Tuesday, October 11, 2011


Unless you've been living under a rock for the last eleven days, you've probably noticed that just about everything is suddenly a shade of pink; the front page of a newspaper, the lights shining on the White House, the cleats NFL players are wearing, t-shirts for sale at Walmart, chocolates, cereal, everything from yogurt lids to prescription caps. If no one's told you already, it's October. Which means it's National Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

October comes but once a year, so everyone is trying to get in on a piece of the pink action while they can. All in the name of cancer awareness. What a wonderful thing. How generous; companies, supporting a worthy cause....Or is it?

In October of 2006, I was in the throws of the most intense phase of my treatment. I did not have breast cancer. I lay on the couch most days and each day in October, The View told the story of an amazing breast cancer survivor and Ford gave a car to each of them. I liked the stories, but in between the show segments, there was an inordinate amount of Ford 'Warriors in Pink' commercials begging viewers to purchase a scarf, hat, or shirt to support 'the cause'. I couldn't place what bothered me so much about this...Was it the fact that one specific cancer was getting so much press while I suffered with another? Perhaps. But there was more to it. Something felt sneaky about these 'awareness' ads. Were they raising breast cancer awareness, or brand awareness? What did Ford get for giving cars to cancer survivors? Were they exploiting survivors to gain consumer approval?

I'm not the first person to notice this. Just last night one of my survivor friends posted this in response to the breast cancer movie event 'Five' featured on the Lifetime channel: "Kill me. I just watched that vomitous Lifetime movie "Five"...It was a gross exploitation and sponsored by Ford and Walgreens. Ooo, they make all of their prescription caps pink during the month of October. Frickin fantastic. Woop de do."

I watched the movie, and while I found the stories moving, the use of Ford and Walgreens' names and merchandise not only during commercial breaks but actually in- yes, in the movie was over the top.

Google "Breast Cancer Awareness Month Exploitation" and you can learn more about this.

One article states:
"Corporations push breast cancer in October because it works to sell more products. Women worry that some day they will face breast cancer or already know someone who has. They want to help. And what way is better than to buy something that promises to do good? The reality is that very little of the amount women spend on the pink products wind up at charitable institutions. An ABC News Report from last October pointed out that Campbell's donated a whopping 3.5 cents for every can of soup it sold. To raise a mere $36 to fight breast cancer from the Yoplait campaign, a person needs to eat three cups of yogurt a day for four months."

You can even find criticisms on the Wikipedia page for 'National Breast Cancer Awareness Month':
"The breast cancer advocacy organization, Breast Cancer Action, has said repeatedly in newsletters and other information sources that October has become a public relations campaign that avoids discussion of the causes and prevention of breast cancer and instead focuses on “awareness” as a way to encourage women to get their mammograms. The term pinkwashing has been used by Breast Cancer Action to describe the actions of companies which manufacture and use chemicals which show a link with breast cancer and at the same time publicly support charities focused on curing the disease. Other criticisms center on the marketing of "pink products" and tie ins, citing that more money is spent marketing these campaigns than is donated to the cause." Remember when Susan G. Komen briefly partnered with KFC and had pink buckets- filled with carcinogen laden chicken? Um. Yeah.

Another article details the misuse of the pink ribbon logo:

"Daily Finance, the AOL finance resource center, sought to find out how many of these pink products actually benefit breast cancer. Procter & Gamble’s pink-packaged Swiffer sweeper told buyers that, “Early detection saves lives,” but what does that have to do with donating money? Eventually, it was found out that the company donates a mere two cents to breast cancer research only if the buyer uses a coupon from the Procter & Gamble brand coupon book.

This is a perfect example of how Breast Cancer Awareness Month is being exploited by large companies looking to make a profit. This overuse of the pink ribbon logo stems from the fact that no one owns the image. Also, no one has the right to control its usage. This means that any company anywhere can put a pink ribbon on the packaging to persuade buyers to purchase their product."Link

My parting words of warning are this: Think before you pink. Want to show a survivor in your life that you care? Leave that pink spatula you don't really need on the shelf. Donate your five dollars instead to one of the reputable charities out there (To find one, check out CharityNavigator).

Hope, Love, Run,

Marathon Girl

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