Table of Con­tents | Arti­cle doi: 10.17742/IMAGE.BR.11.1.8 | PDF

Running for the Future: Reproductive Futurity in Canadian Breast Cancer Survivorship Discourse

Rachael Pack
Abstract: This arti­cle crit­i­cal­ly exam­ines the pro­lif­er­a­tion of images of youth­ful breast-can­cer sur­vivors with­in Cana­di­an Breast Can­cer Foundation’s (CBCF) pro­mo­tion­al mate­ri­als, expli­cat­ing how such images of sur­vivor­ship are inex­tri­ca­bly tied up with the (re)production of gen­der, sex­u­al, tem­po­ral, and cit­i­zen­ship norms. Focus­ing specif­i­cal­ly on the 2013 Run for the Future cam­paign, I trace how the fig­ure of the pre­pu­bes­cent child and nar­ra­tives of emerg­ing (hetero)sexuality oper­ate to project a vision of the future, which is marked by the inevitabil­i­ty of both breast can­cer and frac­tured nuclear fam­i­lies. I con­sid­er how such imag­i­na­tions of an unsta­ble future are mobi­lized to pro­mote par­tic­i­pa­tion in the Run for the Cure (the phil­an­thropic event pro­mot­ed by CBCF’s mul­ti­me­dia cam­paign). Draw­ing on insights from queer the­o­ry, I high­light how the youth­ful sur­vivor sub­ject is embed­ded with­in a dis­course of repro­duc­tive futu­ri­ty in which her nascent cit­i­zen­ship is inex­tri­ca­ble from her pro­ject­ed moth­er­hood and het­ero­sex­u­al­i­ty. I sug­gest that the cam­paign con­structs breast can­cer as a dis­ease that threat­ens the integri­ty and con­tin­u­ance of the het­ero­sex­u­al, nuclear fam­i­ly, and thus con­sti­tutes an unavoid­able risk that must be addressed by cit­i­zens in the name of the future. Ulti­mate­ly, I argue that par­tic­i­pa­tion in the Run for the Cure is styled not as a strat­e­gy to pro­tect girls and future women, but rather to safe­guard an imag­ined, desired het­ero­sex­u­al future.
Resume : Cet arti­cle exam­ine de façon cri­tique la pro­liféra­tion d’images de jeunes sur­vivantes du can­cer du sein par­mi les doc­u­ments de la Cana­di­an Breast Can­cer Foun­da­tion (CBCF), et explique com­ment de telles images de survie sont inex­tri­ca­ble­ment liées à la repro­duc­tion des normes de genre, de sex­u­al­ité, de tem­po­ral­ité et de citoyen­neté. En me con­cen­trant surtout sur la cam­pagne Run for the Future de 2013, je retrace com­ment l’image de l’enfant prépub­ère et les réc­its d’(hétéro)sexualité nais­sante agis­sent pour pro­jeter une vision du futur qui est mar­quée à la fois par l’inévitabilité du can­cer du sein et par celle de la frac­tura­tion de la famille nucléaire. J’étudie com­ment ces images d’un futur pré­caire sont employées pour encour­ager la par­tic­i­pa­tion à la cam­pagne Run for the Cure (un événe­ment phil­an­thropique par­rainé par la cam­pagne mul­ti­mé­dia de la CBCF). A la lumière de la théorie Queer, je souligne com­ment le sujet de la jeune sur­vivante s’inscrit dans un dis­cours de futu­rité repro­duc­tive dans lequel la citoyen­neté nais­sante est insé­para­ble­ment liée aux attentes de sa mater­nité et son hétéro­sex­u­al­ité. Je sug­gère que la cam­pagne présente le can­cer du sein comme une mal­adie qui men­ace l’intégrité et la survie de la famille nucléaire hétéro­sex­uelle et con­stitue ain­si un risque inévitable auquel les citoyens doivent faire face au nom du futur. Finale­ment, j’avance que la par­tic­i­pa­tion à Run for the Cure est représen­tée non pas comme une stratégie des­tinée à pro­téger les filles et futures femmes, mais plutôt pour sauve­g­arder un futur hétéro­sex­uel imag­iné et souhaité.


I’m proud of my daugh­ter. As a tod­dler, she was strong and con­fi­dent, so of course, when she was a teenag­er, we argued a lot (sigh)… But she grew into this woman who could accom­plish any­thing. Now, it’s my turn to be strong for her. Now that she has breast can­cer. I’m run­ning for my daugh­ter. (God­sall and Diller, “Delia”)

This pas­sage, from a 2013 pro­mo­tion­al video for Cana­di­an Breast Can­cer Foundation’s (CBCF) annu­al CIBC Run for the Cure, may appear at first to be unre­mark­able, sim­i­lar even to the dozens of pub­lic nar­ra­tives about breast can­cer and phil­an­thropic giv­ing that we encounter. How­ev­er, Delia—the nar­ra­tor at the heart of this drama—is remark­able; she is a child. The adver­tise­ment col­laps­es time and asks the view­er to imag­ine pre-teen Delia’s future as a moth­er with a daugh­ter of her own, a daugh­ter that has breast can­cer. Delia speaks in a soft, dis­tinct­ly child­like voice of a future—her future—that has not yet been real­ized with a chill­ing cer­tain­ty; her daugh­ter will have breast can­cer. In response to this unknow­able truth, Delia pledges to par­tic­i­pate in the Run for the Cure and to do her part, as a moth­er and a cit­i­zen, to bring a “future with­out breast can­cer” into being.

