Jane RA: Fashion Show

Jane RA was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2003 at the age of 54. An active writer, Jane wrote an essay called Fashion Show that addressed the stylishness of beast cancer survivorship. Honing in on a fashion show fundraiser for a breast cancer organization, Jane wrote about the imagery and meaning of triumphant survivorship:

“The 22 female models are, if not all young, youthful, and if not all size 10, well only one looks size 18. They smile out at us, reinforcing the stereotype of what the good breast cancer survivor must be: she smiles, she’s brave, she looks after her body, she shows a subtle cleavage, nice make up, good hair. Two blokes remind us that yes men get breast cancer too but this is essentially the girls’ night.

One model writes, as though speaking for everyone with breast cancer: “This exciting event shows friends, family and the country that surviving breast cancer is an opportunity to walk, with heads held high, onto a new platform of life.”

Oh yes says my little cynic voice…easy to say when two thirds of the models are but 2 years from diagnosis and can hardly know they are ‘survivors’ yet. Will there be a moment’s silence tonight for the dead and dying models from the last eleven shows? Or even a moment of thought for the women struggling with the hard times: failed reconstructions, painful lymphedema, loss of fertility, premature menopause, recurrences, more treatment, permanent fatigue.”

The fanfare Jane describes sets a standard that excludes people like her. In so doing, it erases her experiences and limits the viability of support within the very movement that set out to provide it.

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