After several days of unrelenting fury (much of it from long-time loyal supporters) that has severely damaged their credibility as our boobs’ best friend, Komen For The Cure has reconsidered its decision regarding funding Planned Parenthood (albeit with a statement that definitely leaves significant wiggle room). In the wake of what may well be the worst case of accidental re-branding ever by the organization that pinkified the world and took cause branding to epic proportions, we need to take a hard look at Komen’s very unhealthy advocacy and re-examine what if any role they should play in supporting women’s health.
As angry women have said repeatedly the last few days, it is not acceptable to advocate for breast health at the expense of our overall health. The reason we have stood by Planned Parenthood is because it is absolutely essential to fund them because they provide essential healthcare for women that, for many, is simply not available elsewhere. And yes, 3% of that care is providing abortions. But as we insist on funding Planned Parenthood, what we really need to be asking is why it is that we are in a situation where we must depend on Planned Parenthood for these services that are frequently unavailable or unaffordable elsewhere. The answer or course is the unrelenting attack on women’s health in Congress and state legislatures and a lack of single payer healthcare in this country (which Komen has reportedly lobbied against).
Over the years, Komen has accepted massive support from corporations that make all manner of products that have been linked to cancer and hawked all manner of pink stuff with cancer-related ingredients. They have hammered about the need to be aware and get annual mammograms even while study after study has questioned this recommendation (and oh yeah, they have accepted contributions from the companies that make mammography equipment).
Komen has told us that being aware and early detection are the key, even though in many cases, this simply makes no difference in outcome. They have hawked (and even trademarked) ” for the cure” (a trademark they have spent millions of the dollars we have raced to raise defending), the shockingly expensive drugs that treat this awful disease, while taking large contributions from drug makers.
Komen has told us that we have to take personal responsibility while focusing on treatment, rather than looking for the cause while they take contributions from chemical companies, car companies and others who pollute the planet with cancerous toxins.
To state the obvious, this is not healthy. What is needed in this country is, first and foremost, single payer healthcare that provides full reproductive health services to everyone. Secondly, as organizations like Breast Cancer Action and people like Dr. Susan Love have repeatedly said, we need to figure out what causes breast cancer and work to stop it, not just throw expensive treatments at it. It also should be pointed out that breast cancer isn’t even the leading cause of death in women. Heart disease is. Interestingly, while more women get breast cancer than lung cancer, more women die of lung cancer which is far more likely to be deadly. But breast cancer gets the attention and the money because diseased or not, we find boobs titilating. But indulging in that fascination rather than prioritizing our efforts to address the diseases with higher mortality rates is literally killing women.
So enough with Komen and their pink guns and buckets of chicken and toxic signature fragrances. It is time to demand full universal healthcare, (including reproductive health services) and a responsible medical funding policy, and to refuse to be complicit with the damaging ethos of pink ribbons.