It’s been about two weeks since Komen-Gate. If you missed it, here’s a quick recap: The Susan G. Komen for the Cure Foundation (SGK) announced a plan to stop funding Planned Parenthood, realized a few days later that the online and live feminist community knows how to use the internet and make their opinions heard and quickly backpedaled (kinda). Some applause. Then Karen Handel, Komen’s VP for public affairs, resigned, which made some more applause, and a lot of people had a virtual high five and went out dancing and everything was a nice shade of Planned Parenthood/Susan G. Komen/uncooked hotdog pink.
A few of us, however, were hesitant about the high fiving and group shimmying. If you were thorough enough to look at the letter published by Handel about her resignation, you saw that the funding cut fiasco was hardly something that could be attributed to one VP’s contradictory “pro-life” agenda. Handel’s statement actually makes it sound like the whole company was on board. Maybe the scariest thing is this statement in particular: “…the Board specifically discussed various issues, including the need to protect our mission by ensuring we were not distracted or negatively affected by any other organization’s real or perceived challenges. No objections were made to moving forward.” Not only were Susan and her pals unwilling to stick to their guns and continue to help Planned Parenthood when they need support most, but they want to make it a consistent policy that they will not associate with or aid organizations that are undergoing “real or perceived” challenges. What?! Susan G. Komen “for the Cure” will not support any organization that could possibly, maybe be getting some bad press, regardless of the validity of what that press is saying, or the credibility of the source. Basically, as soon as someone even mentions that they might have seen you kissing some guy that your friend went on a date with at that party last weekend, Susan and her friends (and their money) are out.
All jokes aside, this is a seriously scary idea. When you work in reproductive justice, you tend to get used to people taking your words, actions and even scientific research and warping it until it can be used slanderously (and fallaciously) against you. This is, on a small scale, not always a big deal–when arguing with “pro-life” trolls, it’s usually a given and anyone who expects their discussion to be respected and not treated in such a way is, well, probably new to the game. Those conversations are frustrating, to say the very least, but are not that threatening until things like this start happening. Not only have the Komen heads started buying into the “pro-life” lies and misinformation, but they actually want to make it their policy to get out as soon as these small-scale, fallacious, rumor-spreading conversations start taking place. They are actually forming policy about avoiding glorified gossip.
I understand being upset and torn about this news. Breast cancer runs in my family, as it does in many, so it’s a pretty emotional issue for me. I really did not want to stop believing in Komen. But the truth is, this is far from the first time SGK has messed up. SGK has always contributed to the sexualization and commodification of breast cancer, which is a flat out disgusting and misogynistic thing, period. They’ve done other things that make my ethics gauge spin around a bit, like teaming up with KFC and seriously, spending time and donation money policing other people’s use of the phrase, “the cure”.
It doesn’t stop there. SGK has established ties to Tim Tebow and Donald Trump–you know, the guy who publicly prays about football and appears in anti-abortion ads and the guy that even the GOP says is too much. I mean, Komen can’t even hire someone who thinks that tweeting about how women voicing their concerns and talking about their needs should “cry them a river” is maybe not a good idea. They claim to be “for the cure”, but only 20% of the funds they raise even go to it. At this point, I have a hard time seeing how Komen could become an ethical organization that deserves the support of the people it claims to help ever, ever again.
The point is, we need to remember Komen-Gate and all of the events preceeding and following it. We need to remember our anger and our outrage and all of the truly asinine ways Komen responded to the needs and opinions of real women. Komen has and will sell women, our reproductive needs and our right to vital health care out. Firing a single representative doesn’t fix their past, present or future ethics. There are less corrupt organizations out there that actually do what Komen claims to, and they are the ones that deserve our support. I know breast cancer is a personal issue. I know how hard it is to see beyond that, and that Komen’s emotional branding is pretty effective. But our survivors and our to-be survivors deserve so much more than what SGK has given us, and it is our responsibility to not give them any more slack.
Help! Elly listened to the new Lana Del Rey album and looked at dendrochronology blogs at the same time and now she can’t get up.
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