Public Writing

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Factoids & Impressions from Breast Cancer Awareness Ads

Oxford University Press Blog, Oxford University Press, October 26, 2011.

One might assume that anything involving breast cancer awareness would be based on the best available evidence. That assumption would be wrong. Campaigns, advertisements, websites, educational brochures, and other materials frequently include information that is inaccurate, incomplete, irrelevant, or out of context. A print advertisement for mammograms by CENTRA Mammography Services is a case in point.

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1015-wires-pinkhouse_full_380The Teal Before the Pink: Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month

Oxford University Press Blog, Oxford University Press, September 30, 2011.

September is National Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month. Will the White House be lighted in teal just as it’s been lighted in pink to commemorate National Breast Cancer Awareness Month? Will grocery stores line shelves with teal ribbon products? Will schools give out teal t-shirts or pins? Probably not. Pink has been the color of choice when it comes to cause support. Even as the sister of breast cancer (i.e., in 5 to 10 percent of cases both breast and ovarian cancer have a connection to mutations on the known breast cancer genes, BRCA1 and BRCA2), ovarian cancer garners relatively little public support or attention.

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ribbons-runningHow Susan G. Komen for the Cure Affects Other Cancer Non-profits, June 2011.

In response to publicity surrounding Susan G. Komen for the Cure’s trademark and marketing activities, Komen published an official statement: “Susan G. Komen for the Cure® Sees Trademark Protection as Responsible Stewardship of Donor Funds.” According to the statement Susan G. Komen for the Cure® has never sued other charities or put other non-profits out of business, and the organization does not have plans to do so. Knitters, sandwich makers, and kite fliers who want to raise money for a cure should breathe easier now! Of course, there are many ways to squeeze out organizations, large and small.

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BoobiesBoobies, For Fun & Profit

Oxford University Press Blog, Oxford University Press, April 28, 2011.

A blogger asked: When did breast cancer awareness become more focused on breasts than cancer? Is it because our culture is so obsessed with breasts that it slides right past the C word?” These questions are important, but inconvenient — blasphemous to the consumption machine, disruptive to pink ribbon entertainment, anti-climactic for the feel-good festivities of popularized awareness and advocacy campaigns. These questions are sobering. But sobriety is the last thing a society drunk on pink wants. We’ve been binging on boobies campaigns and pink M&Ms for too long, and we’ve grown accustomed to the buzz.

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John and Elizabeth Edwards, 2007. Photo Credit: Sara Davis - Getty ImagesRe-learning the Lessons from Elizabeth Edwards’ Death

Oxford University Press Blog, Oxford University Press, March 15, 2011.

Elizabeth Edwards died from stage 4 (i.e., metastatic) breast cancer on December 7th, 2010 at the age of 61. Ms. Edwards was a well-known public figure, notably the wife of former Senator John Edwards, and an accomplished lawyer, author, and health advocate. Her death inspired new discussions of Stage 4 breast cancer, finally shining a light on what has been a relatively invisible segment of the breast cancer community: the diagnosed who live from scan to scan, treatment to treatment, with the knowledge that neither medical progress nor positive attitude will likely keep them from dying from breast cancer.

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Susan G. Komen for the Cure® Sells Out the Pink to Get the Green

Oxford University Press Blog, Oxford University Press, January 24, 2011.

Komen’s reputation in some circles, especially among key stakeholders in business and medicine, appeared to be beyond reproach. But reputations involve more than financial portfolios. Komen’s domineering actions against other charities over trademark issues involving iterations of “for the cure” provoked public outrage and demands for a solid explanation. The public didn’t get one. Komen’s high profile, clout, and overflowing coffers work in conjunction with legal teams, cease and desist orders, and polite suggestions to encourage a political and economic climate in which only the wealthiest survive.

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susangkomen“The Battle “For the Cure” – The Phrase, That Is

Oxford University Press Blog, Oxford University Press, December 20, 2010. [Reprinted by Liquida.]

Why would the largest, best funded, and most visible breast cancer organization put so much energy (and allegedly a million dollars per year) into trademarking common language like “for the cure”? The breast cancer brand with pink ribbon logo virtually guarantees consumption, revenues, advertising, and visibility. Dominating the breast cancer brand solidifies Komen’s position in pink ribbon culture and the marketplace it feeds.

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