Pinkwashing: Consumerism and Breast Cancer Awareness

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Before Pinktober comes to an end, we should all squeeze in a conversation about “Pinkwashing,” the corporate trend of slapping pink ribbons on every variety of product imaginable in the name of breast cancer awareness. It turns out there is no regulation on the pink ribbon (although the Susan G. Komen Foundation has patented the phrase “for the cure”) so companies draping their products in pink are not obliged to donate even a penny of proceeds to a breast cancer research fund or cause. In this short video on The Huffington Post, comedian Kenzie Seibert details just how little of the profits brought in by Pinktober actually go to organizations fighting breast cancer.

In addition to the misrepresentation of corporate profits, from this issue emerges the hypocrisy of a company marketing a toxic-laden product in the name of breast cancer awareness. In the news this weekend for example, the Komen Foundation and Baker Hughes will be teaming up to produce pink drill bits to be distributed to oilfields around the world. This along with a business transaction: $100,000 for the Komen foundation, and the tagline “doing their bit for the cure,” for Baker Hughes, one of the largest manufacturers of oilfield machinery in the world.

This harps back to questions I have posed in the past regarding the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, and the painted hand prints symbolizing an end to domestic violence: is awareness good enough? Certainly breast cancer is discussed on a much larger level than a number of other cancers or illnesses in general because of the pink ribbon madness. I don’t remember a time when there was a stigma against breast cancer, but it certainly has the potential to be taboo, and that may well have been broken through this massive global awareness campaign. Of course awareness is important, but at what cost? How much are we hurting the fight against breast cancer by confusing true philanthropy with pink tennis balls and pink buckets of KFC? I leave you with an interesting and personalized post by Emma G. Keller at The Guardian, discussing better places to put your money.

 — Caterina Gironda, Southern Editor

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