Tag Archives: wednesday

Same thing every year

I am such a sap and I can finally admit it. Every year, when the school supplies start to roll out and I start seeing the adverts for “Back-To-School,” I get nostalgic and choked up. I miss teaching. Don’t get me wrong. I love my daughters. I love staying home with them. I feel so blessed that we, as a family, can afford to have me stay home with the girls, but that doesn’t make the memories of teaching go away.

It’s said that “those who can’t do, teach,” but I find that statement to be so wrong. Teaching is such an admirable occupation that people just take for granted. So, you might be thinking, “Well, CCM, if you love teaching so much, why don’t you just homeschool your kids?” Here’s the thing… I was a HIGH SCHOOL teacher. That was my niche, that was where I shined. I loved interacting with my students. I taught at a school in Chicago that had a lot going against it: high levels of immigrants/ refugees, poor reading skills, even poorer math skills, rough home lives, etc, etc. The area as a whole wasn’t too bad as far as crime went, but that’s not to say that there wasn’t gang presence. (Actually, one very memorable student from my first year teaching was a ‘high-ranking’ gang leader… and one of the sweetest, hard-working boys that you would have ever met. I often think about him and pray for him.) For those kids, like it or not, their teachers were the role-models that their parents might not have been. Could you imagine being a first-year teacher having that on your plate?

I just wish that I had the chance to teach a bit longer. We found out about the transfer to STL not long after having The Bear in Chicago and it seems as if I left the occupation before I really got it going. And it’s really funny, because teaching is such a volatile profession right now… if you aren’t providing the scores or the proof that you are an effective teacher, you are out of there. School districts are cutting classes left and right. More parents are turning to homeschooling options because they are losing faith in what schools can provide right now. I’ll admit that this is the liberal, hippie side of me coming out a bit here, but I just wonder what our country could be if we spent as much on education as we do on National Defense? But I guess National Defense affects the whole country and education… doesn’t?

So why don’t I go back to teaching right now? Because I am needed at home. I teach my children every day. Sure, it’s not complex chemical equations or estimating the trajectories of blood spatter but I am still a teacher. I teach language, grammar, math, reading, science, etc. Sure, I don’t get AS dressed up, nor do I have chalk and marker on my hands, but I am still a teacher. Right?

Oh, well. So, if you see me and I seem a bit melancholic, it’s just because of the new school year. And how I am watching from the sidelines. Ask me how I feel in October!

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Pax Christi!

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Until debt us do part

How many of you are aware of this little factoid: A man cannot enter into the priesthood if he has outstanding debts. A woman cannot become a religious sister or nun if she has outstanding debts. Reason being, how will a priest or nun pledge their entire life to loving and serving Christ is they have the burdon of debt on their shoulders?

Now, for those of us who were called to the married life, it’s a completely different story.

Chances are, you did not just marry your spouse, you married their debt as well. Now, we can wax poetic about it all and say, “Well, mine is student loan debt, so that’s good debt.” I’m sorry. Debt is debt, and you have to pay it back. The sad thing is, some of our debts are so high that it can keep us from living the life that we are to live.

Some scenarios to consider:

Case 1: Young couple, just married, both bringing debt to the marriage, decide to wait “until they can afford” to have children. Time passes, incomes increase, but the debt never decreases because with each increase in income came an increase in expenditures. Time goes, Debt grows and the couple decides that children just aren’t in their future because they just can’t afford them.

Case 2: Married, with children, and debt. Debt each brought to the marriage and debt that the married couple amassed together. The Spirit is on their hearts telling them that it’s time for another child, but looking at their bank account really kills the mood. Surrounded by their worldly possessions, they come to the reality that they have neither the space nor the money for an additional child.

Case 3: Mature couple, ready to start thinking about retirement, but still have personal debt to pay off, in addition to sending kids to college. Then, surprise! They’re expecting. Not sure what they are going to do, or how they’re going to afford this baby, they stand at a crossroads…

 

OK, I’ll admit. It’s melodramatic, and I know that some people choose to remain childless, but for those who want children, am I really that far off? I often think of my and DH’s situation and how much more breathing room we would be if we didn’t have my Graduate Student loans (I earned my undergraduate degree on scholarship,) and our personal credit card debt. We are slowly chipping away at our debt, but I can help but feel disheartened so often because it seems like Sisyphus pushing that boulder up the hill just to see it roll back down.

