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Pink Ribbon Blues: How Breast Cancer Culture Undermines Women's Health Hardcover – October 28, 2010

ISBN-13: 978-0199740451 ISBN-10: 0199740453 Edition: 1st

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 424 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press; 1 edition (October 28, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0199740453
  • ISBN-13: 978-0199740451
  • Product Dimensions: 1.1 x 5.6 x 8.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #867,182 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

In this eye-opening story about the ubiquitous pink ribbon, medical sociologist Sulik reveals the dark side of the “breast cancer awareness” movement. She argues that breast cancer has become a “brand,” complete with its own logo and self-serving corporations. Zeneca, which makes the treatment drug tamoxifen, has, for instance, always put money into the 25-year-old National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Sulik—no fan of the October celebration—calls it “the official platform for pink ribbon culture to advertise treatment, promote early detection, encourage fundraising, and promise eventual eradication.” Despite the sea of pink, no cure is in sight and treatment and detection efforts remain flawed. The Institute of Medicine reported that 75 percent of positive mammograms are, upon biopsy, false positives, and that mammograms miss 25 to 40 percent of tumors that actually are cancerous. Americans don’t even know how much of the money they spend on pink products goes toward legitimate breast cancer research. In the end, this well-reported book (Sulik interviewed hundreds of sources) will make readers think twice before they shell out extra bucks for a pink mixer. --Karen Springen

Review

I felt I was listening to real women expressing their suffering, rather than watching lines of happy pink she-roes. [She-ro is the feminine form of hero.] IAHPC Newsletter, April 2013

More About the Author

Gayle Sulik Ph.D. is an author, medical sociologist, and health advocate whose research focuses on medical consumerism, cancer survivorship, health policy, and culture. Dr. Sulik received the prestigious National Endowment for the Humanities research fellowship in 2008 and is the 2013 Distinguished Feminist Lecturer for Sociologists for Women in Society. Her ground-breaking analysis of the culture and cult of breast cancer has stirred a grass roots reawakening. Visit Gayle Sulik's website at www.gaylesulik.com and read her blog at www.pinkribbonblues.org.

Customer Reviews

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For some, like me, who glaze over at numbers this can be overwhelming at times.
CI
Pink Ribbon Blues is an excellent book that explores the ways our society deals with breast cancer, and the many problems with the "Pink Ribbon" culture.
Rainsayre
I'd highly recommend this book to anybody who has been diagnosed with breast cancer, or knows anyone who has.
MeredithK02

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

29 of 29 people found the following review helpful By C. Wagner on October 26, 2010
Format: Hardcover
We are indeed surrounded by the pink do-gooders. I even saw a pink backhoe on display.
Now, our brave author seeks to separate well-grounded hope from misleading hope. And, says Sulik, "The goal to eradicate breast cancer is not being realized." (p. 9.) Further, the advantages to screening have been exaggerated. (p. 20.)
My somewhat paranoid furniture stripper said that no one really wants to cure cancer because then the money would be gone. He is correct about the money being gone. Imagine, if a vaccine were created to prevent cancer or an inexpensive injection to cure cancer were developed, how many folks would be off their feed. There would no longer be a need for expensive research, oncologists, medications, treatments or miscellaneous paraphernalia. "The industry that benefits from increased use of mammography and pharmaceuticals is at the core of what has become pink ribbon culture." (p. 210.)
The author contends that exposure to common chemicals in the environment may contribute to high incidence of breast cancer (p. 60.) while the pink ribbon culture emphasizes the courageous survivor.
Again, many of the largest corporate donors to the pink culture derive huge profits from the treatment end of the business. This includes hardware and pharmaceuticals, and so forth...
Yet, breast cancer rates have risen (dramatically in my opinion) since 1940 (p. 159.) And, there is still no sure cure or prevention method.
Proper treatment and "cure" of the disease are essential.
However, to get back to my outspoken furniture stripper, this is not my priority. I have a wife and two daughters. I do not want them to be survivors. I want them to never contract the disease. I want to know what causes breast cancer. How can it be prevented?
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26 of 26 people found the following review helpful By MeredithK02 on November 12, 2010
Format: Hardcover
I absolutely loved this book. When I was diagnosed with breast cancer last year, I didn't have the vocabulary to explain what I found so disturbing about the pink ribbon culture into which I was suddenly immersed. Gayle Sulik does a fantastic job of systematically laying out the flaws that plague the current pink-think, and I've come away from reading her book with a reading list from the books and articles she cites.

I've read critiques of many of the issues she lists, but never in such a comprehensive and well-researched unit. I started reading the book still bothered by my lack of verbal ammunition to articulate my gut dislike of the industry of breast cancer awareness, but I've come away with an arsenal. I especially liked a section of the last chapter, "Rethinking Pink Ribbon Culture," that deals with the question of whether the ends justify the means regarding the problematic (to put it mildly) nature of some breast cancer awareness campaigns.

I'd highly recommend this book to anybody who has been diagnosed with breast cancer, or knows anyone who has.
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20 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Martin Hughes on June 17, 2011
Format: Hardcover
I had great expectations of this book. With its provocative subtitle and the blurb stating that it was based on ten years of research, I thought it was really going to blow the lid off 'pink ribbon culture,' exposing all the things that were wrong with the 'cancer industry' and how it has 'pinkwashed' Americans -- especially American women -- into supporting breast cancer research through the use of pink ribbons. What I found instead was a book that was reasonably informative and interesting, but with a confusing array of concepts that never really coalesced into a coherent framework of analysis.

This book is long on description. I learned quite a bit about the various types of breast cancers and their relative rates of incidence. I also learned about the history of the various treatments developed over the past 30-40 years, and how those treatments have or haven't improved -- the results are mixed and subject to interpretation -- survival chances for women. Finally, I learned about the history of the breast cancer awareness movement and its troubled relationships with corporate funders and manufacturers (i.e., Big Pharma). All of this was presented in roughly the first half of the book.

Meanwhile, I was frustrated by the attempts of the author to analyze 'pink ribbon culture.' I do get that there's something unique about breast cancer that warrants a gender lens, but rather than situating pink ribbon culture into a feminist critique of culture more generally, the author tries to make a case that there's something uniquely insidious about a breast cancer culture that silences women's voices and limits their options.
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Irish Gal on January 2, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
By the time my father died of complications from surgery (not cancer related), he had endured 30 days of hell. At his memorial service, the minister earnestly said, "He suffered." Those words were a comfort to me. In not minimizing his suffering, his life was more fully honored.

After reading "Pink Ribbon Blues," I think that breast cancer patients must feel exactly the opposite. If pink buckets of fried chicken and pink Barbie dolls are emblematic of your disease, how bad can it be, really? We are not recognizing their suffering if we think we can merely "shop for a cure", treating ourselves to a new pair of shoes in the name of support. I'll take that new pink designer tshirt, but I don't want to see anyone's mastectomy scar.

Sulik's book presents many aspects of the pink ribbon culture including the profits of the drug companies, the sexualiation of breast cancer, and the real statistics on cure rates. I was interested to read the details of DCIS and how it is classified and treated as cancer, which pollutes the stats of more serious forms of breast cancer, making the cure rate appear higher.

I encourage others to read this book, not only for the well-reasoned arguments and comprehensive research presented, but also because it forces us to face the truth of what breast cancer patients endure. And it's definitely not pink.
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