Fig­ure 1, Delia

I came across Delia and her impos­si­ble nar­ra­tive of moth­er­hood and civic par­tic­i­pa­tion while con­duct­ing my doc­tor­al research, which traced how breast-can­cer sur­vivor­ship dis­course oper­ates to shape and rein­force our ideas about what it means to be a woman and respon­si­ble cit­i­zen. While my study was con­cerned with the dis­cur­sive con­struc­tion of adult breast-can­cer sur­vivor sub­jec­tiv­i­ties, I found that chil­dren fig­ured promi­nent­ly in the phil­an­thropic texts pro­duced by the CBCF. While chil­dren were fre­quent­ly present in my archive of texts, none of them were quite like Delia. These chil­dren were silent fig­ures, more objects than actors. Their phys­i­cal and rela­tion­al prox­im­i­ty to their moth­ers was designed to draw on the heart­strings of view­ers and remind them that the breast-can­cer sur­vivors at the heart of these adver­tise­ments were first and fore­most moth­ers. So, imag­ine my sur­prise when Delia spoke of her­self as an agentic—if impossible—subject. This dis­crepant text demand­ed investigation.

Delia’s video is part of a 2013 video and print cam­paign unit­ed under the slo­gan “Run for the Future.” Each of the 8 print and video adver­tise­ments in this series fea­tures a child who speaks in the voice of their future adult self about their het­ero­sex­u­al fam­i­ly that has been dis­rupt­ed by the breast-can­cer diag­no­sis of a daugh­ter or wife. This dis­ori­ent­ing cam­paign is orga­nized around a vision of the future that is sus­pend­ed in a com­plex tem­po­ral arrange­ment that blurs the bound­aries of the future and the present. The tem­po­ral ambi­gu­i­ty thread­ed through the cam­paign oper­ates as a pow­er­ful dis­cur­sive strat­e­gy that unset­tles the view­er and appeals to their sense of moral­i­ty and respon­si­ble cit­i­zen­ship. While both types of child figures—the silent and the speaking—are invoked in breast-can­cer phil­an­thropic dis­course to con­struct par­tic­i­pa­tion as a moral imper­a­tive, the mean­ing attached to each of these fig­ures is pro­found­ly different.

In this arti­cle, I take the fig­ure of the speak­ing child fea­tured in the 2013 Run for the Future cam­paign as the object of my ana­lyt­ic atten­tion. Draw­ing on insights from queer the­o­ry, I trace how the fig­ure of the pre­pu­bes­cent child and their nar­ra­tive of emerg­ing (hetero)sexuality oper­ates to project a vision of the future, which is marked by the inevitabil­i­ty of both breast can­cer and frac­tured nuclear fam­i­lies. I con­sid­er how such imag­i­na­tions of the future of the Cana­di­an nation state are mobi­lized to pro­mote both par­tic­i­pa­tion in the phil­an­thropic event and repro­duc­tive futu­ri­ty. In explor­ing the tem­po­ral dimen­sions of this unique sur­vivor­ship dis­course, I high­light how the youth­ful sur­vivor sub­ject is embed­ded with­in a dis­course of repro­duc­tive futu­ri­ty in which her nascent cit­i­zen­ship is inex­tri­ca­ble from her pro­ject­ed moth­er­hood and het­ero­sex­u­al­i­ty. I sug­gest that the cam­paign con­structs breast can­cer as a dis­ease that threat­ens the integri­ty and con­tin­u­ance of the het­ero­sex­u­al, nuclear fam­i­ly, and thus con­sti­tutes an unavoid­able risk that must be addressed by cit­i­zens in the name of the future. Ulti­mate­ly, I argue that par­tic­i­pa­tion in the Run for the Cure, in this cam­paign, is styled not as a strat­e­gy to pro­tect girls and future women, but rather to safe­guard an imag­ined, desired het­ero­sex­u­al future.

Breast-Cancer Philanthropy

The Run for the Future cam­paign is sit­u­at­ed with­in the con­text of the North Amer­i­can breast-can­cer phil­an­thropy, a thriv­ing form of health-con­sumer activism that calls upon cor­po­ra­tions and pri­vate cit­i­zens to address the prob­lem of breast can­cer through the dona­tion of mon­ey and time and the pur­chase of spon­sored prod­ucts (King 46). The unprece­dent­ed suc­cess of these char­i­ta­ble cam­paigns and the phil­an­thropic orga­ni­za­tions behind them—most notably the Amer­i­can Susan G. Komen Foun­da­tion and the Cana­di­an Breast Can­cer Foundation—are in large part due to the cheer­ful, opti­mistic pink imagery that has become an inex­tri­ca­ble part of breast-can­cer cul­ture (Ehren­re­ich 47). This pinkwash­ing has ren­dered breast can­cer as a palat­able dis­ease and a cause that is “bliss­ful­ly with­out con­tro­ver­sy” (Gold­man 70). Pinkwash­ing and the relent­less hope and opti­mism thread­ed through phil­an­thropic cam­paigns has effec­tive­ly trans­formed breast can­cer into a “rite of pas­sage” and a “nor­mal mark­er in the life cycle, like menopause or grey­ing hair” (Ehren­re­ich 48). The unre­mark­a­bil­i­ty of breast can­cer is par­tic­u­lar­ly dan­ger­ous, as it oper­ates to con­strain women’s pos­si­bil­i­ties for action by dele­git­imiz­ing respons­es of anger, dis­trust, and crit­i­cal engage­ment and rein­forc­ing both tra­di­tion­al fem­i­nin­i­ty and pater­nal­is­tic rela­tion­ships with bio­med­i­cine (Dubri­wny 50).