When I was younger, money was always tight and I remember telling myself that I couldn’t wait to be a grown up because then money woudn’t be an issue and I could buy and have whatever I wanted (Don’t ask me where I got that idea.) But looking back, what I should have learned is the difference between wants and needs and the beauty of delayed gratification (I’m still working on that one, paying cash for our splurges does help because you have to save for that purchase, rather than pulling out old Mr. Plastic.) But think about it… the important things in life are things that you have to wait for: the right guy/ girl, marriage, careers promotions, children, grandchildren, etc. Nothing meaningful happens right away.

So, that’s what we’re teaching our girls. The Bear may mention a toy or art set that she is interested in and instead of rushing out and getting it for her right away, it’s either a birthday or Christmas gift. When we have birthday parties for the girls, instead of guests bringing gifts, we have them bring donations (we didn’t do that with The Bear’s 4th because it was just one more thing I forgot.) I don’t know how long we will continue the birthday gift/ donation tradition, and I’ll have to admit, I kind of missed doing it this past weekend, but it’s an easy way to teach the girls about giving back and what the important things in life are.

 
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Sorry if this post sounded kind of random and disjointed. It is a good example of my “stream of consciousness” writing and I am avoiding going back to edit because I am sure these are the words I am supposed to write.

Pax Christi!

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How Formula Marketing Came to Be: A Bit of Satire

Scene: The year is 1939. War is raging in Europe We are in a high-rise office over looking the big city. It’s late. There are two men sitting inside, wearing suits and ties and smoking. Because, after all, smoking is cool. 

Man 1: So, so, so! (Slapping Man 2 on shoulder) How’s fatherhood treating you?

Man 2: The boy is great! He’s quite the little man, I’ll tell you. Strong, happy but you know what? He takes up all of my wife’s time.

Man 1: (Guffawing) And that’s a bad thing? Take my wife, please!

Man 2: No, I am serious. Every time I look at her, she’s holding him or playing with him or cooing at him or feeding him. He’s only three weeks old, but it’s as if he’s more important than me! The feeding is the worst part… those used to be my toys. (He looks wistfully out the window.)

Man 1: But she’s still fulfilling her wifely duties, right. After all, that’s her job too.

Man 2: (makes a rude noise) NO. Because whenever I start in on her, that baby starts crying or smacking his lips and she’ll push me off to “comfort” him. And when he finally does go to sleep, she tells me that she’s (takes on a whining tone) “tired” and “doesn’t want to be touched anymore right now.” Fine. I won’t touch her, but I have needs too, dammit! (hits the table with fist.)

Man 1: Wow. That baby’s taking over everything. You can’t even touch your wife anymore. (starts laughing)

Man 2: You know it would be just better if there was a way for her not to feel so worn out. I think it’s all the milk the baby takes from her. He’s sucking on her every two hours.

Man 1: You know, that sounds familiar… hold on there, sport. (takes a drag of his cigarette and walks over to a paper-strewn desk. Begins to rifle through the papers.) Here it is! This was submitted a few weeks ago and I didn’t know where to go with it. It’s for an artificial infant feeding mix.

Man 2: How’s that?

Man 1: According to this, it’s based in evaporated milk and has a bunch of other stuff thrown in. I don’t know the science, I am just supposed to sell the stuff.

Man 1: Who’s it for?

Man 2: It’s supposed to be for mothers who can’t make their own milk, but it’s just not selling.

Man 1: If I could get some of that to my wife, I might get her in bed once in a while. I mean if that evaporated milk stuff is as good as her milk and it can buy me some time with her, I am all about it. When is the ad campaign due?

Man 2: (Takes another drag.) It’ll be tight. I have to make the pitch in 2 weeks.

