Just as Thanksgiving starts in October, and Christmas at Thanksgiving, Pink-tober comes early this year. And I, along with a rapidly growing group of irritated survivors, am dreading it.
It’s hard to explain to people who don’t see how belittling the “pink party” can be, but I’m going to try.
If you read my post about firefighter Janette Neves Rivera’s plight to utilize the sick leave proffered by her colleagues, you’ll start to see what I mean. It is easy to think that the “pink awareness” culture surrounding breast cancer is, at worst, harmless, and at best a way to fund research for a cure. Neither is true…
Let’s assume we don’t care that wrapping a potentially fatal disease up in a pink bow,disavowing the seriousness of this disease, is hurtful to many survivors. How many of us are willing to sit with a friend during chemo or at their bedside after surgery, and belittle their fears. It’s what we do when we treat ANY stage breast cancer as “no big deal.” Still harmless?
And when we obscure the seriousness of even early-stage cancer, we make it harder for them to get the time they need for exhausting treatments, chemo-induced malaise, and mental health time to get back on their feet. Still harmless?
What about the anxiety that they will live with for the rest of their lives? The fear of recurrence, the tension over each scan, the worry about a headache or a backache being an indication that cancer has spread? Still harmless?
The pink celebrations and exaggerations about the progress we’ve made reinforce all of that and more. I know is all seems harmless, but it isn’t. It is making it harder for women with cancer to get the social support they deserve!
Having dispensed with the idea that pink culture is harmless, we turn our attention to pink fundraising. I know it is tempting to buy the pink products at markets and shopping malls, seemingly a way to help make a small difference against this disease. A penny here, a nickel there, and as Everett Dirksen said, sooner or later it adds up to real money. Maybe….
Not all pink sales are created equal. Deceptive sales tactics abound. As I said last year, I am tired of corporations that are looking to make a profit in the name of my disease! In fact, it disgusts me. (If you’d like to know more about what I think, you can see my NBCLA interview here: http://www.nbclosangeles.com/news/local/State-Attorney-General-Warning-Pinkwashing-132281908.html.)
In the coming weeks I will be post the most egregious products I find on our new Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/PinkRibbonHallOfShame?ref=hl. Where I can, I will include links to contact irresponsible (and perhaps even very responsible) corporations. Meanwhile, here are some things you can do:
Read the label! Responsible cause marketing will tell you all of the good things that will
happen when you buy a product. They will donate $X to Charity Y. Charity Y will use it for Z. If there is a cap on their donation, they will tell you. If they don’t extol the virtues of their generosity, you can guess they aren’t being so generous.
And about Charity Y…. What are THEY going to do with the money. Are they reliable? Responsible? Transparent? And are they meeting YOUR priorities? Do you want to fund the next great awareness campaign? If you believe in research, do THEY? Do you care about local support services? (P.S. Unless you are giving to a local your money isn’t reaching local.)
Whose tax break is it anyway? Very few of the corporations which promote pink products do so out of the goodness of their hearts. They do it because it gets them in well with consumers. They do it because it pumps up their sales. They do it because they are in business for themselves and their shareholders. If they were in business to cure cancer, they wouldn’t need a product tie-in, would they? So do you want to give a large corporation the tax break, or send your own $5 check somewhere and keep that for yourself?
My final rant, and perhaps the greatest indignity, are pink products that cause harm. Cosmetics that contain carcinogens and rBST-laden dairy products come to mind. If corporations are in it for the greater good, and truly want to have a positive impact on breast cancer, they need to first cause no harm. They need to walk the walk by eliminating dangerous substances in their products. Only then will I trust in their generosity and consider buying their pink.
And most importantly, for the breast cancer survivors in your life, please take this season as a chance to be especially sensitive to the constant reminders they face about living with cancer, and reach out in support!