October was Breast Cancer Awareness Month and it had all of us seeing pink. From drill bits to football players, there is nothing left untouched by the well-meaning—if woefully off-the-mark— pink ribbon awareness campaigns that touch North Americans every year at this time. But all this pink has many of us seeing red; here is a sampling of what some of my colleagues have had to say:
Megan Telpner: Breast Cancer Awareness? Let’s Do Better
Tera Warner: Re-Think Pink Breast Health Summit
Dr. Christine Northrup: Stop Pinkwashing and Start Encouraging Breast Health
Those who have written about this before me have had some very important things to point out. The pink ribbon campaign has gotten out of hand and the latest company to jump on-board to profit from “cancer awareness” is Baker Hughes, a global fracking company. Yes, a fracking company. And fracking, recent studies have shown, may release chemicals into the air, some of which are carcinogens linked to breast cancer. I thought pink-sponsored lipsticks (which may contain cancer-causing agents) and water bottles (which likely contain harmful plastics) were bad enough but this truly takes the cake, in my book. I agree with my colleagues; this has more to do with corporations making a buck then it really does about raising awareness for a devastating disease.
But where I want to jump into the conversation is to talk about this devastating disease and what it means now to live in a culture where awareness has been traded for hyper-awareness, where we have ignored prevention in favour of “a cure.” It is not because I don’t want a cure for breast cancer; I do more than anything for all the women out there, including the ones in my life, who have been touched by this awful disease. It’s not that I don’t think we should all know the presence and prevalence of breast cancer. I do. But I think this culture of hyper-awareness has only ignited the flames of fear. Yes, we live in a culture that FEARS breasts. We sexualize them in the media, so they are easy to contain. We love the idea that women breastfeed, but we get squeamish when women do it in public. We don’t want to touch them, we don’t want to talk about them. We infantalize them: we call them “ta-tas” or “jugs.” And we’ll talk about a cure, heck we’ll even run for it, out of fear that we too will get the dreaded C, but we won’t talk about keeping them healthy and striving to prevent the disease. Or confront the very real, very scary truth that …. we aren’t taking care of our breasts anyway.
As a health educator, I am passionate about talking with women about breast health. I want YOU to make a plan. A health plan. I want it to include regular physical contact with your breasts, eating well for their sake. Don’t run for the cure, stand up for prevention. Stand up for healthy breasts, for shifting the conversation from “breast cancer” to “breast health,” to wellness, abundance, joy …. acceptance… beauty.
Join me in overcoming breast fear.