The problem with breast cancer awareness month


It’s February 2017, and our country is in political turmoil. Virtually every day there is public outcry over the policy decisions implemented by the Trump administration. Thousands upon thousands of Americans are taking to the streets in droves, contacting their local congresswomen and congressmen, and donating millions of dollars to advocacy groups they care about. Regardless of what your political beliefs are, it’s clear that a palpable amount of people are upset with our country’s new president because they don’t want his normal to become our nation’s normal.

Aside from politics being an all-encompassing topic these days (it doesn’t help that I work for a news and political radio talk show) the reason I mention our country’s sticky political situation is because in this post, I want to openly discuss what we define as normal.

People that identify to the #resist President Donald Trump movement don’t believe, for instance, that a national travel ban targeting Muslims is normal. They don’t believe that denying climate change is normal. They don’t believe that defunding Planned Parenthood is normal. And they’re angry with the Trump administration for imposing policies that delegitimize these issues because there’s an increasing conflict of what our nation should consider as normal legislation and moreover, normal moral principles that ought to guide our country’s future.

However, when it comes to breast cancer awareness month, we don’t even blink an eye at the thought of it anymore. Ask yourself, do you even think twice about seeing pink ribbons in October? What about participating in a breast cancer awareness 5K walk or run, or knowing someone that participates? Or how about seeing local or national monuments shrouded in pink lights?

Let’s face it, breast cancer awareness has become normal. It’s expected, we know every October it’s coming, and we don’t even stop to consider how it became so normal.

Now, you might then ask me, but isn’t it a good thing that breast cancer awareness has become normal? My response – yes, presumably some good has come from breast cancer awareness month receiving the generally positive publicity it has earned, but it’s also taken for granted, and that’s the flip side I want to discuss.

I would like to argue that breast cancer awareness month no longer meets the goals that Nancy Brinker, founder of the Susan G. Komen Foundation, had originally set forth thirty some odd years ago. What was once a radical and unheard movement to speak publicly about breast cancer is now a commercialized and normalized part of our mainstream culture. While I applaud Nancy Brinker for working tirelessly to lessen the taboo surrounding breast cancer awareness, and her efforts to unify women diagnosed with the disease, women are still suffering in silence, unable to talk about “saving their tatas” because they feel isolated by the movement that was supposed to encourage them to feel unified in the first place. And not only that, but we’ve created a culture that assumes women can survive using positive messages of hope and optimism, but that’s not necessarily the case. It’s the pretty pink disease that’s now easier to diagnose then ever before, and hey, it looks great on a t-shirt, so why overthink it? And that is where the movement loses its effectiveness.

In short, we’ve been able to casually disregard the deaths of tens of thousands of women every year because after all, we’re not concerned with death, we’re just concerned with awareness. And that is what I consider to be a huge flaw in the pinkwashing scheme that has overridden breast cancer awareness month.

Look, let’s get real for a second. I get it. I don’t expect readers of this blog to suddenly get off their smart phones, tablets, or computers and scramble in an unprecedented furor to start a march that criticizes the one-sided messaging campaigns supported through groups like the Susan G. Komen Foundation. All I want to accomplish with this individual post is to create a dialogue that makes you stop and wonder why it is every October we virtually normalize a disease. We need to start thinking. We need to start talking. And one day, we need to take action and make our voices heard in hopes to create a more all-inclusive messaging campaign surrounding breast cancer awareness.

Breast cancer isn’t normal. It’s horrible. It’s a disease that, in case we forgot after being blinded by all the pink lights, kills people. According to the Washington Post, it was estimated for 2016 that approximately 40K women in the US would die from breast cancer, second only to lung cancer.

And there isn’t anything normal about that.

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