By Melissa Silverstein | Women and Hollywood May 31, 2012 at 9:02AM
WaH: Do you think you are going to get push back from the corporations behind the pink cancer culture?
LP: I hope not, there are many sides to this conversation and corporations and fund-raisers were given a chance to present their point of view on the issues in the film. I hope the film helps everyone to hear some other perspectives especially those of the Stage IV Group who are featured in the film.
WaH: Do you think that if this wasn't a disease that effected women that it would have this massive consumer culture around it?
LP: I think that some of these large staged events really don’t show the dark reality of the disease, as one of the woman in the film stated, Stage IV patients are the elephant in the room because there are those with breasts cancer who are learning to live while Stage IV women are learning to die. I also learned that there are many women who feel alienated by the pink campaign and their voices are seldom heard.
RD: As Barbara Brenner put it in the film, “breast cancer is the poster child of cause marketing….”. I do think this massive consumer culture has enormous staying power because women are targeted. Women make most of the household buying decisions. Some companies can rely on good old stereotypes and sell back the image of women being good girls, compliant, cheerful and helpful. The mass media generated images are always ultra slim, feminine, white women and constructs the disease as a threat to women in their capacity as wives and mothers. So there is nothing frightening or ugly about this image… it is completely contrary to what the disease actually is.
WaH: I was really struck by the women in the stage 4 cancer group. They are incredibly angry at the culture that the pink ribbon has created. It seems that the women who are fighting the disease are missing from the conversation about the disease. What did you learn from them?
RD: I learned that there is no one single experience. Just as breast cancer effects women differently (diagnosis, treatment, outcomes…) every woman has her own experience. You cannot homogenize women’s experience. But since the mass media seldom shows the bitter and hard truth about the disease – particularly amongst the most vulnerable groups like the stage IV women – then it’s as if that experience doesn’t exist. There are a lot of women who feel completely alienated from the pink ribbon culture…this happens to be a few of them.
WaH: What do you want this film to say to women? What do you want them to do when they walk out of the theatre after watching it?
LP: As the group Breast Cancer Action says "Think Before You Pink!," for me I feel that people need to ask a lot more questions especially when they donate not only their money but also the generosity of their time. Who is raising this money and why? Is this the best way to end breast cancer? Where is the money going?
RD: I want women to recognize how much power is in our hands and that we need to ask questions and demand accountability. If we are going to support foundations, charities, corporations…then we should ask for complete transparency before we hand over our money. If a make-up company, for example, will not disclose the ingredients in their products, should we really support them by raising millions of dollars for the “cure”? I also want women to tell as many women and men to watch the film so that we can create a much bigger social debate around this issue and put pressure on both government and companies to be accountable to women. We need to own the ribbon…after all ..it began with one woman’s perseverance (Charlotte Haley) when she created the peach ribbon and asked Congress to put the focus on prevention. We can do that again but this time in the millions.
WaH: Do you have any advice for female filmmakers?
LP: Do it. We want to see your images and to hear your voices.
Welcome to Cancerland - Barbara Ehrenreich