Tag Archives: breast cancer

Links This Week

Debbie says:

This is only the beginning of a wonderful comic from Gallery of Dangerous Women

Cuteosphere, the cartoonist, says:

it always disappointed me that Monster Girls are an anime porn thing rather than something used to explore the way society and the media dehumanises women, but oh well

shout out to all my fellow monsters


Female condoms are getting a much-needed makeover, because science:

two decades after its much-celebrated introduction, the female condom still isn’t living up to its potential. Less intuitive and familiar than the male condom, the device simply never caught on. Journalists mocked it, clinicians ignored it, and women shunned it, claiming that the condom was aesthetically unappealing and technically difficult to master. Today, only 1.6 per cent of all condoms distributed worldwide are female condoms. …

For years, a handful of researchers, engineers and entrepreneurs have been quietly tinkering with the device. Their efforts are now maturing and an assortment of redesigned and reinvented female condoms are beginning to make their way onto the market. The introduction of new, more user-friendly products – coupled with renewed efforts to promote the technology around the globe – may finally be positioning the female condom for a breakthrough.

The article follows a pioneering company (originally Wisconsin Pharmacal, later the Female Health Company) with an ally in Zimbabwe, which succeeded in getting a substantial buy-in for female condoms in Africa. It then shifts to a nonprofit in Seattle (PATH), which has made several exciting medical technology innovations:

The group’s designers and engineers, for instance, created the Uniject: a disposable syringe pre-loaded with a single dose of vaccine. They built a one-size-fits-all diaphragm, removing the need for women to visit a doctor to have one specially fitted. And they invented a portable, handheld scale that health workers can bring to home deliveries. The scale requires no electricity, can be read in the dark, and is decipherable even to birth attendants with low literacy, making it easy to identify underweight infants….

PATH prides itself on its user-centred design process, and so, in an effort to create a female condom that women would want to use, those at PATH decided to do something both radical and obvious: consult actual women. In 1998, PATH began convening focus groups in four countries – South Africa, Thailand, Mexico and the USA – asking women and men what they thought about female condoms and what they wanted from them.

From Durban to Seattle, it turns out that users’ desires were pretty basic: “a product that was going to be easy to use, easy to insert, stable during use,” says Kilbourne-Brook. Plus, “if it was possible, they wanted something that was more aesthetically pleasing”….

By 2003, they had hit on the solution: a dissolving applicator. The engineers created a condom that looked like a funnel, with a thin sheet of polyurethane that narrowed into a rounded tip. This tip contained the main pouch of the condom, collapsed inside a dissolving capsule. To insert the condom, women would simply push the capsule inside, much the same way they’d insert a tampon. Once it came into contact with the moisture of the vagina, the capsule would melt away – often within 30 to 60 seconds – releasing the full condom pouch.


Tara Parker-Pope takes on the breast cancer racial mortality gap, which is no surprise to Laurie and me, and is a national disgrace.

An analysis of breast cancer mortality trends in 41 of the largest cities in the United States shows that the chance of surviving breast cancer correlates strongly with the color of a woman’s skin. Black women with breast cancer — whether they hail from Phoenix or Denver, Boston or Wichita, Kan. — are on average about 40 percent more likely to die of the disease than white women with breast cancer.

In some cities, the risk is even greater. In Los Angeles, a black woman with breast cancer is about 70 percent more likely to die from the disease than a white woman is. In Memphis, black women face more than double the risk…

[Steve] Whitman, [director of Sinai Urban Health Institute and author of the study] says: ““It’s undeniable that this is systemic racism… I don’t mean that a bad person is at the door personally keeping women out, but the system is arranged in such a way that it’s allowing white women access to the important gains we’ve made since 1990 in terms of breast health, and black women have not been able to gain access to these advances.”

Need we say more?


Sticking with “shameful but not surprising,” we have this article from The Atlantic on how body image pressure is affecting boys. Anyone who read Susan Faludi’s Stiffed: The Betrayal of the American Male when it came out 15 years ago (or since) saw this coming, but we could have avoided it if we wanted to.

A new study of a national sample of adolescent boys, published in the January issue of JAMA Pediatrics, reveals that nearly 18 percent of boys are highly concerned about their weight and physique. They are also at increased risk for a variety of negative outcomes: Boys in the study who were extremely concerned about weight were more likely to be depressed, and more likely to engage in high-risk behaviors such as binge drinking and drug use….

If boys are increasingly concerned about weight, changing representations of the male form in the media over the last decade or two are at least partly to blame. “We used to really discriminate—and we still do—against women” in terms of media portrayals, says Dr. Raymond Lemberg, a Prescott, Arizona-based clinical psychologist and an expert on male eating disorders. …

But while the media pressure on women hasn’t abated, the playing field has nevertheless leveled in the last 15 years, as movies and magazines increasingly display bare-chested men with impossibly chiseled physiques and six-pack abs. “The media has become more of an equal opportunity discriminator,” says Lemberg. “Men’s bodies are not good enough anymore either.”

Equal opportunity self-hatred sells. It’s the American way.