Man 1: OK, let’s work on this. Because you know that  am not the only man out there cast out like a dog because of the baby. We need to figure out a way to make the regular way of feeding seem inconvenient and lower-class. We need to make this stuff sound futuristic and better because it’s made in a factory. How about this, we spin it so that we “Dads” can get more involved (snorts) because we can “help feed the baby” giving our wives more time for themselves! Do you think they’ll buy it?

Man 2: We’re smoking aren’t we? People will buy anything if you sell it right.

(Scene)

OK, yes, this was a little satire…  but for a little history: From Wikipedia:

In parallel with the enormous shift (in industrialized nations) away from breastfeeding to home-made formulas, nutrition scientists continued to analyze human milk and attempted to make infant formulas that more closely matched its composition.[4] Maltose and dextrins were believed nutritionally important, and in 1912, the Mead Johnson Company released a milk additive called Dextri-Maltose. This formula was made available to mothers only by physicians. In 1919, milkfats were replaced with a blend of animal and vegetable fats as part of the continued drive to closer simulate human milk. This formula was called SMA for “simulated milk adapted.”[10]

In the late 1920s, Alfred Bosworth released Similac (for “similar to lactation”), and Mead Johnson released Sobee.[10] Several other formulas were released over the next few decades, but commercial formulas did not begin to seriously compete with evaporated milk formulas until the 1950s. The reformulation and concentration of Similac in 1951, and the introduction (by Mead Johnson) of Enfamil in 1959 were accompanied by marketing campaigns that provided inexpensive formula to hospitals and pediatricians.[10] By the early 1960s, commercial formulas were more commonly used than evaporated milk formulas, which all but vanished in the 1970s. By the early 1970s, over 75% of babies in the United States were fed on formulas, almost entirely commercially produced.[4]

When birth rates in industrial nations tapered off during the 1960s, infant formula companies heightened marketing campaigns in non-industrialized countries. Unfortunately, poor sanitation led to steeply increased mortality rates among infants fed formula prepared with contaminated (drinking) water.[19] Organized protests, the most famous of which was theNestlé boycott of 1977, called for an end to unethical marketing. This boycott is ongoing, as the current coordinators maintain that Nestlé engages in marketing practices which violate the International Code of Marketing of Breast-milk Substitutes.

I read something somewhere and it much more succinctly sums up the whole breastfeeding/ formula feeding debate. While breastmilk is superior, Formula is not bad. Formula has helped countless babies over the years who otherwise might have fared worse. Formula Marketing is the problem.

Now, people could say that breastfeeding doesn’t need to be marketed, because it’s always there, but what does need to be marketed is how breastfeeding is a normal activity and not sexual and not deviant. We need to market that if you want to breastfeed your child, and you need help, find help and we need to market where that help can be found.

When I was pregnant with The Bear in 2006/7, I remember on my first office visit walking out with a book about fetal development and formula samples. No information about La Leche League or other breastfeeding support groups, nothing. On one of the later visits, when I made my breastfeeding intentions known, I walked about with the “Just in Case” sample bag with the cute little “Breastfeeding Kit” tag. It was a shoulder bag filled with formula samples… just in case I needed it. Again, nothing on breastfeeding support.

Why do moms fail with breastfeeding? Because they don’t have help and they don’t know where to find help. I chatted with a young mom at the park last week. She had a four month old with her and she nursed baby for one month. When I told her I was a volunteer working with nursing moms, she told me that she stopped nursing because baby would choke, cough and pull off whenever she tried to nurse, so she thought that something was wrong with her milk! (Any thoughts as to what was going on? Sounds a bit like oversupply to me.) Had this mom been with a group of  other breastfeeding moms she might have been able to nurse her baby a little bit longer, maybe even to her goal of six months.

I know that it sounds like a radical departure for a self-professed lactivist, but again… formula in and of itself if not bad. But the marketing sure is. And I am sure that sexually-deprived ad men are not to blame for formula marketing, but it does make for an interesting plot device, no?
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Tomorrow is the last day to enter to win “The Invisible World!” Click here to find out how to enter. I’m drawing the winner tomorrow!!

Pax Christi!

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Kind of Wordless Wednesday: In my dream world…

In my dream world men would dress like this:

more often than not.

Hats and Coats. Sigh.

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Pax Christi!

