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

Overview

Pink ribbon paraphernalia saturate shopping malls, billboards, magazines, television, and other venues, all in the name of breast cancer awareness. In this compelling and provocative work, Gayle Sulik shows that though 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. Based on eight years of research, analysis of advertisements and breast cancer awareness campaigns, and hundreds of ...

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

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Overview

Pink ribbon paraphernalia saturate shopping malls, billboards, magazines, television, and other venues, all in the name of breast cancer awareness. In this compelling and provocative work, Gayle Sulik shows that though 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. Based on eight years of research, analysis of advertisements and breast cancer awareness campaigns, and hundreds of interviews with those affected by the disease, Pink Ribbon Blues highlights the hidden costs of the pink ribbon as an industry, one in which breast cancer has become merely a brand name with a pink logo. Indeed, while survivors and supporters walk, run, and purchase ribbons for a cure, cancer rates rise, the cancer industry thrives, corporations claim responsible citizenship while profiting from the disease, and breast cancer is stigmatized anew for those who reject the pink ribbon model. But Sulik also outlines alternative organizations that make a real difference, highlights what they do differently, and presents a new agenda for the future.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
You may never think pink again about breast cancer after reading Sulik's sobering and lucid critique of what she calls "pink culture"--which has turned a "complex social and medical" issue into "a popular item for public consumption" and has actually "impeded progress in the war on breast cancer." Sulik, a medical sociologist, argues that the truth about breast cancer, so memorably voiced by its victims in the early 1990s, has now been "silenced in a cacophony of pink talk" about triumph and transcendence thanks to advertising, the media, and the medical establishment. And, Sulik says, pink products and symbols only reinforce traditional notions of femininity and sexuality. Equally troubling is the questionable impact of mammography, which, though urged upon women, has scarcely affected death rates--40,000 women (and 450 men) die of breast cancer each year. With breast cancer incidence rates rising, Sulik's call to "take a road less pink" demands to be heard. (Oct.)
Doody's Review Service
Reviewer: Therese A Dolecek, PhD (University of Illinois at Chicago School of Public Health)
Description: This book examines the many aspects of breast cancer culture, historically through to the present day, from a sociological perspective. It is the product of an extensive qualitative evaluation based on a synthesis of ethnographic data collection over a decade. The author's contemporary label, "pink ribbon culture," represents the evolution of the breast cancer movement which has roots in the women's health movements of the 1970s and 1980s. The book details the evolutionary development of pink ribbon culture (synonymous with breast cancer awareness) and critiques the process in terms of favorable and unfavorable consequences on the overall cause and its goals.
Purpose: Breast cancer in the United States is an epidemic. The ultimate goal of the breast cancer movement is to prevent and eradicate the disease. More immediate aims focus on assuring optimal methods for early detection in the general population and best treatments and quality of life for those women diagnosed. Through a constructive and critical approach noting important strengths and shortcomings, the author describes how well these goals and objectives are being met through the breast cancer movement since it was launched in the early 1990s.
Audience: The book is likely to appeal to a wide range of readers with an interest in breast cancer, the movement, and associated issues. Lay audiences, health professionals and clinicians, social scientists, and policy specialists are among groups that would find the content and presentation valuable.
Features: It examines such relevant topics as: stigmas both historical and current associated with breast cancer; breast cancer cultural system language, norms, practices and beliefs; mass media importance and influences; roles of public agencies, private organizations, and corporations; meanings of survivorship; effects of medical consumerism and the creation of the breast cancer industry; and financial issues in a capitalistic American society. Excerpts of interviews with women diagnosed with breast cancer are especially moving and relevant to understanding the impact of the movement.
Assessment: What one would expect intuitively to be nothing but a positive for such an altruistic cause is put into perspective in the thoughtful and provocative discussions in this book. Some may suggest that the dark side of issues is overemphasized in an evaluation that aims to objectify the breast cancer movement. However, an emphasis on the unexpected adverse consequences of the movement may be needed to temper the currently sensationalized "pink ribbon culture."
Library Journal
Sulik (sociology & women's studies, Texas Woman's Univ.) considers the pink ribbon more of a noose around women's necks than its ubiquitous identification with self-awareness and empowerment, with branding and merchandising usurping the need for greater recognition of the breast cancer experience. "Pink ribbon culture is geared more toward encouraging people to feel good about the cause than to acknowledge the often difficult and un-pretty realities of breast cancer diagnosis and treatment." Provocative, to say the least; for academic collections and sociology students.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780199740451
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
  • Publication date: 10/28/2010
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 424
  • Product dimensions: 5.60 (w) x 8.40 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

Gayle A. Sulik, PhD is a medical sociologist and was a 2008 Fellow of the National Endowment for the Humanities for her research on breast cancer culture.

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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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