When I was in grade school, my mother was diagnosed with, and recovered from, breast cancer. Two weeks before my high school graduation, after experiencing abdominal pain for about 4 months and trying to convince her doctors that something was wrong, my mom was diagnosed with Stage IV ovarian cancer. After four years of chemo, surgeries, and radiation treatments, my mom died nine days before I graduated from college.
I’ve been thinking about my mom a lot today after reading about Komen for the Cure’s decision to end their partnership with Planned Parenthood. This news certainly hits home for personal reasons—my mom and I walked in many Race for the Cure events before and after she was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. Also, cancer preventions and awareness are important to me, as the chances that I will develop one of those cancers is incredibly high.
What I keep coming back to, though, is the manipulative political rhetoric that has influenced this decision—that because Planned Parenthood provides abortions (as one of its many, many services), Komen for the Cure must be pro-choice to support everything that Planned Parenthood does.
Admittedly, I’ve been immersed in The Practices of Everyday Life for the past few days, and it has certainly influenced my thinking. de Certeau writes that “both rhetoric and everyday practices can be defined as internal manipulations of a system—that of language or that of an established order” (23-4). And in thinking about rhetoric as manipulation, of the strategies of bodies in power manipulating those without power, without place, I think of the thousands of women who will be affected by Komen for the Cure’s decision. In the ThinkProgress article I read, Marie Diamond wrote, “The charity’s decision has succeeded only in depriving low-income women of cancer screenings that could save their lives.”
With Komen’s support, Planned Parenthood has provided screenings for hundreds of thousands of low-income women and women of color. And this decision, which was pressured by powerful, conservative institutions, stinks of fear-based rhetoric that—intended or not—has serious classist and racist repercussions.
I don’t have any answers for this devastating decision, but I think it’s important to be aware of the very real repercussions that rhetoric has when manipulated by powerful institutions. More importantly, my heart hurts for the thousands of women who will be affected by this decision. Hopefully, de Certeau is right about people without institutional power finding ways to fight back.