If the women in your life have had cryptic Facebook status lines, for example, “I like it on top of my parent’s dryer” – don’t worry, they are meant to keep you guessing. Last year, women’s statuses included a colour or style. Updates this year refer to a place where women like to keep their purse; last year it referred to bra colour or style.
I’m not a huge fan of this type of awareness effort. Sure, its fun, but it also sexualizes a disease that isn’t that sexy and doesn’t really do anything to encourage women to adopt preventative behaviours such as eating well, limiting alcohol, avoiding smoking, being physically active and breast aware (current evidence is showing this to be a better approach than the formal breast self-exam process).
Breast cancer is absolutely important to address. It is the most common cancer in Canadian women, one in nine women will develop it in their lifetimes, and 100 women die every week (Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation). However, like the critique of pink ribbon products Samantha King, professor at Queen’s University , presents in her book Pink Ribbons, Inc., I worry that this whole Facebook status line update is really just a distraction “focusing attention on awareness and finding a cure rather than what they say is the more important search for a cause”, as this article in the Hamilton Spectator eloquently puts it. Samantha King, quoted in the same article, says,
“These campaigns are about awareness, but awareness of what?”
If consumers adopted preventative behaviours and wrote a cheque to the breast cancer research foundation of their choice, we would be a lot further ahead. One of the bloggers over at feministing.com wrote summed it up nicely in her post ‘Modern Lady v. “Pinktober”‘:
“And while some portion of the profits will go to a breast cancer charity, and that is great, we shouldn’t imagine for a moment that because we buy those eggs, our contribution to this important cause is complete until next October rolls around.”
What I like is breast cancer research, treatment, support, screening and prevention. There are a lot of ways to go about that, but don’t fool yourselves or the women you love into believing pink ribbons and Facebook status updates are the only way to go. Breast cancer needs to be talked about, and not just as a cheeky Facebook status line.