I’ve surprised many a friend with my anti-Breast Cancer Month sentiments. I simply recoil against what I think of as The Pinking of America. First it was the grocery stores with shelves lined with pink cans of Campbell’s soup and displays of pink M&Ms. Next clothing stores awash in pink bras and rhinestone ribbons, followed by pink-ribbon nail polish at the beauty supply outlets. This year saw pink on the NFL football fields of America.
What’s the issue? Take, for example, a popular yogurt. The containers’ pink lids and ribbons imply that your purchase will lead to a breast-cancer-related donation. On the surface that sounds like a good thing, right? So you grab a few. What you may not notice is the microprint telling you that in order for the donation to be made the lids must be washed, collected, and sent in groups of 10 before a minimal donation is made, all this teetering, in my opinion, on the bounds of deception.
I don’t hate pink, and save what I believe is a waste of resources, I have nothing against awareness campaigns per se, though I remain decidedly skeptical about their impact. I’ve been asked many times why the Pepto-pink that washes the nation each October is so upsetting to me. It is this:
First, there is damage done when we turn breast cancer into bubble-gum sweet. For those who have been sick and bald from chemo, for our loved ones who sat anxiously through our lumpectomies and mastectomies while praying for the sure hand of a surgeon and the keen eye of a pathologist, for you who have been burned by beams of radiation, for all who have held the hand of a dying loved one, we fail to see the sweetness and pink is not the color that represents how we feel…. I resent both the sugar-coating and desensitization that occurs when we take something as serious and deadly as cancer and turn it into a marketing strategy. Am I overly cynical? Maybe. Whether this is impactful is foder for a later post.
More serious, however is the argument made best by Breast Cancer Action, through their Think Before You Pink campaign. Concerned that pink ribbons are nothing more than a marketing campaign, BCA had sought to dig deeper into the issue. They seek to address a host of issues, beginning with accountability for where the “donations” go and how they are utilized. How much is being donated? For what purpose? Medical research? Support services? Do they say? Where can you find out? Start with the Think Before You Pink campaign.