Breast-can­cer phil­an­thropy and mass-par­tic­i­pa­tion events like the Run for the Cure have come to occu­py a sig­nif­i­cant place in North-Amer­i­can breast-can­cer cul­ture and play a key role in shap­ing pub­lic per­cep­tions of the dis­ease. These events have also trans­formed the land­scape of breast-can­cer research, gen­er­at­ing tens of mil­lions of dol­lars each year for cure-ori­ent­ed bio­med­ical research (Sulik 12). While cor­po­rate spon­sor­ship sup­port­ed the cre­ation of a mul­ti-bil­lion-dol­lar, breast-can­cer research indus­try, this promi­nence has come at a high cost—namely its activist poten­tial. Maya Gold­en­berg argues that, while con­tem­po­rary breast-can­cer activism and cure-ori­ent­ed fundrais­ing cam­paigns appear on the sur­face to be con­cerned with improv­ing the con­di­tions for women’s health, these main­stream cam­paigns actu­al­ly oper­ate to sup­port and rein­force the sta­tus-quo through an “unques­tion­ing sup­port of the med­ical mod­el” (151). In effect, the cur­rent state of breast-can­cer orga­niz­ing restricts women’s field of pos­si­bil­i­ties for par­tic­i­pa­tion and action to the con­sumer realm and the pur­chas­ing of sup­pos­ed­ly social­ly con­scious prod­ucts (King 46). Such acts of con­sumerism are framed as activism, and mean­ing­ful pro­duc­tive ways to address the prob­lem of breast can­cer, and thus have become cen­tral com­po­nents of respon­si­ble cit­i­zen­ship (Gold­en­berg 158).

Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation

The CBCF, found­ed in 1986, is cur­rent­ly the largest char­i­ta­ble fun­der of breast-can­cer research in Cana­da. In con­cert with its cor­po­rate spon­sor, the Cana­di­an Impe­r­i­al Bank of Com­merce (CIBC), CBCF has orga­nized and admin­is­trat­ed the Run for the Cure since 1992. Over the years, the Run for the Cure has become the largest, sin­gle-day, vol­un­teer-run breast-can­cer fundrais­ing event in Cana­da. The Run is cur­rent­ly held in 63 com­mu­ni­ties across Cana­da and attract­ed 97,040 par­tic­i­pants in 2016, rais­ing over 17 mil­lion dol­lars (“About the CIBC Run”). Since the inau­gur­al event in 1992, the Run for the Cure has main­tained a strong pub­lic pres­ence, through wide­spread adver­tis­ing cam­paigns (e.g., through web­sites, bill­boards, bus-shel­ter ads, tele­vi­sion, YouTube, Face­book, and so on) that call for aware­ness and fundrais­ing. The wide­ly pop­u­lar Run for the Cure and the CBCF remain the most pub­lic and rec­og­niz­able face of breast can­cer in Canada.

In my larg­er study, I illus­trat­ed how CBCF pro­mo­tion­al mate­ri­als over the past decade have almost exclu­sive­ly rep­re­sent­ed breast-can­cer sur­vivors as young, beau­ti­ful women, and often moth­ers (Pack). I argued that this intense focus on youth and vital­i­ty pro­duced the fig­ure of the Uni­ver­sal Woman At-Risk, who func­tions as a sym­bol of nation­al urgency and con­structs breast can­cer as prob­lem that must be respond­ed to with con­spic­u­ous acts of per­son­al gen­eros­i­ty. I sug­gest­ed that the pro­lif­er­a­tion of images of young, seem­ing­ly healthy breast-can­cer sur­vivors enact­ed a cul­tur­al dis­ar­ma­ment, dis­rupt­ing the idea that youth is a time of pro­tec­tion from dis­ease and that the cul­ti­va­tion of health offers a pro­tec­tive shield against the dis­ease. This dis­cur­sive sev­er­ing of youth from the expec­ta­tion of health inter­rupts cul­tur­al con­cep­tions of the life course, enabling the pos­si­bil­i­ty of dis­ease, dis­abil­i­ty, and death to punc­ture the every­day. More sim­ply put, the broad­er archive of CBCF texts address all women as sur­vivors and pre­sumes the emer­gence of the dis­ease in their future. Counter to pub­lic-health nar­ra­tives of risk reduc­tion (Con­way et al. 758), the dis­ease is fig­ured as entire­ly inescapable. This strat­e­gy of address under­pins the cen­tral mar­ket­ing strat­e­gy of the CBCF and is also vis­i­ble in the Run for the Future campaign.

