little since they could afford it.
    Geena Davis has a group who hopes to change women and girls roles in the media based on a study they did which pretty much put women into ‘safe’ roles mostly, professional victims as it were.Good luck to Geena D.
    Men, far too many, are in the throes of having no control of their sexuality and feel entitled to hit on every women they meet, and they feel women are the sexual place they so desire and women just have to comply cuz it’s men who they think should control a woman’s body, look at the ‘men’ lawmakers creating all these anti-abortion bills against women controlling their own bodies.
    bell hooks at the site imaginenobordersorg wrote an interesting piece on “Understanding Patriarchy”that I found refreshing, not a run of the mill popular take on Patriarchy(I also got the same feeling when I first heard the term kyriarchy at the finally…101 site
    BTW, I pointed folks to IBTP for their edification and enjoyment, I hope you don’t mind.I watched a video the yt user ExtremelyBoring did about an article at AVFM site downplaying rape and victims of rape.
    These MRAs are funny really, I can see these images when they start talking against Feminism. A bully(MRA) standing over you his boot heel firnly pressing on your head and neck while he yells, ‘Stop, you’re hurting me.’ Or you overhear a remark while you lay dying by the guy who just killed you, ‘Look what you made me do.’ These aren’t made up images, well they are, but they are good analogies to the world as it is. Israelis with the 4th largest military scream about they must have security since they feel the threat from Gaza of kids throwing …rocks and Hamas firing off mostly noisemaker rockets.
    With Xians mostly are demanding religious liberties, but what they really want are exemptions from laws everyone else must obey, They want special privileges so they can deny rights to gay people and so their kids can harass and bully gay kids. And they want women to lay off the pill and stop having all that sex. Comical was Rush Limbaugh’s rant about Sandra Fluke’s stand on contraception, he sounded as if he thought it worked like Viagra, but the pill has to build in the system as it’s hormonally based.
    To be concise, we are battling idiots who haven’t the brain power to get it, but do have the vote to do civilisation in. So, as it stands, I’m told of those who took a standard IQ tests, 93% scored below me, and of those, the bell curve center is slowly moving over time for it to be classed as slow. wow, Idiocracy the movie is reality. and I’m not so smart after all..
    Love you, Twisty

  11. Twisty

    Please do not feel obligated to translate me, R Na, for as a matter of fact I am “bitching” — and this will be the last time you see me use that verb — about the treatment. It is, as I have mentioned many times, barbaric, and is not something from which I have recovered, nor am I ever likely to recover. The side effects of chemo and radiation are brutal and devastating. They linger for years, perhaps decades — who knows? Show me the study analyzing the effects of Adriamycin on cognitive impairment. That’s right, you can’t, because it doesn’t exist. Cancer treatment didn’t “save my life.” It merely prevented me from being dead by amputating hunks of flesh and turning my brain into a sieve. I am not the only one.

    Breast cancer needs to be stopped altogether, not “cured” with this ruinous “treatment.”

    On a side note, R Na, if you’re still here: you have copped to being a dude, which I’m afraid makes you ineligible to comment at I Blame the Patriarchy. It’s a Ladies Only situation here on Savage Death Island.

  12. ew_nc

    So happy to hear about Breast Cancer Action. It’s almost always more cost effective to put a large amount of fundraising dollars towards prevention. Otherwise we’re just shutting barn doors after the cows have gotten out.

    R Na, I invite you, as an exercise in self-improvement, to educate yourself about mansplaining. Cuz ya just did a whole lot of it.

  13. iolightning

    I just donated to Breast Cancer Action. Thanks for the link!

  14. Bushfire

    It’s amazing that dudes always need to announce that they’re dudes. Why not just comment on the content of the article without announcing you have a dick? Is that somehow important?

  15. ChariD

    Thanks from me as well for the link to Breast Cancer Action. My youngest sister is currently being “cured” with chemo… my sincere heart-felt empathy to you and anyone who has to withstand that horrid, poisonous treatment.

    R Na needs to go get his own blog where he can troll for cookies all he likes. Christ, I dislike long-ass comments.

  16. Twisty

    Bushfire, surely you have not failed to discern, lo these many years, that feminism is about dudes?

  17. the_t's_knees

    RE: Avon and L’oreal — It occurs to me, having witnessed my mother’s battle with cancers (yep, two of ’em, separated by sixteen edgy years of near constant fear that it would be back) that cosmetics companies profit not just from shilling shit that causes cancer, but they ALSO get to cash in on the insecurities unleashed by the physical effects of the horrible treatments.

    I have not enough swear words in my repertoire to express how much I loathe cancer and these fucking profiters of suffering.

    Bushfire — I suspect that the doodz want to be special and accepted and COOKIEZZ, although it’s known that, no matter what they claim, they hate women.

  18. LabRat

    October is for Halloween!

    Or that’s what I really want to yell at the grocery clerks who ask me if I want to donate.

    Not that anyone on Savage Death Island has this kind of time, but NFL is often on TV in my house, and those well known lovers of women’s rights are all wearing pink shoes, towels and gloves. And now even the refs throw pink flags on penalties which causes the Nigels of the house to complain that the point of the flags being yellow was so you could see them on the field. Now it just looks like some linebacker dropped a glove.