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A few Words Wednesday: Shirt or no Shirt?

I just wanted to share a little scene I saw yesterday at the Missouri Botanical Gardens. It really plays in well with our discussion about gender and all things girl and boy. We were in the Children’s Garden and there they have a little splash fountain area. It was hot yesterday… over 95 degrees and humid, so it was the perfect oasis! OK, here you go:

MOM (to her two children, boy about 5, girl about 3): OK, Have fun you two!

(Son takes shirt off. Daughter starts to take hers off.)

MOM (to daughter): Oh, no, no, no! You can’t take your shirt off. You have to leave your shirt on.

DAUGHTER (in tears): WHY?

MOM: because… because… boys can take their shirts off and girls can’t.

DAUGHTER (still trying to take shirt off): <Inaudible through tears>

MOM: If you keep trying to take your shirt off, we will have to leave

DAUGHTER: (more tears)

MOM (to son): you don’t need your shirt off, put it back on. It will dry if it gets wet.

SON (whining): I don’t want my shirt to get wet!

MOM: (big sigh)

At this point, DDs decided they wanted to play in the sprinklers with this mama. So, we went.

(Now my little editorial… her son had a pretty intense sunburn and maybe should have a shirt on more often.)
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ETA: Now, this mom might have wanted to teach her daughter about modesty, but it really wasn’t the best argument. But as moms, we’ve all been there. Where do you think “Because I said so” comes from?

Pax Christi!

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Wordless Wednesday: Simple Similac?

Yes, if only feeding a baby could be this simple…

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Pax Christi!

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A reason to celebrate, not to hide

This morning, I met with some girlfriends and our children for our weekly bible study/ Mass readings. We meet to read and discuss the readings for the following Sunday, mainly because, as mothers of young children, sometimes we end up missing parts of the readings as they are proclaimed from the ambo as we are tending to our children.

After reading a reflection on the gospel, one of the discussion questions centered around how we can tend to those “orphans” around us. Somehow the conversation turned to the happy news that two in our group are expecting new babies! And the fun thing is this: each of these children will be child #6 for each of their respective families. (Technically one will be child #7, as one was lost early in the pregnancy.) Of course, we are all over-joyed because how could you not be happy about another baby?! But one of the moms mentioned that she was really hesitant to mention the news of the baby to “anyone else” and she hasn’t said anything on FaceBook or to extended family members because of the backlash she is sure to get from people. Backlash from “friends and family” basically telling her that she and her husband are irresponsible. Wow.

Let’s face it, large families are not looked on favorably in our culture. Our culture worships things and stuff as status symbols and looks at many children as relics of an antiquated agricultural society. According to mass media, children hold women back and interrupt their dreams. “Beyaz,” an oral contraceptive, has a commercial showing young women shopping in a chic boutique. In this boutique, one woman shops for her Masters Degree. Another for a trip to Paris. Another for the perfect man. Another for a new car. One young woman, comes across a stork holding a little bundle and she laughs, shakes her head, and walks away to continue shopping for her dreams. The message: babies take away your dreams. As a family, you should have at most two children. If you get the golden combination of one boy and one girl, then you are INSANE if you decide to have more. Take a look around next time you are out, our country is really built for families of four and no more.

For families who choose to have more than two kids, they are accused of somehow living off of the government (“I don’t want to support another one of your kids!”) or doing harm to the environment (“There aren’t enough resources for so many people.”) or just being plain stupid (“You do know what causes that?”) But these families make the active choice to have large families and they do so prayerfully and carefully.

While I am sure they exist, I believe that you would be hard-pressed to find a large family who kept having kids even though they couldn’t afford it (and do not mention “Octomom.” She is surely an outlier and in my non-medical opinion, probably in need of mental help.) I am going to make some mass generalizations here, but this is what I have experienced hanging out with my friends with large families: Large families decide that they are not going to take yearly vacations to the Bahamas or to Cancun or to Turks and Cacos. Instead, they are going to go camping. Large families decide not to get a new car every three years or when the mood strikes. Large families don’t try to keep up with the Joneses. Large families see debt as a burden and children as a blessing, not as the other way around. Large families ensure their children take an active role in paying for their education (and it’s usually not with student loans.) I can’t remember where I read it, but I believe that it might be a Jewish proverb. It said something along the lines of “every new baby born is another chance at world peace.” In a nation where approximately 3700 babies are aborted per day (legal and illegal procedures) every child is a reason to be celebrated and not one to hide about.

