There are taboos in contemporary American culture that have been developed and reinforced throughout history that depend on mandatory compliance from all unquestioning members of our society. Among the particularly commanding, and sometimes conflicting, tools of social constraint are gendered expectations of beauty and the taboos surrounding cancer. Society places high, even impossible, expectations on its members, especially women, to attain certain unachievable beauty standards. Deviation from norms and noncompliance to expectations result in punishment in the only way over which society possesses complete control: social exclusion, ostracism and ridicule, and ultimately, total eradication. This taboo regarding the societally inappropriate and even condemnable appearance of cancer is particularly influential because it combines double-standard, gendered taboos such as beauty, baldness, and subsequent lack of femininity with the powerful and potent, equally tabooed, topics of sickness, disease, suffering, and death. Because these subjects have been deemed inappropriate for mere discussion, much less exploration and inquiry, by a controlling and unrelenting society, women who suffer from life-threatening diseases that take more from them than just their hair are also forced to endure the insult added to injury that is the tabooed image of cancer. Through my presentation, I utilize personal testimonies and media to gauge the effects these taboos have upon real women in the hopes of countering the silencing effects of taboos and bringing these issues to a place where they must be not only acknowledged, but confronted.
Scherer, Jaime R., "Bald Eagles: The Tabooed Image of Cancer" (2016). Honors Theses AY 15/16. 57.