Keeping our eyes and ears open…..


Nancy Brinker was involved in the initial series of meetings that led to the formation of the [National Breast Cancer Coalition] in 1991. But Brinker pulled out of the committee that eventually issued the call that resulted in the establishment of the NBCC.

One Bay Area activist told a well-known story about one of these early meetings: “The Komen ladies, dripping in diamonds, sat on one side of the table, and across form them were some women from the Mary Helen Mautner Project for Lesbians and Cancer.” According to this narrative–a story that was repeated on many occasions in the feminist cancer community–the Komen ladies (and they were referred to as “ladies”) decided to pull out of the NBCC while it was in the process of formation because they did not want to work with feminists and lesbians. True or not, the repetition of this narrative illustrates the cultural and political divide that, from the perspective of the “feminists and lesbians,” the Komen Foundation embodied and represented.

– p 139, The Biopolitics of Breast Cancer: Changing Cultures of Disease and Activism by Maren Klawiter (2008)

NBCC and Komen represent an ideological split in the national breast cancer movement about what constitutes beneficial content for breast cancer awareness and organizing activities and appropriate sources of breast cancer funding.

NBCC has held to a medical consumerist model that focuses on patient empowerment through evidence-based medical decision-making. Maintaining a judicious stance with regard to the efficacy of current diagnostics and treatment, the lack of research into the causes of breast cancer, and loyalty to mammography screening despite scientific controversy surrounding its risks and benefits, NBCC holds a critical position in the movement and focuses on lobbying Congress for financial investment in breast cancer as a public health problem.

In contrast, Komen’s advocacy model relies on individual and corporate donations and sponsorships, and the foundation’s advocacy arm, the Advocacy Alliance, focuses primarily on advancing policies that almost always relate to screening and increased public and federal investment in breast cancer. While Komen gives strong advice, such as starting mammograms at age 40, there is no substantial analysis of the scientific controversies surrounding this agenda.

– pp 52-53, Pink Ribbon Blues: How Breast Cancer Culture Undermines Women’s Health by Gayle Sulik (2011)

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