Be a Good Girl and Shut Up

Posted on: October 10th, 2014 by

The idea for this post came from an angry comment I recently received on a post I wrote back in March. That post, called Kohl’s: Cash Rich, Ethics Poor, called out the merchandiser for stealing METAvivor’s The Elephant in the Pink Room campaign just to feed Kohl’s cash cow. I told the cashier I was a cancer survivor, and rather than giving her an eagerly awaited feel-good story of survival and triumph, I told her that a number of people I knew died of the disease. Later, I nicely returned the merchandise and cut up my Kohl’s credit card at home, in fact, while I was writing the post.

This is what the perturbed reader wrote; I boldfaced the words especially significant for this post:

“You realize that by cutting up your Kohl’s card, it actually does nothing, right? You still have a bill to pay. And you still have an account with Kohl’s, until you physically pick up the phone and call them to cancel the account. Secondly, while I understand what you’re trying to say, do you realize how often cashiers are bullied like you bullied that cashier? He/she did not know you had cancer, nor did she know you were bitter about it. Raising money to fight such a terrible disease is amazing. Whether or not Kohl’s did it to your standards, doesn’t matter because they raised money. Kohl’s isn’t all about profit to better themselves, they are constantly giving away money to different places/things because they care. Shame on you for making that cashier feel like an idiot because you couldn’t focus on the positive and you had to be negative about it. As someone who has lost many family members to cancer, I hope places like Kohl’s does raise enough money to make a difference and people like you don’t ruin it.”

Looks like I ruffled some feathers.

Oh well. Why have feathers if they can’t be ruffled?


I’m sorry this reader lost family members to cancer. This is truly heartbreaking.

But that is not the issue I have with the above comment. What I take issue with is that it suggests I be a good girl and shut up. The commenter expects me, as a cancer survivor, to be positive and upbeat about my surviving breast cancer thus far. Her message is that if I am not grateful to those raising money in the name of breast cancer and if I’m not positive about this devastating disease, I should be ashamed of myself.

In fact, my surviving breast cancer has been bitter and sweet. I am grateful for the sweet gifts of life: a child to love; a career that provides satisfaction; supportive friends, family, and an awesome online community; and a life filled with love and happiness. I am very lucky and blessed to have the life I lead.

Life has been generous to me, and I’m grateful.

But, truth be told, I am bitter about having had cancer. How can I not be? I’m NOT grateful for all the suffering I endured because of this disease: the terror, the multiple disfiguring surgeries, being poisoned, burned, body image issues, bone density problems, lasting psychological trauma associated with survivorship, and so on. I’m angry that cancer came knocking on my door and wreaked havoc with my body, mind, and spirit.

And I’m bitter that metastatic breast cancer exists and that there is no cure — though some merchandisers and marketers would have the general public thinking there is one. I’ve also lost loved ones to metastatic breast cancer.

I’m not a bitter person, but ooooh am I bitter. I’m actually a positive person, but I won’t ever feel positive about this disease. If that makes me seem like an ingrate, then so be it. My feelings are my own, and I won’t be shamed for letting my voice be heard.

I won’t be a good girl and shut up.

photo 4

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Have you ever been told to keep your opinion about breast cancer to yourself?

Have you ever had readers respond to your posts angrily?

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23 Responses to Be a Good Girl and Shut Up

  1. Kathi had this to say about that:

    Ah, Beth…never shut up, whatever you do. We can all hope that folks with stop & try to understand what many of us were really objecting to about the Komen/Kohl’s campaign, but as you & I know, emotions run high around cancer & cancer fundraising. And comments left in the passion of the moment usually miss the nuances of what message we’re trying to impart. *sigh* We all have to keep talking. xoxo, Kathi

    • Beth L. Gainer had this to say about that:

      Kathi, you are wise, indeed. Emotions do run high when it comes to these things. I do think that our continuous talking is making a difference, and our collective voices are being heard overall. I think I’m tired of speaking about the same thing as we all are, perhaps.

