Rethinking Women’s Advocacy

International Women’s Day feels extra inspiring this year. Coming so soon after January’s Women’s March, which saw millions participate, catching the world’s attention and filling our social media feeds, I am excited for the future. This year’s IWD theme is #BeBoldForChange and the campaign is calling on us to help make the working world a better place, a more gender inclusive place. The Women’s March organizers are calling for participation in the #ADayWithoutAWoman strike to highlight the economic power that women have and also call attention to the economic injustices women continue to face. As a feminist, I will continue to strive for gender equality.

At the same time, all this powerful marching and resistance by women, does have me reflecting on how important the early women’s movement of the ‘70s and ‘80s was to the breast cancer movement. Feminist breast cancer activists, like Barbara Brenner, who led the early breast cancer movement helped de-stigmatize this disease, promote solidarity, and provide support for those diagnosed. But they also “demanded more”—to push governments, doctors and researchers and industry to address gaps in progress against breast cancer. Feels like the time is right to shake things up in the breast cancer movement. The early advocates got angry and called b.s. where they saw b.s. And, they made change.

Many positive advances in breast cancer have been made over the past few decades. But we need more, especially for our young and metastatic women.

The past few months have been exceptionally tough. Two of our brightest stars in our community, daring and inspiring advocates for metastatic breast cancer passed away, leaving their loved ones, including very young children, as well as our community, struggling to make sense and find a way forward.

It’s clear that more needs to be done to dramatically improve the outcomes for women who get the news that their breast cancer has metastasized.

We cannot be content with tiny improvements. We need dramatic gains to raise the bar. We need to “be bold for change” in our thinking about metastatic breast cancer.

Rethink Breast Cancer strives to be positive. We want to empower women dealing with breast cancer and inspire them to work together and with us to make change. As an organization advocating to improve services and access to treatment for women with breast cancer, our approach and positioning involves coming to the table as a helpful “partner” with recommendations to Government on key issues. We are also “Rethinkers,” what the marketing gurus call a “disruptive” or “challenger” brand. And in the way the Women’s March channels a spirit of love, freedom and unity in order to challenge issues that threaten and hurt, especially the most marginalized, there is an opportunity for this approach in the breast cancer community.

Women with metastatic breast cancer have often felt marginalized by the broader survivor movement.

I see that changing as awareness of metastatic breast cancer increases. Women with several years of survivorship are putting aside their own deep fears regarding their health and are reaching out to support those who are dealing with recurrences and metastasis.

To solve the problem of metastatic breast cancer, we need the entire breast cancer community involved and engaged in the issues.

I will be engrossed in today’s activities for International Women’s Day and, as with almost everything I do, I will be looking for lessons and inspiration to bring back to Rethink Breast Cancer.

For more information or to get involved with our metastatic work click here.          

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#YWBC Profile: Sylvia Soo
50 Carroll Street Toronto, Ontario Canada M4M 3G3
Phone: 416 220 0700
Registered Charity #: 892176116RR0001

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