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“Pink Ribbon Blues” by Gayle Sulik – My Review

Pink Ribbon Blues by Gayle Sulik, my review.

Everywhere you look during October, along with the changing color of leaves, 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?

About Gayle Sulik:

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.


Friday 11th of November 2011

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.


Friday 11th of November 2011

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.


Saturday 29th of October 2011

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.



Saturday 29th of October 2011

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.


Friday 28th of October 2011

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.


Friday 28th of October 2011

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!

Beth L. Gainer

Wednesday 26th of October 2011

I already have the book, and I'm just emphasizing how true your review is, and simply how wonderful the book is. I hope someone who doesn't have the book wins it.


Wednesday 26th of October 2011

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.


Wednesday 26th of October 2011

I would love to win a copy of the book. Sounds like a good one!


Wednesday 26th of October 2011

Lindsay, It really is a good one. Thanks for commenting and entering the giveaway!

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