This notion of uni­ver­sal vul­ner­a­bil­i­ty is cen­tral to my read­ing of the Run for the Future cam­paign. Through its col­laps­ing of time, the adver­tise­ments in this series fur­ther expands the field of breast-can­cer sur­vivor­ship to incor­po­rate women and girls who have yet to come into matu­ri­ty or exis­tence, pre­de­ter­min­ing their dis­eased futures. This is high­ly vis­i­ble in Delia’s pre­dic­tion of her own daughter’s present/future diag­no­sis. The tem­po­ral expan­sion that enables Delia to be simul­ta­ne­ous­ly a child and moth­er of an adult daugh­ter is made pos­si­ble through the queer­ing of time, in which both her and her daughter’s future have already been desta­bi­lized by civic neglect of their repro­duc­tive futur­ism. Time, in this sense, is more than the orga­nized pas­sage of min­utes and hours; it is a social­ly con­struct­ed sys­tem that oper­ates to reg­u­late, direct, and com­pel bod­ies towards particular—“normal”—ends (Free­man 18), which the adver­tise­ments sug­gest civic inac­tion has already com­pro­mised, lead­ing to “queer” dead ends. Adopt­ing this notion of “queer time”—as time that has been direct­ed away from repro­duc­tive ends—enables a crit­i­cal exam­i­na­tion of the tem­po­ral tra­jec­to­ries and ori­en­ta­tions in which the orat­ing child and their pre-dis­eased loved one are impli­cat­ed, fur­ther reveal­ing the sub­tle and com­plex ways that breast-can­cer sur­vivor sub­jec­tiv­i­ty is pro­duced and towards what ends.

Chrononormative Narratives

The tem­po­ral tra­jec­to­ry that under­lies the nar­ra­tive in the video adver­tise­ment Sean is decid­ed­ly nor­ma­tive. Sean fea­tures a young blonde-haired boy sit­ting on a swing in a park. Gaz­ing intent­ly at the view­er he states:

I love my wife. We met in fourth year on cam­pus. It was love at first sight; she’d say sec­ond sight. We got mar­ried not too long after grad­u­a­tion. Last Octo­ber we got the bad news. The doc­tor found a lump in her breast. I’m run­ning for my wife (God­sall and Diller, “Sean”).

Sean’s nar­ra­tion of an antic­i­pat­ed future in the present, like Delia’s, pro­duces a dis­ori­en­tat­ing tem­po­ral­i­ty. The first por­tion of his nar­ra­tive maps neat­ly onto an ide­al­ized, antic­i­pa­to­ry life tra­jec­to­ry marked by het­ero­sex­u­al romance, advanced edu­ca­tion, and fam­i­ly for­ma­tion. This tra­jec­to­ry is reflec­tive of the dreams and aspi­ra­tions that many Cana­di­an par­ents and fam­i­lies hold for their children—the repro­duc­tion of the nuclear, het­ero­sex­u­al fam­i­ly and the cul­ti­va­tion of a mid­dle-class life.

Fig­ure 2, Sean

While the desire to cul­ti­vate a time­line such as Sean’s may appear to be nat­ur­al, this “nat­u­ral­ness” is an effect of the social­ly con­struct­ed rhythms of time that work to shape bod­ies into forms that syn­chro­nize with larg­er struc­tur­al and polit­i­cal goals (i.e., cap­i­tal­ism), thus enabling cit­i­zens to par­tic­i­pate in dom­i­nant forms of social­i­ty (Free­man 18). As an effect of chrononor­ma­tiv­i­ty (Free­man 5), bod­ies, like Sean’s, that can ease into the desired tem­po are incor­po­rat­ed into the fab­ric of dom­i­nant cul­ture and ren­dered intel­li­gi­ble cit­i­zens. This nor­ma­tive time­line, in turn, binds bod­ies to the rhythm of cap­i­tal­ism and het­ero­nor­ma­tive notions of the nuclear fam­i­ly and repro­duc­tion. Chrononor­ma­tiv­i­ty extends beyond the lev­el of indi­vid­ual and infil­trates the nation­al, pro­duc­ing a chrono­biopo­lit­i­cal soci­ety in which the state and its insti­tu­tions fuse dis­ci­plined bod­ies to nar­ra­tives of progress and tele­o­log­i­cal strate­gies of liv­ing, such as mar­riage, repro­duc­tion, and the accu­mu­la­tion of wealth (Luciano 9). To this effect, Eliz­a­beth Free­man argues that, “in the eyes of the state, the sequence of socioe­co­nom­i­cal­ly ‘pro­duc­tive’ moments is what it means to have a life at all” (5).