Usually, environmental concerns are cited for reasons for chasitzing large families. But I can’t help but wonder, do these same people criticize family members for driving large SUVs or living in 4000 sq. ft. homes? What about when their family members are jetting off to the Bahamas or Hilton Head, or when they are enjoying their steak at a restaurant? Let’s talk a bit about Carbon Footprints. A Carbon Footprint is:

car·bon foot·print

Adjective: The amount of carbon dioxide emitted due to the the consumption of fossil fuels by a particular person, group, etc
So, you would think that large families would be emitting HUGE amounts of carbon because they are… big families. According to ecostreet.org, there are seven ways to reduce your carbon footprint and thereby making less of an impact on the earth. They are:
1. Become Vegan
2. Switch to green electricity
3. Get rid of your tumble dryer
4. Insulate your home properly
5. Park your car
6. Stop flying
7. Become an eco-activist
Hmm… no where on this list is, have fewer than 2 children. Another site has this conclusion as far as carbon footprints:
So, there are three things that will make a big difference to your carbon footprint. Yes, stop flying. By all means take up cycling, change your lightbulbs and wear a sweater. But first, cut down your meat eating, insulate your home, and just all round buy less stuff.
The other favored argument agains large families? “I don’t want to pay for all of those kids.” Well, if you pay taxes you are paying for someone’s children. Public schools are funded through taxes and therefore, we are paying for other people’s kids to get an education. Many of the large families I know either homeschool their kids or they are sending them to Catholic school, and the tuition is paid for out of their family’s income. Or they go to public school like a bunch of other kids that we are already paying for. I was trying to find some information on what the average family on government assistance looks like, and I couldn’t find anything conclusive, but I did find this little tidbit:

In recent years, the government has relaxed restrictions on eligibility for healthy adults without dependents. The maximum income to be eligible for food stamps for an able-bodied adult in New York is $14,088 a year. A record 38 million Americans are currently on food stamps, and though most of them are still the “traditional recipients” (elderly, single mothers), a large amount of young, educated adults now count as “working poor.” But they’re bringing their greenmarket standards to the welfare line.

One New York blogger told Salon “I’m sort of a foodie, and I’m not going to do the ‘living off ramen’ thing”—he then mentions a dinner of roasted rabbit with butter, tarragon and sweet potatoes that he made using his food stamp money.

Good-bye Ramen noodles, I guess. So, what’s my point? My point is that we need to stop being so judgmental. Have we really become so narcissistic that we truly believe that the world revolves around us and our comfort-level to the point where we are dictating how many children someone ought to have? Have we become so “me, me, me” that the very thought of someone taking more than their “fair share” is enough to leave a bitter taste in our mouths? (and how that fair share is measure, I have no clue.) My view is this: Celebrate those babies, each and everyone of them. Fertility is a gift that one usually doesn’t see the value of until it’s gone and children do not hang around forever. But, strangely enough, debt seems to hang around forever.

(P.S. I wanted to add. I went here and took a Carbon Footprint analysis for my family of four. I then changed my family size to eight, and increased the number of bedrooms by two but otherwise kept all other answers the same. Our household carbon footprint for a family of four was 40 tons of CO2 per year (National Average is 110 tons.) When I doubled the number of people in our household, the amount of CO2 increased to 60 tons per year (National Average of 210 tons per year.) So, yes, more people does mean more energy usage, but not as much as you’d think.)

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Thanks to Laura J. for inspiring this post. No, she’s not one of the pregnant ones but she said “someone” should write about this. 🙂 And a heartfelt congratulations and prayers for healthy and happy pregnancies, ladies!!

Pax Christi!

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The Accidental Lactivist

I was chatting with some girlfriends after my Spin class yesterday, and I told them how over the weekend, we decided to, and successfully, night-weaned The Dragonfly. I told them that I was most impressed that it was not as traumatic as I had made it out to be as well!

