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.
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.)