An excerpt from Barbara Ehrenreich, Slap on a pink ribbon, call it a day
It’s not just that abortion is deemed a morally trickier issue than mammography. To some extent, pink-ribbon culture has replaced feminism as a focus of female identity and solidarity. When a corporation wants to signal that it’s “woman friendly,” what does it do? It stamps a pink ribbon on its widget and proclaims that some miniscule portion of the profits will go to breast cancer research. I’ve even seen a bottle of Shiraz called “Hope” with a pink ribbon on its label, but no information, alas, on how much you have to drink to achieve the promised effect. When Laura Bush traveled to Saudi Arabia in 2007, what grave issue did she take up with the locals? Not women’s rights (to drive, to go outside without a man, etc.), but “breast cancer awareness.” In the post-feminist United States, issues like rape, domestic violence, and unwanted pregnancy seem to be too edgy for much public discussion, but breast cancer is all apple pie.
This is an excerpt from “See You Next Year, Maybe,” on I Am Not Making Up: Everyday Experience And/As Art.”
I often think, “cancer is like . . . a cancer.” The disease provides its own metaphor, one that reflects its peculiar and deadly manner of effecting decline through abundance. For various reasons, I do not feel shocked or traumatized by my own cancer experience; I’m more curious and intrigued than I am frightened or repulsed. I’m interested in impermanence and dismemberment, spiritually as well as physically.
In a poem called “Cell,” Margaret Atwood describes cancer as ravenous and fanatical about its own life:
It has forgotten
how to die. But why remember? All it wants is more
amnesia. More life, and more abundantly. To take
more. To eat more. To replicate itself.
I like that idea, that my tumors might be—might have been, I mean—a sign of excessive enthusiasm more than of decay; though the truth is, despite the oft-stated notion that after cancer “every day is a gift,” I do not always feel that way. There are various reasons for that, and they change over time.
Buddha practices non-attachment to breast cancer.
Or, perhaps, to breasts.
I ask which; he only smiles.