“Pink Ribbon Blues” by Gayle Sulik – My Review

Everywhere you look this month it seems there is pink. And I’m just wondering…

Are you feeling blue yet about seeing all that pink?

Pink Ribbon Blues:  How Breast Cancer Culture Undermines Women’s Health by Gayle A. Sulik, MA, PhD, is one of the most important books you can get your hands on if you are interested in the current state of breast cancer culture.

It’s a must read. Yes, I said a must read.


Pink Ribbon Blues provides a comprehensive thought-provoking look into the evolution and present status of breast cancer culture in today’s society. It is a real eye-opener and has the potential to change the way you (or the way those you know) look at pink ribbons and maybe even the way you look at breast cancer in general.

It did for me.

The author takes a critical and intelligent look at pink ribbon awareness-raising campaign tactics that have become so entrenched in today’s society. Sulik boldly suggests the pink ribbon culture has turned into a pink ribbon industry, more interested in branding, pink logos and profits than in cures and prevention. She goes on to conclude that while pink ribbon culture has brought breast cancer much needed attention, it may actually have undermined women’s health. Sulik backs up her observations and claims with eight years of extensive analysis and research.

The pink ribbon industry has been enormously effective in creating emotional allegiance to the cause of breast cancer. It has tapped into the desire we all feel to do something. However, this emotional allegiance also too often leaves those who question the status quo, feeling ungrateful and guilty.

As Sulik states:

With good intentions, pink ribbon culture has made a promise to end breast cancer forever, but somewhere along the line, fighting the good fight has taken precedence over winning the war.

I could not agree more.

Pink Ribbon Blues also contains heart-felt stories from real breast cancer survivors and caregivers who have been in the trenches and struggled to live up to the expected, almost glamorized image of “proper breast cancer fighting behavior.”

Sulik’s voice is one of reason. Her book is evidence based, but at the same time filled with compassion, personal engagement and genuine commitment to bringing about the kind of meaningful dialogue and progress the breast cancer community so desperately needs and deserves.

We must never stop questioning. We must never fear challenging the status quo.

Pink Ribbon Blues does both while also advocating and making suggestions for real and meaningful change.

Sulik sums it up better than I can…

Cancer is not a ribbon, a screening test, or a leisure activity. It is not a sassy t-shirt, a proclamation of survivorship or a gift worth giving. It is a disease process that ignites what is all too often a cycle of medical surveillance and interventions. For too many, it will be the eventual cause of death.They deserve better than this, and so do we.

We don’t have to give up on pink, however as Sulik suggests, it seems it’s time to “take a road less pink.”

That’s what I plan to do.

What about you?

If you would like a chance to win a free copy of Pink Ribbon Blues, please leave a comment below (be sure to leave your email address) by Sunday, October 30th. If you’d like two chances to win, also leave a comment on my Nancy’s Point Facebook page under the PRB post. If you already have a copy, sign up anyway and give a copy away too!  Also, if you’ve read the book, please share your impressions in a comment below.

It’s time to get the messages in this book out there, so please enter the giveaway today!

Note:  This is a hard-cover edition valued at $24.95 and you don’t even have to pay postage!

For your information:

Gayle Sulik, MA, PhD, is a social science researcher and writer currently affiliated with the University at Albany (SUNY) Department of Women’s Studies. With expertise in medical sociology and interdisciplinary community research, her scholarship has focused on medical consumerism, technology, cancer survivorship, health policy, and specifically the culture and industry of breast cancer. She is the author of numerous articles, essays, and book chapters on health and medicine and also writes the Pink Ribbon Blues Blog.

36 thoughts to ““Pink Ribbon Blues” by Gayle Sulik – My Review”

    1. Teresa, It’s so good to hear from you! I hope you do read this book even if you don’t win it. I’d love to get your impressions if and when you do. How’s your book deal going? And how’s Seamus?

    2. Nancy, I will likely buy the book and (more importantly!) read it. I’d like to understand, but I’d also like to not be made to feel bad for thinking the pink has a purpose. It’s frustrating and returns me to that unnecessary feeling that somehow I’ve done breast cancer all wrong.As a result, I’ve largely backed out of the discussion.But this book looks like a useful reference.
      My book deal is all set, thanks for asking. I have a January 4th manuscript deadline though (with an October, 2012 publication date…3 guesses why it’s in October? 😉 ). So I’m not blogging or reading blogs as much as previously. I’ve got lots of writing to do!
      I hope you are well.

      1. Teresa, I’m glad to hear you plan to read the book. I can’t wait to hear your reaction to it. I don’t think you should ever feel like you’ve “done breast cancer” all wrong. That is one of the premises of the book actually, that there is no “right way to do cancer” and sometimes society portrays that there is. Clearly, there is not. Glad to hear the book deal is progressing nicely. Congrats! Good luck with everything and thanks for commenting. Hope you’ll be back soon!

  1. I would love to read this book! I have been following your blog & Nancy’s Point for quite sometime! It is how I get much of my “pinkwashing” information. I want and must read this book to have a complete understanding!!! Also, can’t purchase it since breast cancer causes financial burdens. Thanks, for all of your posts…Fondly, Laura

    1. Laura, Thanks so much for following my blog. I really appreciate hearing your feedback more than I can say. I hope you can read this book one way or the other. I understand about cancer’s financial drain and I’m sorry for that hardship it’s caused you. Thank you for entering my giveaway and good luck!

  2. Nancy – couldn’t agree more with your review. Totally ‘must’ be read for us to change the conversation on breast cancer. I read it last year when it came out. Simply is a great read.
    Thanks for having a copy to share! Great idea, Sarah

    1. Sarah, Thanks for adding your opinion about PRB. It really is a must read for many reasons, as is your book too. I’m grateful for voices like yours and Gayle’s. We need them.