  2. Susanne Kraus-Dahlgren had this to say about that:

    A lot of this is also our society’s culture and attitude toward women in general. Women aren’t supposed to have strong opinions and rock the boat. Just being merely assertive of your own well-being is enough to get labeled a bitch. Women should stay quiet unless they’re being pleasant and/or sexy. Breast cancer is a highly sexualized cancer, and it’s the most widely-known form of cancer, I think. The details aren’t, but the details don’t matter as long as people can make a joke about the ta-tas and the jugs and how gropes save lives. Of course you ruffled feathers. You stepped outside the box of how a proper woman should conduct herself. Shut up and smile and take it and be a good girl. I only have enough energy to be passionate about one cause at a time, and for me, it’s metastatic BC; otherwise, I’d be on a soapbox about how rape culture damages everyone. Good post. Keep ruffling feathers. History does not belong to the well-behaved women.

    • Beth L. Gainer had this to say about that:

      Susanne, your comment is spot-on, and I will certainly not shut up about breast cancer. It is not a fun, sexy kind of disease, but a brutal thief. I share your dismay at all the sexualized ways breast cancer is portrayed.

      Thank you for your understanding and for your comment.

  3. Nancy's Point had this to say about that:

    Hi Beth,
    First of all, I don’t think you bullied the cashier just by sharing some comments. I don’t see you as a bullying kind of person. I guess the person making the comment missed the point of your post. And of course, you know you still have an account with Kohls, or did. The cutting up of your card was more of a symbolic gesture. Anyway, like Kathi said, never shut up! And by the way, I just had a comment from someone who said I was short-sighted… Keep sharing your truths, Beth. We need your voice. And I love your comment about the feathers! Thank you for writing this. xo

    • Beth L. Gainer had this to say about that:

      Hi Nancy,

      Thank you so much for your support! I did make that comment, but you are right: I didn’t bully her. I try to be respectful to others, and I spoke in the moment, albeit nicely.

      I won’t shut up, Nancy. Thank you for all your suport. So someone said you were short-sighted? That definitely does not describe you.

  4. karen sutherland had this to say about that:

    dear Beth,

    i am sorry you had to endure the wrath of that comment. but never, ever hesitate to speak up. i wish the end of the story of that comment would have been the person actually going back to the Kohl’s powers that be and discovering the root of the truth of our objection to the Komen/Kohl’s campaign. OOXOO, Karen

    • Beth L. Gainer had this to say about that:

      Karen, thank you as always for your comment. I greatly appreciate your support. I actually contacted corporate, but no response.

      No surprise there. And I will continue to speak my mind.

  5. Kimberly had this to say about that:

    Yes yes yes!!!! Have had something similar happen to me recently….the blog is in progress. Thanks for this post. And please never shut up. “Well behaved women rarely make history .” I think is how that goes.

    • Beth L. Gainer had this to say about that:


      Thank you! I would love to read your posting if you leave me a link. I love that quote about well behaved women.

  6. eileen@Woman in the Hat had this to say about that:

    Beth, you did nothing wrong. Expressing your views is different than bullying, unless you yelled or got aggressive with the cashier, which I’m certain is not the case. I see two things happening here: One is that the commenter is duped by the Pink fundraising. She actually believes it will bring a cure or help in some way. She doesn’t understand that it’s just capitalism piggybacking off of breast cancer patients. The second thing is she has a raw nerve, understandably with losing loved ones to BC. Her nerve was triggered by your post because of a different viewpoint and, in fact, she is the one who ended up bullying you. That’s the only bullying that happened here. It really isn’t about you. I’m just sorry you experienced such a hateful comment. I know it would have upset me, but I’m glad you knew you could go to your online friends and sisters in breast cancer. xoxo

    • Beth L. Gainer had this to say about that:


      Thank you for your support. She, like so many others, are blinded by all the pinkwashing, and you’re right: I probably hit a nerve for her.

      Yes, I know the online support community is so strong. You all lift me up. Nobody likes to get nastygrams, but like you say, it really isn’t about me.

  7. Angie Tucker had this to say about that:

    Never shut up always spread the word. But the cashier did not know and what you did will not help the cause.

