Saturday, February 04, 2012

Saturday Night Pink Links

I'm sure you've been wondering what the breast-equipped humans of Roxie's World have been thinking about the epic smackdown this week between the Susan G. Komen Foundation and Planned Parenthood over grants, mammograms, and the apolitical politicization of women's health. Frankly, we've never been fans of pink, and Moose has been skeptical of the whole cancer industrial/fundraising complex since her beloved father's death from colon cancer in 1991. "Dad," she said, shortly before he died, "I promise you I will make it my mission to find a cure for this disease. Maybe I'll set up a charity race to raise money for colon cancer. Yeah, that's what I'll do. We'll call it the Run for the Bowel." Moose and her dad cracked up and spun out a crude, elaborate fantasy about all the brown products that might be marketed to promote the cause. Yes, Moose and her dad did that sort of thing. 

There's an important life lesson here about laughing in the face of death, but there's also an important point to be made about the weird economics of disease-focused fundraising. Breasts are, as Gail Collins points out in a column today, "America's most popular body part," and so Komen has raised f*ck tons of money since its founding in 1982. Nobody loves the colon, useful as it is, and so the poor little Colon Cancer Alliance toils on in relative obscurity, offering a modest array of blue products (because colon cancer is a guy thing?) and sponsoring a 5K race called "The Undy 5000" because foundation garments are apparently as close as anyone wants to get to the yucky, unloved, indispensable colon. "You can die from not pooping," Moose is fond of saying. "I've seen it happen." Perhaps you understand now why Moose is an English professor and not a marketing genius. She still worries that her dad is up in Heaven waiting for her to organize a Run for the Bowel. It's OK, I tell her from my perch in the great beyond. He's moved on.

Anyhoo: the Komen kerfuffle.

(Image Credit: Saw it on Facebook; picked it up at MoveOn.)

Other people, with and without breasts, have weighed in on this issue thoroughly and brilliantly. Go read them. It's nearly 9 PM and the Moms haven't eaten dinner or finished a scholarly article that has to be out the door by Monday. Oh, and One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest is on the teevee tonight, too, so we'd best be moving along.
  • Marcy at emptywheel (which we've never read before -- check it out!), a breast cancer survivor who also hates pink, offers some great insights about the cancer industry turning patients into consumers. She says it's time to start putting more money into prevention rather than on diagnosing and curing the disease, which has been Komen's primary focus.
  • Amy Schiller has a wonderful piece in The Nation on why the Komen/Planned Parenthood breakup, brief as it appears to have been, was good for feminism. Nutshell? It exposes Komen as "the most visible symbol" of "the rise of a nominally apolitical marketing campaign masquerading as feminism." Money quote? "As the infantilizing blush-hued gear has proliferated, the pink saturation has merged the medical industrial complex with the Disney princess-industrial complex, making women’s health policy some sort of adult dress-up game."
  • Journalism prof Jay Rosen is fascinated by Komen's spectacular communications/PR failure throughout the debacle. He has a detailed reading of an interview NBC's Andrea Mitchell did with Komen CEO and founder Nancy Brinker aptly titled "Interview as Trainwreck." Moose watched that interview. Mitchell has had breast cancer and worked with the Komen Foundation and Brinker. The trainwreck is a sight to behold.
Share your links and insights in comments. We know there's a lot of stuff out there -- So much that, you know, it's hard to keep abreast of it all.

See? No one makes jokes like that about the colon. We don't even love it enough to laugh about it. Maybe Moose should try to organize a Run From the Bowel. Whaddayathink, kids? Would you want that tee-shirt? Yeah, I didn't think so. Peace out. 


  1. "run for the bowel" + "moved on" = LOLOLOL!

  2. Brilliant post. My dad died of the various effects of prostate cancer, most especially the treatments that also kept him alive. How confusing is that?

    So I would like to propose the Wace For Da Weinar.

  3. Excuse me -- i before e except after c. Wiener.

  4. They jumped right into the culture wars, and then got all surprised when the sh!t hit the fan.

    The Jay Rosen piece is brilliant; train wreck indeed. It's as though Brinker wasn't aware there *were* culture wars going on (and by culture wars I mean to-the-death battles over control of women's bodies; even Teh Gayz are evil because it's unnatural-no-children). Rosen is right on about the talking points. What's a little sad/infuriating is that Brinker (the *founder* of Komen), until this moment on the teevee, was apparently unaware that she'd lost complete control over her organization.

    My fave linkage to the issue, not just for the post but also the comments:

  5. @CPP: Once again, you prove that scientists can be very deft close readers. Also, we heart that you heart poo jokes.

    @TR: It's funny that, for all the phallus worship that goes on in heteropatriarchy, you don't see much in the way of disease marketing for prostate cancer and other wiener-related conditions. Is that some kind of macho shame thing, or is it merely the recognition that heteropatriarchy is one big Wace for Da Wiener?

    @Digger: Thanks for the linkage to Crooked Timber. Embedding it here for ease of access.

  6. Well, how about Super Bowel Day? Where we could
    All cheer together, "Go out there and when one
    For the sh*tter." great post, as always.

  7. Roxie barked at me to leave these links here and not just on my FB page, so here we go:

    On race & class in the Komen/Planned Parenthood dust-up:

    On Komen and stem cell funding reductions:

    And one of my personal favorites: guns for the cure (these also come w/appropriately pink boxes of bullets):

  8. Laura Leslie is a political reporter in NC. A friend posted this from Laura Leslie's FB page: "Komen may have reversed its position on PP, but thanks to this week's articles, I've learned it also quit funding stem cell research, lobbied against medicaid for uninsured women with breast/uterine cancers, and denied the science that shows BPA (the stuff all those pink caps are made of) is linked to cancer. And only 18 cents on the dollar reportedly makes it to research. I'm thinking it's time to find some other cause to raise money for."

  9. Smart analysis of a PR disaster:

    I’d like to dissect how Komen for the Cure completely destroyed a brand 3 decades in the making and how they’re now a different organization with a different future (if they even have one), whether they like it or not."

  10. My husband died of colon cancer, and at a retreat for those with cancer and caregivers, a woman with colon cancer suggested that the symbol should be the tootsie roll.

    All the pink ribbon stuff has always made me queasy, and now I know why.

  11. So sorry for your loss, Susan, but thanks for sharing that tootsie roll story. That'll be a tough image to shake out of the old noggin, but it's better than a pink -- or brown -- ribbon.

    And thanks for the many links, Kelly. You take orders well. ;-)

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