I’m a breast cancer survivor. I should be wearing pink head to toe, right? Especially in October – officially designated as Breast Cancer Awareness Month. But I kind of hate pink. First of all, It’s one of my least favorite colors, but secondly, I think it’s become so overused, mundane and even nauseating in relation to breast cancer.
It seems that “pink” and “breast cancer” (along with a lot of other great causes) have merely helped entrepreneurs to make a buck by appealing to our emotions. Take, for example, the popular Lokai bracelets.
Unlike the silicone bands (a la Livestrong) for $1, these strands of colored silicone beads are $18 per bracelet, one dollar going to the organization of your choice. Yes, they’re cool (I actually kind of want one, but not in pink), but why not just donate $18 to your charity of choice? If $1 of every $18 purchase goes to breast cancer orgs (your choice is Susan G. Komen or BCRF), then a full $17 goes to the company’s founder, Steven Izen, who is undoubtedly a billionaire by now!
But I’m even more disgusted by repulsive corporate partnerships that engage in “Pinkwashing” (or, as I like to call it – Breast Cancer prostituted for profit) which happens when a company or organization claims to care about breast cancer by promoting pink ribbon products, while at the same time produces, manufactures and/or sells products that are linked to the disease. Pinkwashing is when “cause marketing” loses sight of “the cause” and is more about the bottom line – profits.
Here are some examples that make my WTF-ometer go off:
- Kentucky Fried Chicken’s “Buckets for the Cure” campaign. For every pink bucket of fried chicken sold, KFC donated 50 cents to Susan G. Komen. Unless you live under a rock, you’ll know that fast food, and especially fried food, are a well-known cause of many diseases, including cancer.
- Komen partnered with the Coca-Cola Company promoting FUZE tea. With 31 grams of sugar, high fructose corn syrup (likely genetically modified), sucralose, and preservatives, all packaged in a BPA-rich plastic bottle. In fact, Komen receives generous donations from many companies who use BPA – linked to breast cancer tumor growth – in their products (Coca-Cola, General Mills, 3M).
- Bobbi Brown Pinks with Purpose Lip Color Duo, which retails for $45, donates $17 of that to BRCF. The problem? According to EWG, this product’s ingredients causes the following: biochemical or cellular level changes, endocrine disruption, organ system toxicity, bioaccumulation, cancer, enhanced skin absorption, ecotoxicology allergies/immunotoxicity, and developmental/reproductive toxicity. So go ahead and buy it, with your $17 going to breast cancer research, but just hope it doesn’t contribute to your own cancer risk when you use it!
- This Clinique lotion will donate $10 of every bottle sold to benefit breast cancer research, but it contains the artificial dyes Yellow 5, 6 and Red 33 (why?) which are known carcinogens with effects such as organ toxicity, allergic reactions, hyperactivity, asthma, migraines and more.
Though not technically pinkwashing, the following companies deserve runner-up status:
- Dansko shoe company marketed clogs with pink ribbons on them and consumers logically assumed the purchase of clogs correlated to how much money would be donated to breast cancer research. But that was not the case. In fact, Dansko had a set donation of $25,000 to Susan G. Komen for the Cure no matter how many clogs they sold.
- American Express ran a campaign that claimed “every dollar counts,” even though no matter how much customers spent they donated exactly one penny per transaction.
- And…just for kicks:
Breast cancer kills thousands of women every year, and companies rake in profits during October by commercializing this disease.
It would be wonderful to think that these breast cancer organizations could point people toward organic, hormone-free food and products that don’t cause cancer, but unfortunately, there’s no big-money in that (although it feels like there should be since I’ll grant you that the “healthy” versions cost a thousand times more than the cancer-causing versions).
So let’s stop talking so much about breast cancer awareness. I’m pretty sure everyone knows about breast cancer already. It’s estimated that 1 in 8 women will experience breast cancer in their lifetime. I’m also pretty sure that a football player wearing pink shoes brings nothing to the party, but only lines the pockets of Nike and the NFL (a 49ers Breast Cancer Awareness Hoodie, retails for $74.95, but only $6.01 goes toward breast cancer research.)
Let’s focus on prevention! Let’s talk more (and raise money for) education about junk food, chronic sunburn, cigarette smoking, artificial hormones, BPA in plastics, artificial dyes, flavors and fragrances that have all been linked to cancer.
Perhaps in the very beginning, the pink ribbon had good intentions. It was about still feeling beautiful and feminine after a devastating illness and having hope that a “cure” will one day be discovered.
However, it has become what many now recognize as nothing more than a greed-driven marketing campaign that, in many cases, does more to cause breast cancer than it does to prevent it.
Some organizations worth supporting (imho):
Breast Cancer Action – tackling the root causes of the breast cancer epidemic
Breast Cancer Prevention Partners – “Exposing the cause is the cure.”
Albie Aware – local Resources. Education. Advocacy. Co-Pay Assistance. Testing