The marketing of breast cancer

Now the U.S. ambassador to Hungary, Brinker is the E.F. Hutton of the breast-cancer world. When she speaks, anyone who’sanyone listens.

Brinker relies on the blockbuster PR value of the 5K Race for the Cure. The year-round calendar of cancer walks that draw grief-stricken yet hopeful patients and their loved ones, along with a fawning media, preserve Brinker and her group’simage as being on the side of the average American woman tragically afflicted with breast cancer.

So, most people would be surprised to learn that the Komen Foundation helped block a meaningful patients? bill of rights for the women the foundation has purported to serve since the group began in 1982.

Despite Brinker proclaiming herself before a 2001 congressional panel as a “patient advocate for the past 20 years” who demands access to the best possible medical care for all breast-cancer patients, Federal Election Commission records show the foundation and its allies lobbied against the consumer-friendly version of the patients? bill of rights in 1999, 2000 and 2001. Then, Brinker trumpeted old friend George W. Bush in August 2001 for backing a “strong” patients’ bill of rights, although most patient advocates felt betrayed.

Mary Ann SwisslerThe marketing of breast cancer  (Sacramento News & Review)

My student Amanda, a freshmen who’s already been in five of my clases, says my insistence that she go back to the source of statistics means that she’s almost too nervous to use a statistic in her freshman composition papers. Good! I want my students to think critically about all their soures.

Swissler’s article, though too strident for my tastes (just what exactly are those protestors dressed like nuns doing? Is the Church being blamed for breast cancer, too?), it’s an excellent example of not taking PR at face value.

I’m blogging this for future reference — I’d like to see whether my students can address

  1. their response to seeing the apparently squeaky-clean motives breast cancer research fundraisers being challenged,
  2. their response to rebuttals and Swissler’s response (and more) and
  3. their response to learning that Swissler is the former Seton Hall instrutor (not Seton Hill) who made a name for herself by sending a bulk e-mail calling her students “brats” and “lying sacks of [excrement].

I’m thinking that last detail will probably bias the students against her… will they be so biased that they will dismiss her claims about the Komen Foundation, especially when put up against the Komen Foundation’s slick online presence?

I think I might split the class in small groups, pretend that I didn’t run off enough handouts, and give them overlapping but not identical groups of handouts.. one might be this sympathetic defense of Swissler, that explains the frustrations felt by “adjuct” faculty (part-timers with no permanent contract), but probably alienates student audiences by observing “those of us who teach in colleges and universities will have to face students exactly like the ones Swissler described: sexist, racist, immature, and sheltered. Fact is, she left a few things off the list. Let’s add: bored, apathetic, cynical, stoned, and drunk.”

Thus, no one student will have the whole picture, and they’ll have to work it out among themselves.

It’s too late in the semester to spring any more reading on my current students (who are, or should be, deeply involved in their final papers by now). Next term.