Friday, October 04, 2013

Turning pink

Our local paper the Needham Times has "turned pink" as it does every October. The newspaper is literally printed on pink newsprint (see below). To me, it's highly unnecessary at best, and at worst, feminizes and infantilizes breast cancer, but someone must feel it's a good idea. Or perhaps, to someone, it's a "feel-good" idea.
There are several articles in this week's "pink" paper about breast cancer, and one in particular that I actually found refreshing. It explained about the different subtypes of breast cancer, and a bit about how cancer treatment is becoming more personalized -- which it is -- based on the type and subtype of the cancer, stage, etc. It also mentions the issue of cancers behaving differently in different people, and the reality that some women respond better to a treatment than others, why some women have their cancer recur while others don't, and why some cancers metastasize and others don't. It's good to see a more complex and nuanced explanation being laid out, instead of just a simplistic one-size-fits-all portrayal of breast cancer that you often read about.

I'm happy also to see that the Times isn't printing the "feel-good" type stories that they have had in the past about breast cancer survivors, talking about how "strong" they are, and how "brave." It's not that we aren't strong and brave: it's that we are also weak and scared and human.

Although there seem to be less "pink" things going on this year, there are still some, and I find them annoying. For example, I read in today's Boston Globe that the Museum of Fine Arts is having an exhibition entitled Think Pink which "explores the history and changing meanings of the color as its popularity ebbed and flowed in fashion and visual culture from the 18th century to the present day." It is no coincidence that this exhibit starts Oct. 1. "The opening of “Think Pink” in October coincides with Breast Cancer Awareness Month, when the MFA will be illuminated in pink." Really? Do they need to illuminate the MFA in pink? Ugh.

In case you haven't noticed yet, I'm not a big fan of the whole pink thing.

Think Before You Pink is a project of a great organization called Breast Cancer Action. The idea behind Think Before You Pink is that companies are profiting from pink merchandize, and it is up to us to research who exactly is receiving these funds before we blithely donate to organizations selling something pink. This year, the Think Before You Pink campaign is focusing on toxic chemicals in consumer products and in the environment, which is something I feel very strongly about (and will discuss more in a future blog post).

I'll leave you with another strange example of pink-ness: apparently Chile's presidential palace is being lit up in pink lights this month for breast cancer awareness. In this article, the First Lady of Chile was quoted as saying: “still there is the mistaken and damaging assumption that not all women need to get mammograms for the prevention and early detection of this type of cancer." Well, mammograms don't prevent breast cancer, and early detection isn't always possible, but I guess they are kind of on the right track...

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