Femininity, responsibility, and the technological imperative: discourses on breast cancer in the Australian press

Int J Health Serv. 1994;24(1):73-89. doi: 10.2190/1B6J-1P5R-AXCR-MRNY.


The manner in which the popular press represents health issues influences, and is demonstrative of, societal attitudes toward illnesses and those who suffer from them. Cancer is one of the most feared diseases in modern society, and breast cancer attacks women at the bodily site where notions of femininity intersect. This article examines the discourses surrounding breast cancer as represented in the Australian press in the period between 1987 and 1990. It is argued that the press's portrayal of breast cancer during that time drew upon dominant cultural metaphors and discourses concerning femininity, the individual's responsibility for illness, and medical and technological dominance.

MeSH terms

  • Attitude to Health*
  • Australia
  • Breast Neoplasms / etiology
  • Breast Neoplasms / prevention & control
  • Breast Neoplasms / psychology*
  • Cross-Cultural Comparison*
  • Female
  • Gender Identity*
  • Humans
  • Mammography / psychology
  • Mass Media*
  • Mass Screening / psychology
  • Risk Factors
  • Stereotyping