Breast Cancer Is a Terrible Disease and Buying Pink Doesn’t Change That, Help Anyone

Xeni Jardin—who has been honest and open about her experience after her diagnosis of breast cancer—is cracking down on “pinksploitation” during “pinktober.” She and other women and men affected by the disease argue that the commercialization of the disease through pink branding cutifies a disease that Kills People.

SE Smith has a superb article in the Guardian:”The breast cancer awareness industry has become a multibillion dollar juggernaut spanning multiple continents, flooding them with a sea of pink ribbons and tie-in products intended to entice socially aware consumers.”

There is, of course, the argument that the pink BRINGS AWARENESS and the special products have some proceeds that go to research OR WHATEVER. But: Come on. How much money did those companies to REBRAND AND REPACKAGE THEIR PRODUCT for one month? It’s gross.


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WaityKatie (#1,696)

See Barbara Ehrenreich’s book Bright Sided for another great discussion of this.

Roxy (#1,469)

@WaityKatie Love Ehrenreich! For those who want a taste, “Welcome to Cancerland” is available here:

I worked in admin at a cancer center for a few years just as this campaign was starting to ramp up (2008-2010) and now it drives me absolutely bonkers.

wearitcounts (#772)

ugh, or when everybody went around facebook posting their bra color/pattern as a status to “raise awareness for breast cancer.” how is this helping people with breast cancer? THIS IS NOT HELPING PEOPLE WITH BREAST CANCER.

hopelessshade (#580)

@wearitcounts Oh gods those facebook assholes. An old babysitter of mine did that and I CHEWED HER OUT. And then I told her I was being a dick to promote awareness of penile cancer or something.

WaityKatie (#1,696)

@hopelessshade And, people are already pretty “aware” of breast cancer, aren’t they? It’s not a secret. If FB statuses were somehow raising money for breast cancer, that might help.

@wearitcounts The worst is stuff that says “I <3 boobies” or similar. I don’t want for you to care about whether or not I get breast cancer because you think I have a great rack. I don’t heart prostrates, but I certainly believe in educating people about prostrate cancer and encouraging men to have prostrate exams.

WaityKatie (#1,696)

@TheclaAndTheSeals I’m holding out for the “I heart intestines” one for colon cancer.

@WaityKatie We could have a whole collection of t-shirts.

It’s super weird to encourage lifesaving research because you find a particular body part sexually attractive, though, isn’t it? And if it’s a more general “I like my boobs,” well, shit, I like my whole body! <3 skin and lungs and cervix and everything else!

wearitcounts (#772)

@TheclaAndTheSeals an i <3 cervixes tee-shirt would be the absolute best. i would wear the shit out of that.

Fig. 1 (#632)

@TheclaAndTheSeals Aren’t most medical exams prostrate exams? I guess you do have to stand up for mammograms, though.

P.J. Morse (#665)

Scream. Wearing a ribbon doesn’t help anyone. And is it bad to say that those “walks for the cure” bug me? Do the hosts of the walks donate the money to scientific projects? Or to more detection? Because if they do, I apologize and take it back.

But there’s a “walk” every other week for something, and I would much rather give straight to a lab researching chemo medication or something like that than to a “walk” or a business that drapes itself in pink.

josefinastrummer (#1,850)

@P.J. Morse@twitter I am with you on the walks! I once got stuck on my bike in a “walk” for Parkinson’s Disease that was seriously a crawl. And I was being yelled at for trying to pass through a public park. It took every bit of strength I had to keep from yelling “If your WALK was so important, they would have shut down the whole road, like they do for the AIDS walk.” Not my best mental moment. Also it helped that I was alone. If I was with someone else, I may have been the first person I know arrested for starting a riot during a Parkinson One Mile Walk.

These walks are crap. They make people feel good about donating $20 towards a “cause” and then the walkers can brag about walking a mile for the “cause”. If I want to donate to your “cause” I am not going to make you exercise for it! Just take my $20 and stay out of public areas.

P.J. Morse (#665)

@josefinastrummer Concur. The “walks” make people feel better, but so does donating your money directly to a cause or a lab. I might have to borrow your line of “Just take my $20 and stay out of public areas” if anyone asks me to donate!

Hey, where’s your ribbon?

Oh, I don’t wear the ribbon.

Oh, you don’t wear the ribbon? Aren’t you against AIDS?

Yeah, I’m against AIDS. I mean, I’m walking, aren’t I? I just don’t wear the ribbon.

Who do you think you are?

Put the ribbon on!

Hey, Cedric! Bob! This guy won’t wear a ribbon!

WHO!? WHO does not want to wear the Rrrrrrribbon!?

iffie (#1,911)

@Reginal T. Squirge Uh, were we at the same AIDS Walk a few weekends ago? The shirt and the walking and the fundraising was not enough, without the ribbon I was a nobody.

Marissa (#467)

@Reginal T. Squirge You know what you are? You’re a ribbon bully.

r&rkd (#1,657)

Changing the colors on the Chicago skyline though? Think of all the lives saved!

I work in a field where raising awareness is sometimes a legitimate goal — in cases where there is a thing that not many people are aware of. Do the people buying pink stuff have anyone in their social group who is literally Not Aware of breast cancer?

@stuffisthings This is why I have mixed feelings about this. Breast cancer was much more fatal and research much, much less funded back before Komen and pink ribbons and silly things like this because no one knew about it, so at one point in history these kind of campaigns probably had a net positive effect. I worked on an awareness-raising campaign for lung cancer which doesn’t have a dedicated month of products for it and whose ribbon color is clear (because someone thought that was a good idea) and the massive gap in awareness was really frustrating.

At the same time the message is sort of out now and promoting the idea that this is raising any real money for research is pretty disgusting.

@Amanda@twitter A pretty good summary of why awareness-raising-only campaigns in any field are inherently self-limiting. You see this a lot in international development, too. “Let’s raise awareness about water and sanitation issues in Africa!” OK, now everybody knows about them, what do we do? “Uhh… buy a special water bottle at Starbucks?”

@stuffisthings My point was that for breast cancer, it did work, up to a point. Not because people donated 1 cent from buying lipstick but because it became widely known and the taboos about it were broken down to the point that people were willing to donate real money to research (although it’s easier to make people care about a disease that their family and friends are getting than water in Africa)

@Amanda@twitter That’s what I meant — awareness raising makes sense when it is a means to an end, or where having raised awareness about something has impact in itself (e.g. getting women to do self-checkups and so forth). But way too many organizations have a business model of:

1. Raise awareness.
2. ????
3. (Non)Profit

Also, I find it more than mildly annoying that large numbers of people who would be opposed to paying more taxes to finance more basic research also think that donating $3 at the pharmacy checkout is going to cure breast cancer.

@stuffisthings To clarify, I don’t mean that people shouldn’t donate money to what they care about, but let’s be real: PR/awareness-raising campaigns don’t create money out of thin air, they just allow one group to snatch a greater share of the philanthropic dollars out there, usually at the expense of some other worthy cause.

oiseau (#1,830)

“any publicity is good publicity”

KatNotCat (#766)

Hey, have you heard of breast cancer? It’s a cancer that affects the breasts. Women get it, sometimes. