Dr. Gayle Sulik, M.A., Ph.D, is a social science researcher and writer affiliated with the University at Albany (SUNY) Department of Women’s Studies. Her ground-breaking analysis of the culture and cult of breast cancer, richly described in her book Pink Ribbon Blues: How Breast Cancer Culture Undermines Women’s Health, has stirred a grass roots feminist reawakening.
Sulik’s book is an essential read that provides a thorough grounding for thinking through the complexities and perversions of a pink ribbon system gone awry. Joining the ranks of feminist provocateurs who have observed how acceptable narratives neutralize and trivialize women’s suffering, she shows how the pink ribbon is itself wrapped in a system that uses advocacy, culture, mass media, and the medical industry for its own purposes, to create a festive culture of consumption that wrests in profitable complacency.
Gayle Sulik developed the Pink Ribbon Blues website and blog, engaging more than 500 thousand readers, and founded the Breast Cancer Consortium in 2012 — an international partnership committed to energizing the scientific and public discourse about breast cancer and promoting collaborative initiatives. She received the prestigious National Endowment for the Humanities research fellowship in 2008, was named as one of the top ten online influencers in the field of breast cancer from ShareCare in 2012, and is winner of the 2013 Sociologists for Women in Society Distinguished Feminist Lecturer award. One of the most sought-after experts in breast cancer and women’s health, Gayle Sulik has much to offer in showing others not only how to do the kind of important research she has done, but how to reach beyond the ivory tower to share it with those who will benefit most.
SELECTED ARTICLES by GAYLE SULIK
by Gayle Sulik, Psychology Today,” January 15, 2014
There is a major kerfuffle in mass media right now about two journalists, and a blogger with metastatic breast cancer. Guardian columnist Emma Keller and her husband, former New York Times executive editor Bill Keller, wrote opinion pieces about Lisa Bonchek Adams, a woman living with metastatic breast cancer who writes about her life on her blog and via Twitter. Read More
Amy Robach Story Spreads Heartfelt Misinformation
After Good Morning America’s Amy Robach announced that her on-air mammogram got her a breast cancer diagnosis, the correspondent’s “I got lucky by catching it early” so “every woman should get a mammogram” message spread like wildfire. Between the emotional story and the ongoing mammogram wars, plain truths about breast cancer (e.g. biology and evidence) keep getting lost. Read More
- The Mammogram Myth, Alive and Well on “Good Morning America” Psychology Today “Essential Reads,” Nov. 14, 2013.
- Canadian Study Finds, Addition Of Screening Mammograms Adds No Benefit, But Causes Harm, By Gayle Sulik and Bonnie Spanier, Breast Cancer Consortium, Feb. 18, 2014.
- The Mammography Debate: To Screen or Not to Screen? ShareCare, May 20, 2013.
- Factoids & Impressions from Breast Cancer Awareness Ads, Oxford University Press, Oct. 26, 2011.
On the Pink Ribbon Marketplace
Every October, the marketplace floods with pink-ribboned products and breast-cancer-awareness-themed events and fundraisers. Many people ask, “Where does the money go?” No one seems to know. In the midst of it all, cause marketing is cast as everything from the saving grace, the necessarily evil, to the pinkwashing pilferer. Like everything, there is a context.
- Breast Cancer, Concept Brand with Pink Ribbon Logo, Psychology Today, Aug. 31, 2013.
- Riding the Tails of the Pink Ribbon, Oxford University Press, Oct. 10, 2013.
- Cause Marketing Is Not Philanthropy, Psychology Today “Essential Reads”, Oct. 27, 2013.
- The Marriage of Lobbying and Charitable Efforts, Oxford University Press, Oct. 31, 2011.
- Promises of Hope. Not Cure. Girl w/ Pen, Sept. 27, 2012.
- “The Shero:” Protagonist of the Epic Cancer Survivor Story, Psychology Today, Sept. 29, 2013.
- Rights or Rhetoric? Breast Reconstruction Awareness, Psychology Today, Mar. 30, 2013.
- Barbara Brenner and the Road Less Pink, Ms. Magazine, May 20, 2013.
Angelina Jolie’s op-ed in The New York Times was big news. She shared her family history of cancer, her own genetic mutation, and her choice to have prophylactic surgery – agonizing decisions faced by other high risk women. The context of Jolie’s personal decision involves the politics of patenting human genes, which the Supreme Court decided in June 2013 was unlawful.
