Does Komen CEO Nancy Brinker's Resignation Matter?

What Women Really Think
Aug. 9 2012 12:19 PM

Does Nancy Brinker's Resignation Matter?

73982112
Nancy Brinker is moving on to a diminished role at Komen.

Photo by KAREN BLEIER/AFP/Getty Images

Many months after the blow-up that occurred when Susan G. Komen for the Cure caved to anti-choice pressure and cut off grants to Planned Parenthood for breast cancer screening, CEO Nancy Brinker and president Liz Thompson have decided to step down from their leadership roles in the organization. (Brinker will continue on in a different role, with an emphasis on fund-raising and strategy.) Komen did restore the grants to Planned Parenthood after the furor, but the question of whether or not they could recover from the publicity disaster lingered. They got their answer in June, when turnout for the annual fundraising race went down dramatically, by as much as a third in some cities.

So, will the resignations do much to fix Komen's woes? Doubtful. If Brinker had resigned in the midst of the uproar, it could have had an impact, but since this is eight months after the initial controversy, it's unlikely that many people will even notice. To make things worse, Republicans continue to look for other ways to attack women's access to basic reproductive health care, especially contraception. Being in the midst of a heavy political battle will make it that much harder for Komen's base, i.e. people who care about women's health issues, to worry too much about forgiving an organization that so recently betrayed them.

Advertisement

Part of why Komen is likely to fail at picking up the pieces is that the entire battle exposed some tensions in its base of support—tensions that had largely been minimized by the genuine desire of a broad coalition to fight breast cancer. Part of what made the organization such a behemoth is that Komen was able to put together the traditional supporters of women's health care, who are pro-choice and have feminist leanings, with more conservative women who had previously been afraid of the immodest implications of talking openly about breast health. They did this by pointedly desexualizing the issue in a sea of pink ribbons and teddy bears, something the more feminist supporters could ignore because of the greater good. Prior to the Planned Parenthood debacle, Komen seemed largely apolitical—not outwardly judging those of us who want comprehensive health care that includes an adult understanding that people are going to have sex. By crossing that line, they forced their supporters into a sluts vs. church ladies battle. Now the feminist side perceives the organization as swarming with prigs whose support for your health stops as soon as they know you've touched a penis, and a handful of prominent resignations can't really do much to change that. 

Amanda Marcotte is a Brooklyn-based writer and DoubleX contributor. She also writes regularly for the Daily Beast, AlterNet, and USA Today. Follow her on Twitter.

TODAY IN SLATE

Jurisprudence

Scalia’s Liberal Streak

The conservative justice’s most brilliant—and surprisingly progressive—moments on the bench.

Colorado Is Ground Zero for the Fight Over Female Voters

There’s a Way to Keep Ex-Cons Out of Prison That Pays for Itself. Why Don’t More States Use It?

The NFL Explains How It Sees “the Role of the Female”

The Music Industry Is Ignoring Some of the Best Black Women Singing R&B

Culturebox

Theo’s Joint and Vanessa’s Whiskey

No sitcom did the “Very Special Episode” as well as The Cosby Show.

Television

The Other Huxtable Effect

Thirty years ago, The Cosby Show gave us one of TV’s great feminists.

Cliff Huxtable Explains the World: Five Lessons From TV’s Greatest Dad

Why Television Needs a New Cosby Show Right Now

  News & Politics
Weigel
Sept. 18 2014 8:20 PM A Clever Attempt at Explaining Away a Vote Against the Farm Bill
  Business
Moneybox
Sept. 18 2014 6:02 PM A Chinese Company Just Announced the Biggest IPO in U.S. History
  Life
The Slate Quiz
Sept. 18 2014 11:44 PM Play the Slate News Quiz With Jeopardy! superchampion Ken Jennings.
  Double X
Doublex
Sept. 18 2014 8:07 PM Crying Rape False rape accusations exist, and they are a serious problem.
  Slate Plus
Behind the Scenes
Sept. 18 2014 1:23 PM “It’s Not Every Day That You Can Beat the World Champion” An exclusive interview with chess grandmaster Fabiano Caruana.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Sept. 18 2014 4:33 PM The Top 5 Dadsplaining Moments From The Cosby Show
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 18 2014 6:48 PM By 2100 the World's Population Could Be 11 Billion
  Health & Science
Science
Sept. 18 2014 3:35 PM Do People Still Die of Rabies? And how do you know if an animal is rabid?
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 18 2014 11:42 AM Grandmaster Clash One of the most amazing feats in chess history just happened, and no one noticed.