Pink Ribbons, Inc. Screening and Panel Discussion for International Women’s Day

BY ANA PORROCHE-ESCUDERO, ON JANUARY 29TH, 2013 – posted on Breast Cancer Consortium Website originally.

Breast cancer campaigns are all around us. Events from marathons to bake sales are regularly organized to raise money for breast cancer programs and charities. More and more companies now have ‘pink ribbon products’ – teddy bears, perfume, and bras to name very few – with sales that allegedly result in a donation to charities. Who is really benefiting from all this pink paraphernalia? Where is the truth about women’s health and well-being in the breast cancer discourse that accompanies the fundraising? What about women’s rights to accurate and comprehensive information about their health and treatment options? Who is responsible for keeping the pink ribbon machinery alive? And who is responsible for regulating it? These are the questions we will contemplate on Tuesday, March 5th, 2013 following a screening of the the powerful and thought-provoking documentary film Pink Ribbons, Inc.

The NGender Seminar Series at the University of Sussex has has teamed up with Breast Cancer Consortium member Dr. Ana Porroche-Escudero (University of Sussex) and Dr. Grazia de Michelle to co-host a special session on Breast Cancer Awareness to celebrate International Women’s Day. The event will involve the screening of Pink Ribbons, Inc. followed by questions and answers between the public and an expert panel. Confirmed speakers are Helen Lynn (Facilitator at Alliance for Cancer Prevention) and Dr Grazia de Michelle (breast cancer patient and advocate). Professor Gillian Bendelow (University of Sussex) will chair the session. Stay tuned for updates about the venue and confirmed panelists.

The goal of the event is to spur discussion and raise consciousness about the system-wide factors that impact breast cancer as an individual experience, a social problem, and a health epidemic. The “cult of pink kitsch” common in mainstream breast cancer campaigns has been criticized, for example, for promoting a message of cheerful celebration and the false impression that the fight against breast cancer is being won. This approach has led to billions of dollars being siphoned into branding and funding campaigns that exaggerate the preventive and therapeutic effects of screening, genetic testing, treatments, breast self-examination and everyday control of one’s lifestyle, despite the fact that health professionals have strongly challenged the efficacy of these techniques. Likewise, the link between breast cancer and everyday exposures to toxins and hormone disruptors at home and at work are conveniently ignored. Many campaigns also obscure the realities of breast cancer, choosing instead to focus on the fun and sexy awareness motif that has gained popularity in recent years. Billions of dollars every year are raised in the name of breast cancer, but  more and more women are diagnosed with the disease each year (including increasing rates of younger women); tens of thousands of women and hundreds of men continue to die each year from metastatic (stage IV disease); breast cancer recurrence remains a staggering impediment to survivorship; and, even with incremental improvements in breast cancer treatment Dr. Susan Love MD’s characterization of the “slashburn, and poison” approach to breast cancer as the contemporary norm suggests a serious lag in medical progress.

This event is funded by the University of Sussex Doctoral School Researcher Led Initiave Fund.

Read a Breast Cancer Consortium Review of the documentary Pink Ribbons, Inc. by Helen Lynn and an Breast Cancer Consortium Interview with Dr. Samantha King, author of the book upon which the film is based.

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