Respecting Life: Think Before You Pink

During the month of October which the Church acknowledges as “Respect Life” Month I am going to do a few posts regarding various pro-life stances. I hope you enjoy.

October is Breast Cancer awareness month. Wait, you didn’t see cloud of pink attack you in your local grocery store, pharmacy or big box mart?

What about when you turned your television on Sunday? Did  you catch the pink gloves, cleats, laces and other paraphenalia worn by those in the NFL?

October, a month once dominated by the yellows, oranges and reds of autumn is now a sea of pink. Everywhere you look and go, there are the ribbons on boxes of mac and cheese and athletic helmets.

Breast cancer is a horrible disease. It claims the lives of those with family histories and those without. Of young women and old. It causes women to consider removing a part of their body they identify with their gender. And it also claims men as well.

So, why, Kristen, would you suggest you “think before you pink?” if you’re pro-life? A couple of reasons and not just the ones you’re thinking of.

Firstly, we’ll go with the obvious, the Susan G Komen foundation. Komen is the best known of all the breast cancer foundations world-wide. However, Komen is a well-known funder of Planned Parenthood. Komen claims the money it gives to PP does not fund abortions or birth control but only mammograms. However, Planned Parenthood does not perform mammograms. Instead they refer to other sources. Why, exactly, does Komen not cut out the middle man and fund the mammograms at actual offices that provide them? Well ther is some wishy-washy rhetoric about providing women’s health-care to women “at-risk” meaning who have low incomes. I say wishy-washy because in all major cities there are alternatives that do not fund abortions and Planned Parenthood doesn’t exist in rural areas. Period. And that doesn’t even acknowledge the hypocrisy of Komen linking to Planned Parenthood regarding breast cancer. Komen claims to exist to support women with breast cancer as well as fund research to eradicate it. Well, hard to eradicate it when you’re helping cause it. The links of abortion and breast cancer  and abortion and artificial contraception are becoming more and more concrete with each passing day.  If Komen were truly serious about trying to eradicate breast cancer, it would instead help women with insurance seeing their private physician (most of whom do not perform abortions whether they support or not) or uninsured women to see a private OB-GYN to get their annual check-ups and mammograms. Simcha Fisher has written more about Komen and other links between abortion and breast cancer here.  Needless to say, pinking with Komen is not a pro-life or respect-life step at all. It’s not even for breast cancer patients or survivors.

But what about those facebook statuses and stunts like National No Bra Day? I mean aren’t they wonderful, great awareness techniques?

The answer is no. They are not. And don’t take it just from me, read what a real breast cancer survivor wrote. I think what grabbed me was this

So the thought of seeing bra-less women flaunting two body parts that I have lost to cancer — more than I already see this on a regular day — does not feel all that supportive.  In fact, it feels quite the opposite.

How does it value the lives of those who are suffering when we glibly post a funny facebook status that does nothing. Absolutely nothing. And don’t throw at me that feel-good mantra of “anything that brings awareness helps.” Because that’s a crock and we all know it. Not all “awareness” is equal. In fact, this type of awareness feels more like lazy activism than actual caring. I like it on the counter, black, I’m going to Paris for nine months. Do those things honestly help anyone? How does it respect the lives of those women and men who are suffering through chemotherapy and radiation? How do they console women who have lost their breasts and in some cases feel a part of their femininity? How do they not diminish what men are going through who have breast cancer?

And those of us in the pro-life movement are not the only ones who are noticing. The now cancelled television show Love Bites had in its first season an episode called Keep on Truckin’ which included an vignette called “Goodbye Boob.” The vignette guest-starred Laura Prepon as a young woman named Alex, the romantic interest of a minor character. He attends a party at her art gallery where his boss finds out it’s a party celebrating her upcoming mastectomy for breast cancer. Alex is a young woman in her late twenties-early thirties. She is single. While the party is supposed to be a joyful celebration of killing cancer as well as a thumbed-nose at the idea of breasts as sexual objects in a form of modern feminism that rejects such chauvinistic views of our bodies. However, at one point during the party, Dan, the character who has a crush on Alex, comes across Alex drinking a glass of wine alone outside. Alex is not the happy, bouncy girl she pretended to be during the party. Instead she is forlorn and questioning her femininity in light of losing a breast. The vignette smartly challenges our views of trivializing breast cancer in the way our lives in social media do today. In the way that “pink-washing” the month of October does. In her piece on National No Bra day, the blogger at Cancer in My Thirties takes this  attitude head-on

We live in a society that makes a huge hoopla about breast cancer while at the very same time trivializing the seriousness of the disease.  How can we be so contradictory?

While I am beyond thrilled that breast cancer is no longer a taboo issue and that people are talking about it, the commercialism has gotten out of hand.  There is nothing pink and rosy about breast cancer, yet it has been pink-washed to death.  It is a serious disease that kills.

When we cheapen the struggle of those with cancer by asking facebook to go pink or using cutesy status updates or saying we’ll go bra-less or when we feel like we’re “helping” by throwing a few pink items in the shopping cart, we are not acting with the dignity of those with breast cancer in mind. We are not showing respect for their struggle and their battle to live.

The “pink-washing” debacle is a pro-life issue not just in light of abortion but in how we preserve the dignity of those here with us who are fighting for their lives. Real support does not involve abortuaries being dressed up as saving lives nor insipid status updates nor even changing our shopping habits to buy certain products that claim to donate money to “research.” The battle with breast cancer is another front on the pro-life movement that is slowly gaining traction and rightfully so. We will be able to fight this horrible disease when we stop sexualizing it at every turn and recognize the humanity of these women and men as deserving of real activism.