For those of you who do not know, we are a family that practices extended breastfeeding and bed-sharing, and many of my lady friends, with whom I was chatting, do not. Some still hold onto beliefs that both practices can be harmful to the child’s psyche, either in the short- or long-term, but I like to acknowledge both practices (but extended breastfeeding especially) as some of my most effective parenting tools. And if I may say so, my girls are great! Now, The Bear (DD1) was night-weaned fairly early in her life (we started out child-rearing a little more traditional. She was in a crib and night-weaned before she was a year. With DD2, we changed it up a bit. Part of it is the scientist in me, wanting to see which methodology is more effective, I guess,) so I didn’t know how it would be night-weaning a toddler who could, very vociferously, protest when she disagreed. Friday night, as she was nursing after bath, I explained to her that her “milkies were going night-night, too.” Overnight, we did have frequent wake-ups and attempts to nurse and one little bit of crying, but she was cuddled and was reminded that the milk was sleeping like she was. Around 3am, however, she woke up and would not go back to sleep. I almost caved. I sang, I rubbed her back, I snuggled… nothing. (You might be asking yourself, where is the MIster? Well, he was not traveling, but he snores incredibly loud and, for now, is sleeping in the guest room until we figure out this snoring. My original plan did include MY sleeping in the guest room and him night weaning her, but he gently reminded me that as soon as we returned to normal sleeping arraignments, I would have to address her as well. Begrudgingly, I relented, knowing he was right.) I heard the Mister get up around 4a (we are early-birdies here, in fact I started working on this at 530a) and by 545a, I shuffled out with her and explained the deal. He took her and I crashed for another 2 hours. Saturday night was that much better, no long stretches of wake time in the middle of the night, just a few reminders of the milk being asleep and we’ve just improved from there. It’s Wednesday morning and we didn’t wake up at all last night. But back to the story…

So, I am telling this tale to my girlfriends, and batting away the negativity with my sword of knowledge when one of the ladies (who, for the record is not a “rah-rah-breastfeeding mom,” like yours truly, pipes up. She says, “I don’t really see the big deal. My DD is 5 and still takes a sippy-cup to bed with her to drink during the night, how is that different from nursing at night?”

Well said, accidental lactivist, well said.
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Pax Christi!

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Wordless Wednesday: An April Snowman

Some Door County Fun…

DSC_0069

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Pax Christi!

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CarLashes… just another part of The Pink Ribbon Culture?

Earlier this week, I took the Swagger Wagon into the dealer for a three-month check up. Yes, I know how insane that sounds, but they told us to bring her in after about three months just to make sure that everything was doing OK, tires were holding pressure, battery its charge, fluids not leaking. The check-up is included in our warranty so my only cost was my time and effort.

My original plan was just to drop of my van and head to a friend’s house for play with the rental car but The Dragonfly got sick so my friend was aminable to The Bear coming over to play solo. The van check up was to only take 15-20 minutes, so we waited rather than getting the rental. While in the lobby, my eyes spotted… something. Actually, I saw it when I pulled into the lot but I thought that it was some sort of sales gimmick. This is what I saw:

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WTH?

I just finished reading Pink Ribbon Blues: How Breast Cancer Culture Undermines Women’s Health by Gayle A. Sulik, Ph.D and the irony was not lost as to what I was looking. Pink. Eyelashes. On. A. Car. I get the van dropped off and head inside and my suspicions were confirmed. The product is called “CarLashes” and they come in black or pink and have clear or pink crystal “eyeliner” that is sold separately. The pink ones at my car dealership are tagged with the additional information to “Show support for Breast Cancer Awareness with our PINK lashes!” Is this what Breast Cancer Awareness has boiled down to, a way to sell women anything while at the same time making them feel altruistic? According to my most recent read… yup.

The basic thesis of Pink Ribbon Blues is this: the pink ribbon culture has brought cancer advocacy much attention but there has not been an effect of improving women’s health. I first began to hear the term “Pink Ribbon Effect” when I was trying to find out why the Catholic Church and Susan G. Komen Foundation were at loggerheads. Looking more into things, a complicated web begins to be woven among cancer advocacy groups, pharmaceutical companies, cancer patients and their families and the consumer and her money.

