Sisterhood Blog

Why I Hate Breast Cancer Awareness Month

By Chanel Dubofsky

  • Print
  • Share Share
pinkribbonshop.com
A screenshot featuring some merchandise for sale at The Pink Ribbon Shop. (Click to enlarge)

Dear Breast Cancer:

I am aware. It’s not because of the extremely effective marketing, with the pink ribbon campaigns. It’s because I lived in your house, and you lived in mine.

It seems that my mother’s breast cancer was just bad luck, and not genetic. Even if my mother didn’t have one of the genetic mutations for breast cancer most common in Ashkenazic Jewish women — and didn’t pass that gene onto me — I’m a woman, and one in eight of us will be diagnosed with the disease in our lifetime. That means that I should feel moved to light a candle and walk around a track with a lot of other people. I should love October, I should welcome a chance to spread more “awareness” of breast cancer.

But awareness is literally the least we can do. There’s a huge gap between being aware of breast cancer as a possibility and being able to access screening methods and treatments, which unfortunately, many women cannot do.

In her 2009 essay, “Not So Pretty in Pink,” Barbara Ehrenreich writes, “To some extent, pink-ribbon culture has replaced feminism as a focus of female identity and solidarity.”

I won’t belabor her articulate point, but suffice it to say, it never ceases to amaze me that women are uniting around a disease, and not also around choice or education or, ironically, health care.

Still, perhaps no one knows better than a person deeply affected by cancer that sometimes you need to do things that mimic power, just to keep yourself sane. Some of us do this through more screening, others through buying pink ribbon-laden merchandise. In my worst moments (usually at the doctor’s office for any kind of regular exam), I’m not thinking about feminism; I just want to be safe, to be able to depend on my body. It’s a totally different sort of grasp at power — desperate, rabid, breathtaking.

So far, I’ve been able to leave those appointments in tact, if not still shaking, with the knowledge implanted in my brain yet again that I’m not my mother, at least not yet. Maybe if I ever do get breast cancer, I won’t feel the way I do now about the way pink ribbons seem have replaced actual action. It will matter less to me that anti-choice folks have co-opted breast cancer as a means of scaring women out of having abortions, and that politicians seem to be paying attention. I’ll be too busy worrying about chemo and lymph nodes, remembering my mother and the drives we took from my high school to her doctor’s office, trying not to think about what news we might get there. In the end, though, this is about the life we live now.


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Barbara Ehrenreich, Pink Ribbon, Breast Cancer

The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.




Find us on Facebook!
  • "It pains and shocks me to say this, but here goes: My father was right all along. He always told me, as I spouted liberal talking points at the Shabbos table and challenged his hawkish views on Israel and the Palestinians to his unending chagrin, that I would one day change my tune." Have you had a similar experience?
  • "'What’s this, mommy?' she asked, while pulling at the purple sleeve to unwrap this mysterious little gift mom keeps hidden in the inside pocket of her bag. Oh boy, how do I answer?"
  • "I fear that we are witnessing the end of politics in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I see no possibility for resolution right now. I look into the future and see only a void." What do you think?
  • Not a gazillionaire? Take the "poor door."
  • "We will do what we must to protect our people. We have that right. We are not less deserving of life and quiet than anyone else. No more apologies."
  • "Woody Allen should have quit while he was ahead." Ezra Glinter's review of "Magic in the Moonlight": http://jd.fo/f4Q1Q
  • Jon Stewart responds to his critics: “Look, obviously there are many strong opinions on this. But just merely mentioning Israel or questioning in any way the effectiveness or humanity of Israel’s policies is not the same thing as being pro-Hamas.”
  • "My bat mitzvah party took place in our living room. There were only a few Jewish kids there, and only one from my Sunday school class. She sat in the corner, wearing the right clothes, asking her mom when they could go." The latest in our Promised Lands series — what state should we visit next?
  • Former Israeli National Security Advisor Yaakov Amidror: “A cease-fire will mean that anytime Hamas wants to fight it can. Occupation of Gaza will bring longer-term quiet, but the price will be very high.” What do you think?
  • Should couples sign a pre-pregnancy contract, outlining how caring for the infant will be equally divided between the two parties involved? Just think of it as a ketubah for expectant parents:
  • Many #Israelis can't make it to bomb shelters in time. One of them is Amos Oz.
  • According to Israeli professor Mordechai Kedar, “the only thing that can deter terrorists, like those who kidnapped the children and killed them, is the knowledge that their sister or their mother will be raped."
  • Why does ultra-Orthodox group Agudath Israel of America receive its largest donation from the majority owners of Walmart? Find out here: http://jd.fo/q4XfI
  • Woody Allen on the situation in #Gaza: It's “a terrible, tragic thing. Innocent lives are lost left and right, and it’s a horrible situation that eventually has to right itself.”
  • "Mark your calendars: It was on Sunday, July 20, that the momentum turned against Israel." J.J. Goldberg's latest analysis on Israel's ground operation in Gaza:
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.