Saturday, February 18, 2012

When Optimism Isn't Enough: Pink Ribbon Blues

Pink Ribbon Blues:  How Breast Cancer Culture Undermines Women's Health
Gayle Sulik
Oxford University Press, 2011
ISBN: 978-0-19-974045-1
402 pages

Pink Ribbon Blues is a difficult book to read, but I'd like to see it become required reading for any student in sociology. Gayle Sulik has taken some brave steps to bring into focus, not only a sacred cow, but the elephant in the room -- corporatization reaching even into one of our most well respected charity organizations.

Every chapter has well-researched and copious footnotes. For those of us used to reading books that let us look through someone else's eyes and hear the stories of individuals told, it does seem a bit on the cold academic side, but the picture that emerges as the book goes on is far more chilling. I believe all the documentation in this case is critically important, because when an author takes on a non-profit not only with some serious political and socially well-connected associates, but with a host of high-powered corporate sponsors and donors, she needs to have her facts straight.

Pink Ribbon Blues describes an environment that is disturbingly similar to “regulatory capture,” a situation in which corporations become very close to those who regulate them, in an attempt to keep from being too closely watched. The increasing popularity of the highly visible “Race for the Cure” and the “pink ribbon culture” that it has spawned, provides a platform, as well as a huge potential market, for corporate, medical, and pharmaceutical interests. It seems that “pink ribbon culture” may be slowly mutating into a culture that could be harmful to patients and survivors of breast cancer.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

The Values of Harry Potter: Lessons for Muggles

The Values of Harry Potter: Lessons for Muggles (expanded edition)
by Ari Armstrong
Ember Publishing, Denver, CO - 2011

Warning:  If you have not read all the books, there are major plot spoilers, so you might want to at least see the movies first if you prefer to be surprised; that will also help to fully understand all the points made in this book.

Much as I hate to admit it, when the Harry Potter books came out, I had my nose deep into hard sci-fi books, and was steadfastly ignoring anything that could have been classed as “fantasy.” For me, the first mention of Harry Potter was in the trailer for the first movie. The books “from across the pond” were wildly popular in England, and even before the movie was in theaters here, fantasy fans in the US were out there standing in long lines at the bookstores whenever a new book arrived.