Thursday, February 9, 2012

Komen Redux

"Women felt betrayed and they had the tools and presence to do something about it." - Joanne Bamberger
Joanne Bamberger, better known as PunditMom, has written an excellent article that really encapsulates the whole debacle that is the meltdown of Susan G. Komen for the Cure.  The organization is probably finished, by her reckoning, for some very important reasons:

…I'm sure Komen never thought in a million years that women would react as viscerally as they have. And that's why the Komen Foundation is probably finished, because they misjudged their constituency...  
But the real story in this whole fiasco is one that most have missed -- the role that women in online and social media had, and continue to have, in bringing attention to a story that Komen must have believed would go relatively unnoticed because the amount of money involved was such a small portion of Planned Parenthood's annual budget.
Though I have been blogging for a relatively short-time, it's quickly become apparent to me that the internet is one big Oprah network; it's ruled in large part by women. There is a site for everything a woman could want or need. There are 15,001 mommy bloggers, mommy political bloggers (me for one), women's health bloggers, fashion and gossip bloggers; you name it, if you're a woman, there is something for you. And these women know how to advocate for causes they believe in.

The fight against breast cancer is supremely personal to most women in a way many other causes are not. A true sisterhood was born around this one medical issue and the bonds of that sisterhood have only grown and become stronger over time. Women across the country have come together in support of each other to raise awareness for the need to fund the research for a breast cancer cure. We've walked together in pink t-shirts and we've taken money out of otherwise tight family budgets to donate to "the cure."
This sisterhood exists not only in real life, but in the virtual world, as well. And as anyone who is the least bit social media savvy knows, women rule online spaces. In the last few years, those women have created powerful brands and successful businesses out of knowing how to leverage those tools for maximum effect. How any organization could have failed to foresee that tech-savvy women, who are the same ones who've been their primary supporters, wouldn't use those same tools to fight back on behalf of loved ones who need the screening and preventive care services Planned Parenthood offers, is about the biggest corporate communications failure I've witnessed for a long time.
As I mentioned earlier, I received so many articles, petitions, and angry posts on Facebook about this issue that I couldn't escape - - unless I turned Facebook off completely. What Bamberger makes emphatic is that women don't like it when their lives are used as political fodder. The Komen foundation's decision came off as if it was using the discontinuation of grants to Planned Parenthood JUST to satisfy a political agenda. This is what really ticked women off; it didn't matter how much money the grant was for.

Kelli Goff at gave us 7 lessons learned from this fiasco. Here's what I think is perhaps the most important lesson of those she lists:
6. Women's health is not a women's issue.Women's health issues are often talked about in the media and in the world of politics as if they only matter to women. But for every female activist, legislator and voter whose life has been touched by a gender specific health scare, be it breast cancer or a high-risk pregnancy, there is a man whose life they have touched. Many of those men came out in full force this week, among them Mayor Michael Bloomberg whose $250,000 matching pledge to Planned Parenthood inspired the Livestrong Foundation, founded by cycling legend and cancer-survivor Lance Anrmstrong, to pledge $100,000 to the organization. 
And that's brings us to the real point:  This was not a woman's issue, this was a human issue. A breast cancer survivor is not just a woman but a daughter, a sister, a mother, a cousin, a co-worker, a grandmother, or even just a friend. These are human relationships not defined solely by gender or age.  Everyone is touched by this issue.

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