The align­ment of the first act of Sean’s narrative—heterosexual love, post-sec­ondary edu­ca­tion, and marriage—with the val­ues of the Cana­di­an, chrono­biopo­lit­i­cal state ren­ders him as an intel­li­gi­ble cit­i­zen. It is through his par­tic­i­pa­tion in these tele­o­log­i­cal strate­gies that he and his unnamed wife come to mat­ter to the view­er and the nation. It is pre­cise­ly Sean’s pro­duc­tiv­i­ty that makes the dis­rup­tion of his antic­i­pat­ed life course trag­ic. The emer­gence of breast can­cer and the pos­si­bil­i­ty of los­ing his wife to the dis­ease threat­en to sev­er his chrononor­ma­tive life tra­jec­to­ry. This tragedy, how­ev­er, is made queer by the col­lapsed tem­po­ral­i­ty of Sean’s nar­ra­tive. Sean, a child, is faced with the prospect of los­ing his wife, with whom he fell in “love with at first sight,” years before he will meet her (God­sall and Diller, “Sean”). His fairy-tale, cam­pus romance and het­ero­sex­u­al fam­i­ly are at risk before they can ever be real­ized. This pre-emp­tive inter­rup­tion of Sean’s future has two impor­tant dis­cur­sive effects. First, the pre­sen­ta­tion of his name­less wife’s breast-can­cer diag­no­sis as pre-deter­mined reflects the incor­po­ra­tion of all women and girls (refig­ured as latent sur­vivors) into the expand­ed field of breast-can­cer sur­vivor­ship. Sec­ond, the cur­tail­ing of Sean’s (re)productive time­line is made polit­i­cal­ly com­pelling through his child body, con­struct­ing finan­cial and civic sup­port of the CBCF as a moral imperative.

The Agentic Child

The dri­ving force in the dra­ma of breast can­cer in the cam­paign is the child at risk of an inter­rupt­ed future. It is the plight of the child and poten­tial cur­tail­ment of their nor­ma­tive life course that sig­nals the urgent need for civic action and pub­lic gen­eros­i­ty. The cen­tral­i­ty of "the Child", the fig­ure the dri­ves this cam­paign, is reflec­tive of the “repro­duc­tive futur­ism” that Lee Edel­man asserts under­pins the heart of het­ero­nor­ma­tive cul­ture and pol­i­tics in the West­ern world (21). Repro­duc­tive futu­ri­ty and its inten­sive focus on the Child facil­i­tates the repro­duc­tion of soci­ety itself with­out dif­fer­ence and, in so doing, upholds and repro­duces gen­der, cit­i­zen­ship, sex­u­al, and tem­po­ral norms (Edel­man 21). Of course, the Child invoked in this cam­paign is fig­u­ra­tive rather than “real.” The adver­tise­ments Delia and Sean do not call for pub­lic invest­ment in the futures of either child or their future fam­i­lies; it is the future itself that requires invest­ment. This polit­i­cal symbol—the Child—is a place­hold­er for the future and its inno­cence; adult cit­i­zens are charged with the respon­si­bil­i­ty of ensur­ing its pro­tec­tion. This respon­si­bil­i­ty to safe­guard the Child and the next gen­er­a­tion of inno­cence is inte­gral to repro­duc­tive futu­ri­ty. From stand­point of het­ero­nor­ma­tiv­i­ty, aban­don­ing the Child is akin to embrac­ing the death dri­ve (Edel­man 27).

The audi­ence addressed by the Run for the Future cam­paign, how­ev­er, is already accused of aban­don­ing the Child. Their neglect and civic inac­tion has neces­si­tat­ed this queer col­lapse of time and the death­ly accel­er­a­tion of the child’s life course. The jar­ring jux­ta­po­si­tion of child­hood inno­cence and the respon­si­bil­i­ties of secure cit­i­zen­ship and repro­duc­tive futu­ri­ty are vis­i­ble in the print ad Eli­jah. The adver­tise­ment fea­tures a young, black boy with wear­ing a slate gray t-shirt. Below his relaxed, half-smil­ing face, the bold state­ment, “I’M RUNNING FOR MY WIFE” is print­ed in white, child­like font.

Fig­ure 3, Eli­jah

This white font lays bare the col­lapse of Elijah’s child­hood inno­cence, adult agency, and (hetero)sexuality brought about by the lack of phil­an­thropic effort. He, a child made respon­si­ble before his time, is left to take up the role of pro­tect­ing the future through civic par­tic­i­pa­tion. This text at once admon­ish­es the nar­cis­sism and irre­spon­si­bil­i­ty of Cana­di­an cit­i­zens for their fail­ure to invest in the future and acknowl­edges the nascent sex­u­al­i­ty and agency of chil­dren. We, the view­ers, are asked to sus­pend dis­be­lief and view the chil­dren simul­ta­ne­ous­ly as inno­cent, non-sex­u­al beings in need of our pro­tec­tion, and as active par­tic­i­pants in pol­i­tics exer­cis­ing agency in the name of their own futu­ri­ty. In so doing, the text pro­duces a strange form of queer time that is appro­pri­at­ed and deployed towards het­ero­nor­ma­tive ends. But what remains is the fleet­ing ephemera of child­hood agency and sex­u­al­i­ty; these traces offer queer pos­si­bil­i­ties that might sub­vert or at least com­pli­cate the log­ic of repro­duc­tive futu­ri­ty and the imag­ined Cana­di­an state.

