One of the most ridiculous societal developments over the past several years has been the near sainthood status afforded women afflicted with breast cancer, of a piece with the general trend towards celebration of victimhood in every realm. The Susan G Komen Foundation, with its motto of something like “too much pink is never enough” has been the public face of the affliction, both of the disease, and of the beatification of its sufferers. Breast cancer survivors and the kin of its victims hold marches and other fundraisers. The National Football League devotes a whole month to its recognition, presenting the faintly disturbing image of hulking linebackers and tight ends accessorizing their battle gear with pink gloves, shoes and headdresses.
Victimhood is the coin of the realm in America today. There was a hilarious recent episode of ABC’s Modern Family sitcom in which the two gay guys, Cam and Mitch, were trying to adopt another baby, but were beat out by two lesbians with whom they were competing, because one of the lesbians was in a wheel chair, and was Native American. Once Cam found out about the ethnicity of the competition, he hilariously fumbled around pretending he too was Native American, talking in terse, guttural sentences like an Indian in an old cowboy and Indian movie.
The celebration of victimhood has even struck my son’s high school. He came home the other day palpably angry about a high school assembly held for Black History month. The speaker was a black girl with a disability who had lesbians for parents, none of which particularly bothered him. It was that he learned during her speech that she embraced victimhood, seeking sympathy for her disability (she had what appeared to be some congenital walking defect that required her to use crutches), her blackness, her lesbian parentage and even her gender, not allowing, but seeking that it all define her, and hoping that people would feel sorry for her. He said, “I’ve had leukemia twice, and two bone marrow transplants, but I would never get up in front of a bunch of people asking them to feel sorry for me. Yeah, she had some difficulty walking. But being black and female beats anything you could otherwise be if you’re applying for college, and she had no control over who her parents were.” He’s only a high school senior, but seems to have learned a thing or two in his troubled and painful time on the planet. Of all the emotions his struggles with leukemia have elicited from him and us, the one that we have adamantly refused to indulge is self-pity. Self-pity is perhaps the most demeaning of all emotions, but one that pampered Americans, awarded by their nanny government with benefits, and even accolades, every time the vicissitudes of life cut against them, have come to robustly embrace.
The Komen Foundation recently stirred a tempest in a teapot with its withdrawal of funding for Planned Parenthood (see Bloomberg article). Hysteria, that catch-all diagnosis once used to explain all sorts of female problems, aptly describes the reaction amongst a number of Komen and Planned Parenthood supporters. Even the mayor of New York, Michael Bloomberg, seems afflicted. Here’s what he said when pledging $250,000 to Planned Parenthood to help make up the shortfall caused by Komen’s withdrawal:
Politics has no place in health care. Breast cancer screening saves lives and hundreds of thousands of women rely on Planned Parenthood for access to care. We should be helping women access that care, not placing barriers in their way.
Politics has no place in health care? Really? Even when the vast majority of dollars spent on healthcare is provided by government entities of one sort or another? It must then be that neither does politics have any place in politics, i.e., government. How is a private organization withdrawing funding from another private organization a political act? How does doing so place barriers in the way of women accessing health care? What if there were no donations one year, so no funding of Planned Parenthood could obtain? Would the non-donees have then placed barriers in the way of health care access by women? Is it a breach of some amorphous social contract to stop donating once it is started?
The Komen Foundation is not a government organization. It is a private foundation which, within the limits of its charter, may do whatever it pleases with the money it receives. Perhaps it should be helping women access healthcare. Even so, it has the discretion to decide upon which route would best accomplish that end.
Unlike Mayor Bloomberg, who knows his constituency well, the Foundation must have a tin ear. The same people supporting the Foundation, that is, women with a generally feminist bent, or men wishing to curry favor with them, are many of the same people who believe any restrictions on female reproductive rights is hideously oppressive. For them, withdrawing support to Planned Parenthood is tantamount to restricting abortion rights.
As for me, I’m rather pleased that Komen is being hoisted on its own petard. The idea that breast cancer, or the possibility of it, should define a woman is a canard. The idea that breast cancer deserves some special consideration because of whom it afflicts is as well. The idea of conflating breast cancer support with female rights–that, too is utter nonsense. American women aren’t now and never have been a persecuted minority. In a society that no longer needs strong backs and physical stamina to succeed, American women now have every attribute required of economic success, to go along with control over reproduction that has afforded them social standing since the beginnings of time (and control over reproduction did not suddenly materialize with abortion rights). Having breasts, along with all the other organs devoted to creating and nurturing life, is a source of power, not victimhood.
The breast cancer Nazi’s supporting Komen demand that society, particularly men, feel sorry for women with breast cancer, or really for all women, because anyone with breasts is a potential victim (actually even men can get the disease). Support for Komen is the way men buy their redemption from these women. If the sheen of Komen’s cause is a bit tarnished, so much the better. I hate the pink accouterments on NFL uniforms in October anyway.
As I finished this, Komen reversed its decision. Gosh, I wonder if politics played any part in its healthcare decision.