I was on the fence about pointing folks to a crowd-funding site, but the campaign is over, so now it’s easy to decide. Although she didn’t make her goal, the apparently anonymous blogger at Adventures in Brafitting is opening a shop. I have never seen such an in-depth, thoughtful, quantitative analysis of what makes bras fit and how, and I predict it will do fabulously. All you need is one sentence, though I’ll quote more: “If a bra doesn’t fit you, it’s the fault of the bra, not your body.”

It’s of paramount importance to me that Revelation is a welcoming space. One way I will accomplish that is by approaching bra fit as a collaboration, not a pronouncement from On High. If you are getting a fitting from me, you are using my expertise, but you know your body better than I do, and I will listen to you.

Another way is language. There are plenty of negative words about how people are shaped and I don’t see a reason to use any of them. I’ve seen online fit guides about what to do if you are “saggy” or “oversized” or “abnormal.” Better to use positive or neutral descriptors like “full on top,” “shallow,” or “projected.”

If a bra doesn’t fit you, it’s the fault of the bra, not your body. When you visit Revelation, I hope you will feel supported in more ways than one.

And if you can’t get to Revelation, here’s an older post with a lot of extremely useful detail.


Most usual sources: Feministe, Feministing, io9, and Shakesville, I got the Cuteosphere comic from supergee and the bra-fitting material from kshandra.

Breast Cancer: Just the Facts, Ma’am

Laurie and Debbie say:

It’s Breast Cancer Awareness Month in the United States, which might be a good thing if it increased breast cancer awareness. Instead, it far too often reinforces stereotypes, gives marketers a hook, and increases the amount of pink in the world.

Before we get to the two stories that got us started down this road, let’s just review the statistics. Almost everyone has heard the “1 in 8 women will get breast cancer in their lifetime.” This is, more or less, a true statement, but it’s rarely accompanied by the reminder that four of those women will get breast cancer over the age of 60 and two of those will be over the age of 70. This says something about increased cancer tracking to increased life span. Breast cancer death rates have been decreasing since 1989, and breast cancer incidence has been decreasing since 2002.

If anyone has ever told you that Asian women “don’t get breast cancer,” they were wrong. Going back to the statistics link above, Asian women get breast cancer at approximately 2/3 of the rate of white non-Hispanic women, which is absolutely not an excuse for a doctor to rule out or ignore the possibility. As Angry Asian Man says at the link:

The National Asian Breast Cancer Initiative is a … national initiative to address the unique cultural, linguistic and genetic challenges that Asian women face related to breast cancer.

During the month of October, NABCI has entitled this campaign “Asian women don’t get breast cancer” in honor of breast cancer activist Susan Shinagawa — and for the express purpose is dispelling this fallacy.

Shinagawa is in treatment for an unrelated breast cancer recurrence. During her first breast cancer, she initially wasn’t sent for a biopsy because two different doctors didn’t believe she could have breast cancer.

(Many diseases are racialized in this way, and many people die of medical assumptions based on how they look–as clear an example as any of how body image can be a life-and-death issue.)

Men get breast cancer too–about 1 in 1,000 men will get breast cancer in their lifetimes. This is still enough to make it important for doctors to take the possibility seriously.

Meanwhile, while women are threatened with imminent breast cancer (1 in 8 of you!) and simultaneously turned away from breast cancer diagnosis because epicanthic folds in your eyelids are somehow evidence of what’s happening in your breast tissue, corporations have your back. Everywhere we turn in October, something else is pink, because Breast Cancer Awareness Is Important. Unless, of course, the pink products are trying to kill you.

Erin Gloria Ryan at Jezebel lists ten of these products, and puts them all in the context of “pinkwashing,” a term coined by Breast Cancer Action to describe “insidious Breast Cancer® cause marketing that doesn’t actually do anything but exploit people’s good intentions to at best pad corporate pockets and at worst convince people to expose themselves to carcinogenic chemicals For The Cause.”

Examples include:

Chevrolet has promised to donate $10 from each tests drive on select dates in October and November to an American Cancer Society program. Problem is that many, many chemicals involved in the manufacture of cars demonstrably cause cancer. In fact, women who work in automobile manufacturing are much more likely to develop breast cancer than women who do not.

But hey, who would expect Chevrolet to actually clean up its act and make its employees safer? Pink is easier!

A portion of profits from sales of Dramatically Different face lotion by Clinique are being donated to a Breast Cancer® charity. Unfortunately, Dramatically Different contains propylparaben, a hormone disruptor (hormone disruptors, as a class of chemicals, have been linked to breast cancer).

We do disagree with Ryan about her unexamined connection between “obesity” and breast cancer, especially since her link on the subject is only about recurrence of breast cancer and not initial appearance. But her point about pinkwashing and dangerous products is still valid.

What should you do for Breast Cancer Awareness Month? Check your breasts. Have a mammogram if you’re due for one. Catch up on your statistics. If you want to donate, donate to the National Asian Breast Cancer Initiative or some other anti-corporate activist group. Don’t buy anything pink unless you want it anyway.