In con­trast to these fleet­ing pos­si­bil­i­ties, the het­ero­nor­ma­tive con­ser­vatism of the cam­paign is laid bare in the absence of the woman for whom the Child pledges to run. Name­less, face­less, she is spec­tral survivor—a mere idea, rather than a per­son wor­thy of invest­ment. Strik­ing­ly, per­son­al gen­eros­i­ty and par­tic­i­pa­tion in the Run for the Cure are dis­ar­tic­u­lat­ed from any sense of anger or injus­tice at women’s suf­fer­ing, the high rate of breast-can­cer diag­noses, and the dev­as­tat­ing effects of bio­med­ical treat­ments on women’s bod­ies and lives. In oth­er words, the diag­noses of (future) wives and daugh­ters in the cam­paign are not made trag­ic because women them­selves are suf­fer­ing, but rather because of the poten­tial sev­er­ance of their nuclear fam­i­ly and their repro­duc­tive pos­si­bil­i­ties. Suf­fer­ing, in this cam­paign, is artic­u­lat­ed through con­cerns about the poten­tial effects of the dis­ease on the nuclear fam­i­ly. In this con­struc­tion, women’s lives come to mat­ter sole­ly through their inti­mate, repro­duc­tive con­nec­tions to oth­ers. In this con­text, par­tic­i­pa­tion in the Run for the Cure can be read as a cit­i­zen­ship prac­tice that artic­u­lates one’s com­mit­ment to the nation by pro­tect­ing and pre­serv­ing both women’s tra­di­tion­al roles (i.e., as moth­ers and wives) and the nuclear family—the site through which new cit­i­zens are pro­duced and nurtured.

A Universal Child

The chil­dren fea­tured in the Run for the Future cam­paign appear in all respects to be ordi­nary; there is noth­ing remark­able about their appear­ance. Their cloth­ing, styling, bod­ies, and loca­tions (i.e., bed­room, park, and so on) are all reflec­tive of child­hood. Their ordi­nary appear­ance tem­pers their adult-like pat­terns of speech and the con­tent of their impos­si­ble nar­ra­tive. Tak­en togeth­er, the chil­dren read as uncan­ny; they are strange and yet famil­iar. The unset­tling ordi­nar­i­ness of these chil­dren is by design, as Stock­ton argues that “nor­ma­tive strange­ness” is cen­tral to the Child and accounts for its entan­gle­ment of white­ness and mid­dle-class sen­si­bil­i­ties. This entan­gle­ment sig­nals inno­cence: as Stock­ton reminds us, “it is a priv­i­lege to need to be pro­tect­ed and thus have a child­hood” (514).

Although the Child is often imag­ined to be white and mid­dle-class, the chil­dren fea­tured with­in this cam­paign are racial­ly diverse. While Delia and Eli­jah are visu­al­ly non-white, their nar­ra­tives of het­ero­sex­u­al mar­riage and repro­duc­tion align neat­ly with that of Sean. Any dif­fer­ence pro­duced by the racial diver­si­ty of the chil­dren is thus obscured by the (re)productive tele­o­log­i­cal mark­ers that pep­per their nar­ra­tives. The uni­form time­line that runs through their sto­ries sug­gests that dif­fer­ence is per­mis­si­ble as long as it fits with­in the chrono­biopo­lit­i­cal order. This sen­ti­ment maps neat­ly onto the Cana­di­an nation­al myth of diver­si­ty, inclu­sion, and equal­i­ty for all. Echo­ing Jose Munoz, this sin­gle nar­ra­tive sug­gests that the only “sov­er­eign princes of futu­ri­ty” are those that can syn­chro­nize their bod­ies and lives to matchup with a nor­ma­tive time­line (95).

The unre­mark­able appear­ance of Delia, Sean, and Eli­jah and the sig­nals of mid­dle-class white­ness present in their nar­ra­tive trans­form them into a com­pelling visu­al place­hold­er for the “aver­age” Cana­di­an child. Effec­tive­ly, Delia, Eli­jah, and Sean sig­nal a “uni­ver­sal child”: a fig­ure that com­mu­ni­cates ubiq­ui­tous vul­ner­a­bil­i­ty to breast can­cer and sug­gests that no one is safe from the poten­tial­ly dev­as­tat­ing effects of the dis­ease. This uni­ver­sal fig­ure also func­tions to incor­po­rate both male and female chil­dren into the field of breast-can­cer sur­vivor­ship, high­light­ing their mutu­al vul­ner­a­bil­i­ty. While female chil­dren are ren­dered vul­ner­a­ble through their bodies—the even­tu­al sites for dis­ease emergence—male chil­dren are made vul­ner­a­ble through their assumed inti­mate con­nec­tions to their future female part­ners. Sig­nif­i­cant­ly, what are made vul­ner­a­ble in this con­fig­u­ra­tion are not so much the bod­ies of girls and future women, but the sta­bil­i­ty and con­tin­u­ance of the struc­ture of the het­ero­sex­u­al nuclear family.

