Lea Pool, of Lost and Delirious fame, is great in documentary form while attacking the ‘breast cancer culture,’ a militant movement turned into a unicorn march, in Pink Ribbon$, Inc. This is a movie about semantics, one with which I have an issue. One of the movie’s featured talking heads criticize the word ‘survivor,’ used towards and by women who have faced tribulations. That word is preferable because it implies a ‘post’ phase of convalescence, a move up from ‘victim,’ the latter word evoking constancy and forced submission to their suffering. One of the talking heads’ arguments is that ‘survivor’ makes the ‘victims’ feel that the latter weren’t strong enough to defeat the disease. So what’s the correct word then.
These words are chess pieces within a war about the voices of those afflicted with the cancer. Some have understandable problems with breast cancer allowing us to say ‘breast’ in public, both sexualizing and infantilizing a disease. There are scenes where a woman is holding up a poster saying ‘WALK IF YOU LOVE BOOBS,’ negating that the cancer should be more urgent. The culture has thus acquired a dictatorial attitude of public optimism, neglecting how diseases suck, making these feelings of pessimism shoved into the private sphere. Hiding/not being able to vent bad feelings and pretending to be constantly perky are signs of neuroses, insanity if we count that one group tries to silence the other.
Silence on one side can occur when the other’s message is overpowering. There are four stages of breast cancer, as a Texas-based stage four breast cancer support group informs us, the group having to find themselves because they’re pariahs in other supports group who see them as ‘angels of death.’ The disease can permute from stage two to convalescence to stage four, or someone can just be diagnosed to four and wait to die. We have forgotten so much about the nature of cancer and the happy ones’ clamouring misinforming us about the methods of finding a cure and treatment. Doctors remove cancer cells in a medieval way, like ‘slash, burn and poison.’ Misinformation is also bound to make many of us forget out tenth-grade science that cancers are mutations of the cell and opposed to viruses that destroy them, complicating the way scientists should be looking for cures.
Common knowledge suggests that Radioactive materials advance cell mutations causing cancer, those chemicals unsurprisingly found on the products of the multinational companies that advertise the perkiness and sponsor the Runs and Walks and Jumps for a Cure. The lack of cognitive dissonance is especially alarming when a mother and daughter are one of many who take part and have to be massaged after a long few days of the marathon. So basically these people, mostly women, are asked to buy products – pennies of proceeds will go to breast cancer research! – that would hurt them and take part in actions that would hurt themselves so they can fundraise money with the slight possibility of curing themselves. They’re asked to inflict self-harm twice! ‘Corporations are evil’ is hardly a novel message, but it’s still startling, knowing the effects and the rising numbers of women diagnosed with the disease. Images via TIFF.