Constructing Risky Categories: The Politics of Race, Gender, and Colorectal Cancer Advocacy
Kent-Stoll, Peter Ross
Disease advocacy organizations are important political actors and knowledge producers. Since the late 1990s, colorectal cancer (CRC) advocacy organizations have emerged as part of a health social movement focused on increasing awareness, support, and research for colorectal cancer. Despite the fact that colorectal cancer has the fourth highest incidence and mortality rate out of all cancer types in the U.S. (CDC, 2012), colorectal cancer remains marginal in analyses of cancer organizations. By applying a social movement framing perspective to this understudied area of activism, I explore why the disproportionately high rates of colorectal cancer among African American men continue to remain neglected in disease advocacy circles. Drawing upon interviews with members of colorectal cancer advocacy organizations (n=9), I argue this neglect can be attributed to two processes: the construction of movement frames that are more politically and culturally salient than empirically sound (or, more viable than valid) and framing of racial and gender differences in health as a result of individual behaviors and misconceptions rather than as a result of structural causes. While there has been limited research which examines exactly how frames are constructed (as opposed to how they are selected), this thesis has implications for how social movement scholars study the construction of frames. I argue that analyzing assumptions related to race, gender, and risk is an important tool for understanding how health social movements construct their frames.