As I sat down with my coffee and my laptop this morning, it occurs to me that this series will read painfully negative. That’s not my intent. My intent is to show you, from a survivor’s standpoint, all the things that Breast Cancer Awareness Month misses the mark on. If you have a loved one who has been touched by breast cancer, by all means, wear your pink in support or in memory of them. I’ve done it, too, out of love and respect. But from a survivor standpoint there are still some things about BCAM that don’t make sense to me.
There is a bizarre commercial aspect to BCAM that follows exactly zero other awareness months. There are pink ribbons on everything you can think of. One example: I bought bananas at the grocery store and each one had a pink ribbon sticker on it. I thought, hmm… bananas for cancer?
I posted a question to the company’s Facebook page asking if a portion of my purchase helped with cancer research, how the money was spent, and what research center they donated to.
Thank you for your inquiry. We’ve invested to support the Central American communities to have access to prevention and community. We also donated to cancer foundations.
Ok. That’s great, I guess. Maybe people in Central America don’t have access to those resources. I have no idea. But my questions asked for more information. I wanted specifics and at best they only partially answered my question. I have an idea of where in the world my money went, but I still don’t know what percentage of my purchase went to further research, prevention or supporting the cancer community. And did they match my percentage? Did they exceed it?
The utter lack of transparency surrounding all the merchandise marked with a pink ribbon makes me furious. Is it too much to ask where is my money going? Or do companies slap a pink ribbon on any damn thing as a form of marketing, making me, the consumer, think whatever pink thing I just bought was helping?
This, by the way, is a practice that happens often enough that it’s been given a name. It’s called pinkwashing. And it’s disgusting.
Look, money going to cancer research, prevention and awareness is good. I want money to go to those things. But I don’t want to be tricked. And I sure as hell don’t want the worst moments of my life exploited for someone’s bottom line.
In one way, I’m grateful for all the attention that breast cancer awareness month gets. There is so much known now about breast cancer. Treatment has come so far. But c’mon. Is every company marking their products with a pink sticker donating money? How much money? And, more importantly, how much are they profiting by using that pink label?
If you want to donate money to breast cancer research, awareness and prevention, don’t buy pink stuff. Your dollars are better spent by donating to legitimate charities. You can research them using the links below.
Be clear on where you want your money to go. Some areas to focus on:
Beware of garbage charities. If you donate to the wrong place, your money may not get used in the manner you want it to.
If you don’t know if the pink ribbon marked product is helping anyone then ask. Most companies have a Facebook page or a website. (You *could* send an email but I find the more public the forum, the more likely the question will get a response.)
If you aren’t sure if the pink ribbon on a bag, or a balloon, or a tube of lipstick is helping, I urge you to follow the money. I understand companies wanting to profit. Money is necessary and not of itself evil. Evil enters the equation when the scariest and darkest moments of my life, and other survivor’s lives, become a marketing tool.