Time To Step Beyond The Pink Ribbon

And make Breast Cancer Awareness more inclusive.


It’s October, in other words, Breast Cancer Awareness Month (aka Pinktober, due to its pink ribbon symbol). Seems like a great initiative which could help many women. Unfortunately, while breast cancer itself is undoubtedly an important issue that deserves the attention, Pinktober simplifies and capitalizes it.

Firstly, breast cancer can’t be cured with buying cute stuff from Pinktober merch. But more importantly, the portrayal of a typical patient, delivered by Pinktober, is painfully one-dimensional: white, feminine, cis, and, presumably, straight woman. 

The results are devastating. Although in the US Black women under 60 yo tend to experience breast cancer more frequently than white women, they are usually diagnosed at later stages. Their mortality rate, related to breast cancer, is also 40% higher. Pinktober isn’t the one to blame, of course, but the image it delivers definitely contributes to the inequalities in the health system and systemic racism. 

Moreover, a singular patient model doesn’t understand diverse gender expressions. This is why breast reconstruction and enlargement surgeries don’t account for queer and trans women’s needs.

Thankfully, there are voices on the other side too. Black feminist writer Audre Lorde published “The Cancer Journals” in 1980, before the capitalization of breast cancer, but she has her followers. Ericka Hart is a Black queer femme and an advocate for queer and trans people of color in the breast-cancer community. There are also many organizations beyond Pink Ribbon that you can support with donations.

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