- Angelina Jolie and the One Percent, Scientific American, May 20, 2013.
- Why Jolie’s Cancer Test Costs So Much, CNN, May 24, 2013.
- Patients, Patents, and Profits in a Genomic Age, Psychology Today, Apr. 23, 2013.
Sexy Breast Cancer Campaigns
Porn site donates penny to charity for every 30 “boob-themed videos” watched. Vegas restaurant promises to “Save 2nd base.” “Save the Ta-tas” and “Feel Your Boobies” campaigns use slang and provocative imagery. Trending perfectly the sexual objectification of women across media and entertainment outlets, this new genre of awareness campaigns uses sexual objectification to get attention and raise funds. It’s a means to an end, but at what cost for women and the cause?
- Do Sexy Breast Cancer Campaigns Demean Women? Psychology Today, Nov. 21, 2012.
- Sexy Breast Cancer Campaigns Do Demean Women. So What? Psychology Today, Dec. 12, 2012.
- Boobies, For Fun & Profit, Oxford University Press, Apr. 28, 2011.
Susan G. Komen [for the Cure]
Komen for the Cure’s pink-ribbon celebration marks Breast Cancer Awareness Month. But when a woman with breast cancer reads a Race for the Cure flier that says “Check out the merchandise now” or “enter for a chance to win a Gift Card from ShopKomen.com,” what is she supposed to think? In its efforts to expand the consumer base, Komen lost sight of the fact that consumers are people – people so committed to the cause they’ll turn away from its largest, wealthiest charity when they learn about its misdeeds.
- Bringing on the Pink, Philadelphia Inquirer, Oct. 31, 2012.
- Komen Leadership in flux, Oxford University Press, Aug. 9 2012.
- Is Susan G. Komen Cleaning House? Ms. Magazine, Aug. 9, 2012.
- How Susan G. Komen for the Cure affects other cancer non-profits KevinMD.com, Jun. 6, 2011.
- The Battle “For the Cure” – The Phrase, Oxford University Press, Dec. 20, 2010.
WISH Summit Guest Dr. Gayle Sulik on Breast Cancer and the Environment
Joining us for our final online presentation of the WISH Summit, is Gayle Sulik, author of the book, Pink Ribbon Blues. Passion about untying the pink ribbons and having us rethink the pink washing movement, she presents this powerful article on breast cancer and the environment: “A report from the Institute of Medicine (IOM), Breast Cancer and the Environment: A Life Course Approach. Read More
“What Cancer Survivorship Means”
Sulik G. In Virtual Mentor, the American Medical Association Journal of Ethics. 2013; 15:697-703.
According to the National Cancer Institute Office of Cancer Survivorship, a person is considered a cancer survivor at the time of cancer diagnosis and remains so for the remainder of his or her life. By this definition there were about 13.7 million cancer survivors in the United States as of January 2012, a number projected to reach 18 million in the next decade. Sixty-four percent of the 2012 survivor population had survived 5 or more years; 40 percent had survived 10 or more years; and 15 percent had survived 20 or more years. But, contrary to the common definition of survival (i.e., to live), many cancer survivors do not actually survive cancer—according to an 18-year study by the American Association for Cancer Research, just over half of people labeled cancer “survivors” ultimately died of cancer. This contradiction creates confusion about the meaning of survivorship for patients, caregivers, and health practitioners. What’s more, it influences social support, policy guidelines, health care delivery and research, and survivors’ lives. Read More
“Carcinoma”: What’s in a name?
by Gayle Sulik, Psychology Today, July 31, 2013
A working group from the National Cancer Institute suggests eliminating the word “cancer” from some common diagnoses. If patients and physicians are less frightened by the “C” word, they may be less likely to seek treatments that may be unneeded and potentially harmful. The consensus comes after years of considerable discussion in the scientific and medical communities. Consistent with the data driven focus of evidence based medicine, it may indeed be the time for a change. Read More
Chemoprevention is no magic bullet
by Gayle Sulik, Psychology Today, June 27, 2013
New guidelines for chemoprevention are hailed as “historic” and a “game changer.” Certainly, the promise to reduce the risk of getting breast cancer by 40 to 50 percent sounds great, but if the actual (absolute) numbers are far less impressive – less than 2 percent— and these drugs promote blood clots, cancers, cataracts, and other harms, maybe it’s important to read the fine print and ask some tough questions before getting too excited. Read More