The commercialization of women’s health is prevalent in media discourse as shown in the documentary “Pink Ribbons Inc.”. We have seen that the combination of neoliberal globalization and women’s health issues has led to strong rhetoric on raising awareness around these issues. Although this is needed, what many feminist scholars have been critiquing is how women’s health issues, breast cancer in particular, have been reduced to the symbols and rhetoric of slogans such as “early detection.cure.prevention” (“Pink Ribbons Inc.”). Yet we realize through the narratives of women who have been diagnosed with breast cancer that it is not as easy as the slogan says.
There is a chance for one in eight women to have breast cancer in her lifetime and about 39,510 women die from breast cancer each year in the United States. Being a woman is the most influential factor in being diagnosed with breast cancer. During Regan’s era there was increased pressure on corporate philanthropy which has led to cause marketing. Cause-marketing is a process that allows companies to associate to a cause that their buyers would potentially care about resulting in increased sales. Foundations like the Susan G. Komen foundation and Avon foundation for breast cancer are the most dominant in breast cancer related cause-marketing. In fact, as I was doing some online research about the commercialization of breast cancer while listening to Pandora, I instantly heard an advertisement of five hour energy drink’s collaboration with the Avon Breast Cancer Foundation. In this promotion between October 1st and December 31st, 2012 for every bottle of “Pink Lemonade” sold, five cents will go towards the Avon foundation. Millions of dollars have been raised through the Avon foundation and the Susan G. Komen foundation yet where has that money went since there is still no cure. Women are continuously being treated through the “slash, burn and poison” approach and treatment for breast cancer has not really progressed over the years. Although early detection is imperative, it is not always the best way in “fighting” breast cancer. A cure is still needed and cause-marketing efforts have been good at raising money towards this cause. Yet these same institutions are concerned with framing breast cancer in the media as feminine, pink and “pretty” which diverges the goal of actually finding a cure. An Avon representative in the film stated that “…when you show the face of cancer only in anger, then people will think it’s hopeless…”
There is a need to repoliticize how breast cancer is portrayed in the media. There must be a re-focus on the much needed cure for breast cancer and not so much its pink products. I can’t help but think that the amount of money used to create these pink products could be used directly towards the research in finding the cure and funding other institutions committed to women’s health like Planned Parenthood that provide mammograms for all women.
Below I have a link to a video that shows the problematic relationship between commercializing and commodifying breast cancer.