    • Beth L. Gainer had this to say about that:


      I will continue to speak up. You are right: the cashier didn’t know. While my speaking with her didn’t help the cause, I’m hoping my blog posting and going to corporate did.

      Things, unfortunately, change slowly.

  8. Cancer Curmudgeon had this to say about that:

    I agree so much with this post! I too am bitter, and have often felt that people just want me to shut up. Heck, I’ve been told as much, and been told I need to get mental help and such on.
    Full disclosure, I worked many years in retail, and came to hate having to ask customers for donations, it got very mechanical. Doesn’t sound like you bullied the cashier, but I can only hope that she “heard” you and it made an impression on her mind. I used to hear so much stuff, I learned to tune a lot out. And if any customer was really agitated, I suggested they contact the corp. office on their own–believe me, the folks in the big offices only heard customers and their money, not their employees. Guess what, I don’t miss that job!xoxox

    • Beth L. Gainer had this to say about that:

      Dear Cancer Curmudgeon:

      I’m sorry people have told you nasty things.

      I really didn’t bully the cashier; I’m not the bullying sort. I just spoke to her matter of factly. I knew she couldn’t do anything to effect change.

      I’m glad you’re out of that retail job. Sounds hard. I don’t think I would do retail very well, dealing with so many kinds of things.

  9. Vickie Young Wen had this to say about that:

    Hi, Beth,

    Excellent post. Yes, I’ve been told that I am bitter, especially when it comes to my views on the Komen foundation. I wrote about this in an essay “I want more” published on my FB page (I Want More Than A Pink Ribbon). Overall, I’d say I live each day with joy, but as someone with metastatic breast cancer, yes, there are days when I am bitter.

    I take my stand and go from there. I’m trying to learn how to be an effective advocate. Still feeling my way. I’m grateful that I have more days to do this.

    And no, it doesn’t sound like you bullied the cashier.

    • Beth L. Gainer had this to say about that:

      Hi Vickie, stick to your views and be tenacious! Good for you for advocating for yourself. And it is important to know that you are entitled to feel the way you do each day.

      Thank you for your support. I so appreciate it.

  10. Vickie Young Wen had this to say about that:

    Hi, Beth,

    I, too, have been told that I’m simply bitter and that my bitterness keeps me from seeing the good of the pink ribbon. I wrote about this in an essay I posted on my “I Want More Than A Pink Ribbon” Facebook page.

    I’m not blind to what has been accomplished in the past 25 years. However, we need to move beyond the initial goals. We’re aware … now we need a cure and we need more money to go into research for the cure.

    You didn’t bully the cashier. You also didn’t “hurt the cause” with your comments. I try to divert dollars away from Komen all the time and into either research or local community support.

    Bitter? Not really. As a metastatic breast cancer of close to three years, I can say that I think I embrace each day with joy. However, that doesn’t mean I have to be happy about my situation and it most certainly doesn’t mean that I have to support the corporate money-making mindset that has taken over this disease.

    All my best,

    • Beth L. Gainer had this to say about that:

      Bravo! Amen to everything you said, Vickie. You said it perfectly: “corporate money-making mindset that has taken over this disease.” I totally agree with you.

  11. Sam Rose had this to say about that:

    Beth, thank you for not shutting up! I can’t tell you how important it is for me to read the thoughts of someone else who has had cancer; four years on I’m still struggling with my feelings about it so it’s good to be able to empathise with someone. I worry about coming across as bitter if I go on about it too much or that people will judge me for not being over it emotionally.

    I have gripes with the corporate stuff as well, like how cancer is mentioned all over the place – TV, social media etc, with no real purpose of raising awareness of symptoms and so on – every time I see something like this it just serves as a trigger for me instead of actually being helpful.

    • Beth L. Gainer had this to say about that:

      Sam, thanks for thanking me for not shutting up! The very things that trigger you wind up triggering me, as well. It’s almost overwhelming, isn’t it?

      Hang in there. It’s OK to feel bitter at times. Going through cancer is no easy feat, and there is physical and emotional aftermat.

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