According to the author, breast cancer “survivors” are in constant “battle” with and for their lives and daily wage a “war” against cancer. The language choice is not accidental, as the prototypical breast cancer survivor has to play the role of the “she-ro:” always optimistic, always thinking of self first and, if the first two do not apply, a certain level of guilt about not being she-roic enough (Chapter 6.) In addition to making survivors into she-ros, the choice of the pink color hyper-feminizes the roles of women, basically boiling them down to just their breasts and equating their worth with their breasts. In the words of Audre Lorde:

A kindly woman from Reach [to] Recovery came in to see me, with a very upbeat message and a little prepared packet containing a soft sleep bra and a wad of lambswool pressed into a pale pink breast-shaped pad… Her message was, you are just as good as you were before because you can look exactly the same. Lambswool now, then a good prosthesis as soon as possible and nobody will ever know the difference. But what she said was, “You’ll never know the difference,” and she lost me right there, because I knew sure as hell I’d know the difference… (pgs. 340-341)

This focus on having breasts and keeping breasts (and thereby keeping external appearances of what it means to be a woman in Western culture) also leads to cute slogans and breast cancer awareness events: Blogger Boobie-Thon, T-shirts that read “I love breasts,” “Stop the war in my-rack,” “Tatas are awesome” (for the guys.) According to the author:

Sexualizing women in the name of breast cancer is only one of the detrimental consequences of many pink ribbon campaigns. They also infantize women and emphasize their traditional social roles. Teddy Bears, rubber duckies and M&Ms are used to comfort and pacify children, yet companies sell them to grown women in the name of the cause. (pg. 373)

If you are a regular reader of my blog, you do know that I have no problem with being feminine and embracing my feminine nature, but I do have to say that I am inclined to agree with what the author is saying about how breast cancer awareness does overly sexualize women. Why don’t we see much by way of testicular cancer or prostate cancer? Is it because these parts of the male anatomy are not secondary sex characteristics and therefore not easily marketable? Why aren’t we selling Action Figures or Toy Cars to Men to raise funds for those cancers?

But, you may ask, tons of money is being raised and going to research to get rid of this disease, right? Well…

…the American Cancer Society publishes facts and figures on cancer in the United States, including incidence and mortality. From 2000 to 2006, the number of invasive cancers rose from 182, 800 to 212,920… The number of breast cancer deaths estimated each year from 2000 to 2008 has averaged 40,314. (pg 59)

The argument could be made that the number of incidences has increased because more women are getting tested earlier and getting diagnosed sooner, but questions remain about mammography including its accuracy, benefit and the long-term effects of radiation exposure. Add this to “pinkwashing,” the tactic that some companies use in which they raise breast cancer funds while at the same time divert attention from the potential hazards, such as producing toxins or chemicals, that may contribute to the disease. Hmmm… kind of like this?

Mmmm… fried chicken. Perfect for combating obesity (which is a breast cancer risk factor.) Oh, there’s some grilled in there too.

So what’s a gal to do? I don’t know. I guess don’t base your shopping habits on where monies may or may not be going. I’ll admit it, I have been a Pink Ribbon shopper (Estee Lauder makes this fantastically flattering pink shade, and I can’t wear pink well and it’s offered during Pinktober… oops, I mean October) but I will say my motivation was mostly for the color. Will we see more transparency in the major breast cancer fundraising efforts? That would make things easier for people to donate. I mean, if you know more about where your money is going, you might be more inclined to donate without the need for a pink thing-y, or to donate just to make yourself feel good about doing your part in the war on breast cancer. From page 375:

The generic survivor has become so central to pink ribbon culture that any survivor will do. A name on a T-shirt or a pink hat is all we need to happy fight the war on breast cancer. The personal struggle of the disease is left on the sidelines, transformed into a transcendent story, or left back at home where no one will ever see.

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Pink Ribbons: Cute or harmful? Do they really do the job or are they just placating the masses? What do you think? I’ve been told I need to read some happier books, by the way!

Pax Christi!

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