    During last night’s game, I stifled the urge to throw something bigger and heavier than a penalty flag at the TV when the announcer mansplained for those just tuning in that the reason there’s all this girly pink all over the place is because they are raising awareness to get checked. Just like that. Not what they’re checking, just checking. He then said, and I quote, “It’s just that simple. Just get checked.” Yes, solving the breast cancer crisis is just that simple you dumb stupid women. If you would just stop being bubbleheads and go get checked you won’t die.

    And did any one hear about a group of dancers from a strip club in Nevada who tried to donate to Komen and got refused. So many things wrong with that whole shituation.

    I wonder if the pinkness of it all would wane if we started calling it “cancer of the breast” instead of “breast cancer” – putting the cancer part (and therefore the death part of it) out in front which could prioritize the disease aspect over the boob aspect.

  19. complain-o-peeps

    Trenchant, as always.

    Myriad lost their supreme court case this year, so they no longer hold a patent on BRCA 1 & 2. This is good news not only because they used their patent to charge patients a holy fuckton of money for their tests, but it also means other genetics labs will be able to collect data on BRCA variants, which may actually lead to better treatments and prevention. Of course, the assholes at Myriad are keeping their 15 years worth of biodata collected during their monopoly to themselves, clearly demonstrating just how much this isn’t about finding a cure, but only about finding profit.

    I blame the patriarchy.

  20. quixote

    (“shituation” Why have I not heard this perfect word before?)

  21. Twisty

    “(“shituation” Why have I not heard this perfect word before?)”

    You and I, quixote, are two hearts that beat as one on this issue. Although I find that saying it out loud is oddly difficult.

  22. Kali

    “prioritize the disease aspect over the boob aspect”

    LabRat, many years ago I attended a lecture by a woman who had invented a new statistical analysis method and demonstrated its application by looking at environmental correlates of breast cancer in a particular region. Before she began her talk she asked everyone to raise their hands who were there because of the word “breast” in the title of the talk. All the men in the room giggled and raised their hands. Then she told everyone that they would not hear that word again in the lecture and just as she had promised the rest of the lecture was all about equations and graphs.

    Also, what’s with all this awareness? Raising funds is usually about prevention and cure when it is MS or pancreatic cancer or even suicide prevention. But when it comes to women’s diseases, we get all this awareness stuff instead. And awareness seems to be mostly about scaring women into getting painful, expensive and useless screening tests.

  23. Twisty

    “awareness seems to be mostly about scaring women into getting painful, expensive and useless screening tests.”

    Precisely! As aficionadas of the subject know, that free mammogram from the Komen truck in the Walmart parking lot is worse than useless if the patient can’t afford the $100,000 treatment.

  24. gingerest

    It turns out – this is soooo shocking – that “awareness” is an advertising thing dating back to the 1960s! We’re all supposed to get aware because that is the first step towards being persuaded to take action (i.e. buy shit, except because this is what advertising people do when they’re trying to use their powers for good instead of evil, it’s “seek health care”.)
    All of the “awareness” shit made a lot more sense to me once I realized it came straight out of creepy b-school persuasion models. (I am a public health professional but I despise the paternalism baked into the system. Still, functioning in a patriarchy, whatcha gonna do.)

  25. Della

    Like Ellesar I’m in the UK and am so grateful for the National Health Service (NHS) that means all my medical treatment is free. To have to worry about money on top of the hell that is cancer diagnosis and treatment doesn’t bear thinking about. I have metastatic breast cancer and so will be in treatment of some sort until I die. How much that will actually cost in cold hard cash I haven’t a clue and what’s more I don’t have to think about. Love the NHS!

    Mind you our tosser of a Prime Minister and his millionaire ex-Etonian pals are trying to screw with the NHS so it’s not all joy and delight here.

  26. Twisty

    “it’s not all joy and delight here.”

    Alas, it never is, anywhere, is it? Here in the States the thing that most terrifies the rightwing zanies — besides women owning their own uteruses, of course — is a system like your NHS.

  27. Ellesar

    I have been reading various blogs and thinking about Pinkification since you uploaded this, and I wanted to post something from the But Doctor… I Hate Pink! blog that I mentioned before.

    “What if there was a month for men’s cancers? Would it be treated with the same childish focus on body parts and the same disregard for human suffering as breast cancer is in October? Would everybody try to make a buck? Would we have tee shirts that say “Save the hard-on?” Would men walk around in shirts that say, “Yes, my balls are gone, the real ones tried to kill me?” The shameful part of all of this is that women started it, and women perpetuate it.

    This disease has nothing to do with breasts. It’s about having cancer. In some of us, it becomes a fatal, incurable disease. And, those of us who do have advanced cancer suffer in unimaginable ways that changes our perspective. Even a women with an earlier stage cancer can’t understand it – unless it happens to her, of course. October and its focus on breasts and cutsie-pie pink and selling products is demeaning to women who are going through unimaginable struggles.

    Would men let it happen to them?”

    On the point of men having a moan about the lack of focus on ‘their’ cancers – the research scientist who took my breast tumour for biopsy said ‘men are not going to organise like women have done’.
    In addition, a large research was done into prostate cancer, and 80% of men 80-85 had it when autopsied (who did not die of cancer). So it could be argued that it is the norm once a man gets to a certain age.

  28. speedbudget

    You’re back! I’m back!

    I saw a TED talk from a physician (a woman, which I normally wouldn’t point out, but it’s a trenchant detail here) who developed a new mammogram involving gamma rays, making it easier to detect teensy, tiny cancers, even in dense breasts. Guess what test is not available? Even though she hasn’t patented her technology?

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