  3. Having several family members who have had to deal with breast cancer (and a few who didn’t survive their fight), I would love to read Dr. Sulik’s book. As with everything these days, it seems that cancer has become more and more commercialized. Is it possible that the commercialization has made the medical industry less inclined to find a cure?

    1. Michelle, I’m sorry you have had family members facing cancer and I’m very sorry for your losses. I think you would really appreciate the messages in this book and you raise a really good question. Cancer certainly has become a big industry, but I’m still hopeful the answer to your question is no. Thanks for entering my giveaway and good luck to you!

    1. Dirty Pink Underbelly, Thank you for the compliment. I’m honored to be included in that group. I know what you mean about Gayle’s writing. I agree. Thank you so much for participating and also for writing your blog.

  4. Well done! I couldn’t agree more with your point of view and I really admire Gayle Sulik. Although I haven’t read the book, I am a big fan of her posts as they truly resonate for me. As a Health & Wellness Coach, I really try to convey the message about “Pinkwashing” and putting your energy, actions, $, and thoughts behind a real cure including preventative measures. I am so passionate about this issue. Gayle’s summing up quote really puts it all into perspective.

    1. Judy, I’m glad to hear you are a fan of Gayle Sulik. I admire her as well for the important work she is doing. It sounds like you are doing some great work yourself! Keep it up and good luck with the drawing. Thanks so much for commenting and entering.

  5. I would love a chance to win a copy of the book! It sounds fantastic! I try to keep myself up to date on what’s going on. I have found I have to keep on top of things in order to get what I need from treatment providers.
    I’ve caught mistakes by oncologists ~such as forgetting to give me one of my medications for a couple of months until I caught it myself, giving me my very first dose of chemotherapy without any information given to me written or orally about what was happening, being told my medication was given every other month when I discovered the dose was a monthly dose. I’ve finally found an oncologist I trust who respects my active approach to my treatment. She doesn’t treat me like an idiot like the others have. She talks to me and not AT me like the other two did. I feel like I’m finally a part of my own treatment. Too bad it took about 3 years to get here!

    1. Patsy, It is important to keep up to date with what’s going on isn’t it? I agree it helps when trying to keep track of your own health care issues. I’m glad you finally found an oncologist who respects you and listens. You deserve nothing less. Yes, it is too bad it took three years. Thank you very much for entering my giveaway. I hope you read the book no matter what. Good luck!

  6. I would love to read this book. I have such a difficult time explaining to non-BC people why pinkwashing bothers me so much, and that some of the organizations that they think are doing so much good for breast cancer are actually not. I feel like this book would give me a chance to clarify my arguments so that I can present a more articulate case. Thanks for the opportunity!

    1. Carol, Boy do I understand your difficulty. Sometimes it really puts us in an awkward position doesn’t it? This book would definitely help clarify things. It did that for me. You are very welcome for the chance to win a copy and thanks so much for participating.

  7. As a breast cancer survivor who just released a book about my 2 time experience with breast cancer and how different it was from my mom’s in the 1980’s I would like to read this book so that I’m more aware of the ‘complete’ picture when I’m speaking and signing to survivor groups. Thanks for offering the book!

    1. Heather, Congratulations on releasing a book of your own, that’s great! I guess you and I have a lot in common with both of our moms having had cancer before us. I’m working on a book too. Good luck with your speaking engagements, book signings and of course sales! Thank you for entering my giveaway. I appreciate it.

    1. Beth, Thank you for letting others know your thoughts about Pink Ribbon Blues. It really was eye-opening for me and validated feelings I was having about a lot of things. It’s good to know you feel the same way.

  8. Nancy, I found your blog soon after my breast cancer diagnosis (a few months ago) and I have to say that I look forward to reading your posts. The info that you share is insightful and helpful . . . thank you! I would love to be entered to win a copy of this book. It sounds like it would be interesting to read and very informative. Thanks for offering a chance to win the book.

    1. Brenda, I’m so glad you found my blog and I really appreciate your feedback. You are very kind. I’m sorry about your diagnosis and hope you are doing well. The book is a great resource and I’m so glad you decided to enter the giveaway. Count yourself in! Good luck and thanks so much for your comments. I hope to “hear” more from you!

  9. I would love to read this book. I’m undergoing all the testing for breast cancer right now. I’ve been through the annual mammogram with the follow up phone call of “there’s a problem,” to the second mammogram, to the being ushered into the bad news room.

    I was told there’s a microcalcification lump and you need a needle biopsy. From there, I went to a breast cancer doctor who confirmed the need for the biopsy. I had the needle biopsy done and the results were mixed. The actual lump was clear, but there are atypical lobular aplaysia cells which means a surgical biopsy which means an MRI.

    I failed the first attempt at the MRI miserably because of a panic attack of claustrophobia. I made it through the second attempt with the help of a Xanax and a friend standing outside the tube holding my hand.

    Next week is pre-op and the surgical biopsy.

    And this has all occurred in the last since 10/10/11. I’ve cried more in the last 2.5 weeks than I have in the entire last 2.5 years.


    1. Paula, I am so sorry you have been dealing with all this. It’s a lot to take in and process isn’t it? Don’t feel bad about all the tears, they help with the processing. I have a post on my biopsy if you’re interested. Thank you so much for finding my blog and taking time to enter the giveaway. Please keep me posted on how things are going. I care and best of luck to you.

  10. The biopsy was benign. I am grateful. But as you know, it doesn’t end there. It’s on to a medical oncologist for risk reduction education (Tamoxifen/5 years). This taught me a lot about the intersection of theory and reality.

    1. Paula, I am so glad your biopsy was benign. Good luck with your ongoing risk education/management. None of this stuff is easy. Thanks for the update and my best to you.

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