The dis­missal of the mate­r­i­al bod­ies of girls and future women is reflect­ed in the campaign’s obfus­ca­tion of dif­fer­ence. It is well estab­lished that social deter­mi­nants includ­ing race, pover­ty, and social exclu­sion are key fac­tors that shape the health and well being of the pop­u­la­tion (Rat­cliff 2). Cana­da has seen a sig­nif­i­cant reduc­tion in breast-can­cer deaths in the past two decades; ear­ly detec­tion of the dis­ease facil­i­tat­ed by wide­spread screen­ing pro­grams is often cred­it­ed with this reduc­tion (Jatoi and Miller 252). While on the sur­face it appears that Cana­di­an women are reap­ing the ben­e­fits of pub­lic-health inter­ven­tions and increased aware­ness, these pop­u­la­tion-lev­el sta­tis­tics cov­er over some impor­tant dis­par­i­ties. Specif­i­cal­ly, inad­e­quate and inequitable access to screen­ing is a sub­stan­tial prob­lem in Cana­da that dis­pro­por­tion­ate­ly affects racial­ized, immi­grant, and poor women (Vahabi et al. 679). As a result, these pop­u­la­tions have some of the low­est rates of screen­ing uti­liza­tion and con­cern­ing dis­par­i­ties in diag­no­sis, treat­ment, and sur­vival exist (Kern­er et al. 161). Ensur­ing equi­ty in breast-can­cer care requires more than an out­pour­ing of pub­lic gen­eros­i­ty; an under­stand­ing of the broad­er struc­tures that yield such dis­par­i­ties is vital. But to rec­og­nize that the struc­ture of the Cana­di­an state cre­ates and sup­ports inequal­i­ty would punc­ture our nation­al fan­ta­sy of equal­i­ty, inclu­sion, and mul­ti­cul­tur­al­ism. Fur­ther­more, it would demand that we rec­og­nize the human­i­ty and val­ue of bod­ies that do not or can­not syn­chro­nize to the nor­ma­tive timeline.

Reproductive Futurity and Survivorship

As I have argued, the Run for the Future Cam­paign frames breast can­cer as a prob­lem that comes to mat­ter on the nation­al stage through its antic­i­pat­ed dis­rup­tion of future nuclear fam­i­lies and the het­ero­nor­ma­tive fab­ric of Cana­di­an life. The ways that breast can­cer is attached to the het­ero­sex­u­al nuclear fam­i­ly in the Run for the Future cam­paign sup­ports Lau­ren Berlant’s argu­ment that the con­di­tions of women’s cit­i­zen­ship are increas­ing­ly attached to repro­duc­tion and futu­ri­ty (148). With­in this dis­course of cit­i­zen­ship, the imag­ined future that women are charged with bring­ing into being is one that does not belong to them. Women thus are sim­ply vehi­cles for (rather than sub­jects of) the future; the tem­po­ral tra­jec­to­ry made avail­able for women is a cir­cu­lar tra­jec­to­ry of birth, mar­riage, moth­er­hood, and death.

The homo­pho­bic impli­ca­tions of this imag­in­ing of the future are clear. The vision of a future with­out breast can­cer promised through the CBCF dis­course is a het­ero­sex­u­al future in which women’s cit­i­zen­ship val­ue is derived from her con­nec­tions to the nuclear fam­i­ly unit. Fur­ther, the youth­ful breast-can­cer sur­vivor invoked with­in the Run for the Future cam­paign is a sub­ject firm­ly sit­u­at­ed in repro­duc­tive futu­ri­ty. Her sta­tus as wife and poten­tial future moth­er are cen­tral to her val­ue as a cit­i­zen about whom we should care and whose future we should attempt to secure through acts of per­son­al gen­eros­i­ty. Glar­ing­ly absent from this cam­paign are women inde­pen­dent from the nuclear family—they are out­side the bound­aries of intel­li­gi­bil­i­ty. The non-appear­ance of women who defy het­ero­nor­ma­tive and patri­ar­chal norms speaks vol­umes; these are women whose lives and futures are not wor­thy of pub­lic or per­son­al invest­ment. These women are not vis­i­ble as cit­i­zens with­in the CBCF’s con­struc­tion of the sur­vivor and its imag­in­ings of the Cana­di­an nation.

What I sug­gest in this brief analy­sis is that the Run for the Future cam­paign oper­ates to do more than appeal to Cana­di­ans’ sense of moral and civic respon­si­bil­i­ty and encour­age an out­pour­ing of per­son­al gen­eros­i­ty to cre­ate a “future with­out breast can­cer.” Specif­i­cal­ly, this cam­paign and the fig­ure of the Child oper­ate to invoke anx­i­ety in the view­er by threat­en­ing the repro­duc­tive futu­ri­ty of the nation and lever­age this anx­i­ety into phil­an­thropic giv­ing. Ulti­mate­ly, this dis­course on breast can­cer calls upon cit­i­zens to act in the inter­est of secur­ing the con­tin­u­a­tion of hege­mon­ic soci­ety in which only cer­tain bod­ies and forms of suf­fer­ing mat­ter, and only cer­tain women (and chil­dren) are rec­og­niz­able and intel­li­gi­ble as at risk and deserv­ing of protection.

Works Cited

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Berlant, Lau­ren. “Amer­i­ca, ‘Fat,’ the Fetus.” bound­ary 2, vol. 21, no. 3, 1994, pp. 145–95.

About the CIBC Run for the Cure.” Cana­di­an Can­cer Soci­ety, https://​sup​port​.can​cer​.ca/​s​i​t​e​/​S​P​a​g​e​S​e​r​v​e​r​/​?​p​a​g​e​n​a​m​e​=​R​F​T​C​_​N​W​_​a​b​out. Accessed 25 Oct. 2017.

Con­way, Ellie, et al. “Can a Lifestyle Inter­ven­tion Be Offered through NHS Breast Can­cer Screen­ing? Chal­lenges and Oppor­tu­ni­ties Iden­ti­fied in a Qual­i­ta­tive Study of Women Attend­ing Screen­ing.” BMC Pub­lic Health, vol. 16, no. 758, 2016, pp. 1-9.

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Edel­man, Lee. No Future: Queer The­o­ry and the Death Dri­ve. Duke UP, 2004.

Ehren­re­ich, Bar­bara. “Wel­come to Can­cer­land: A Mam­mo­gram Leads to a Cult of Pink Kitsch.” Harper’s, Nov. 2001, pp. 43–53.

Free­man, Eliz­a­beth. Time Binds: Queer Tem­po­ral­i­ties, Queer His­to­ries. Duke UP, 2010.

Gold­man, Debra. “The Con­sumer Repub­lic.” Adweek, 3 Nov. 1997, http://​www​.adweek​.com/​n​e​w​s​/​a​d​v​e​r​t​i​s​i​n​g​/​c​o​n​s​u​m​e​r​-​r​e​p​u​b​l​i​c​-​2​2​813.

Gold­en­berg, Maya. “Work­ing for the Cure: Chal­leng­ing Pink Rib­bon Activism.” Con­fig­ur­ing Health Con­sumers: Health Work and the Imper­a­tive of Per­son­al Respon­si­bil­i­ty. Edit­ed by R. Har­ris et al., Pal­grave Macmil­lan, 2010, pp. 140–58.

Jatoi, Ismail and Antho­ny B. Miller. “Why Is Breast-Can­cer Mor­tal­i­ty Declin­ing?” Lancet Oncol­o­gy, vol. 4, no. 4, 2003, pp. 251-54.

Kern­er, J. et al. “Cana­di­an Can­cer Screen­ing Dis­par­i­ties: A Recent His­tor­i­cal Per­spec­tive.” Cur­rent Oncol­o­gy, vol. 22, no. 2, 2015, pp. 156-63.

King, Saman­tha. Pink Rib­bons Inc.: Breast Can­cer and the Pol­i­tics of Phil­an­thropy. U of Min­neso­ta P, 2006.

Luciano, Dana. Arrang­ing Grief: Sacred Time and the Body in Nine­teenth-Cen­tu­ry Amer­i­ca. New York UP, 2007.

Muñoz, José Este­ban. Cruis­ing Utopia: The Then and There of Queer Futu­ri­ty. New York UP, 2009.

Pack, Rachael L. “The Duty to Sur­vive Well: Neolib­er­al Gov­er­nance, Tem­po­ral­i­ty and Breast Can­cer Sur­vivor­ship Dis­course.” PhD the­sis, Depart­ment of Women’s Stud­ies and Fem­i­nist Research, The U of West­ern Ontario, 2018, https://​ir​.lib​.uwo​.ca/​c​g​i​/​v​i​e​w​c​o​n​t​e​n​t​.​c​g​i​?​a​r​t​i​c​l​e​=​7​2​2​2​&​c​o​n​t​e​x​t​=​etd.

Rat­cliff, Kathryn S. The Social Deter­mi­nants of Health: Look­ing Upstream. Poli­ty, 2017.

Stock­ton, Kathryn B. “The Queer Child Now and Its Para­dox­i­cal Glob­al Effects.” GLQ: A Jour­nal of Les­bian and Gay Stud­ies, vol. 22, no. 4, 2016, pp. 505-39.

Sulik, Gayle A. Pink Rib­bon Blues: How Breast Can­cer Cul­ture Under­mines Women’s Health. Oxford UP, 2011.

Vahabi, Man­dana et al. “Breast Can­cer Screen­ing Dis­par­i­ties among Urban Immi­grants: A Pop­u­la­tion-Based Study in Ontario, Cana­da.” BMC Pub­lic Health, vol. 15, no. 679, 2015, pp. 1-12.

Image Notes

God­sall, Tim and Steven Diller, direc­tors. Delia. Cana­di­an Breast Can­cer Foun­da­tion, Jun. 2013, https://​www​.youtube​.com/​w​a​t​c​h​?​v​=​L​q​H​0​u​c​Z​9​d​s​Q​&​i​n​d​e​x​=​3​2​&​l​i​s​t​=​U​U​a​t​y​Y​W​w​L​9​i​l​d​U​k​g​I​X​p​7​B​Z0Q. Accessed 30 Jan. 2018.

God­sall, Tim and Steven Diller, direc­tors. Sean. Cana­di­an Breast Can­cer Foun­da­tion, Jun. 2013, https://​www​.youtube​.com/​w​a​t​c​h​?​v​=​P​p​w​O​i​T​W​l​f​E​o​&​l​i​s​t​=​U​U​a​t​y​Y​W​w​L​9​i​l​d​U​k​g​I​X​p​7​B​Z​0​Q​&​i​n​d​e​x​=31. Accessed 30 Jan. 2018.

McDaniel, Melodie. Eli­jah. Cana­di­an Breast Can­cer Foun­da­tion, Jun. 2013, http://​oso​cio​.org/​m​e​s​s​a​g​e​/​c​a​n​a​d​i​a​n​-​b​r​e​a​s​t​-​c​a​n​c​e​r​-​f​o​u​n​d​a​t​i​o​n​-​c​a​m​p​a​i​g​n​s​-​f​o​r​-​t​h​e​-​f​u​t​u​re/. Accessed 30 Jan. 2018.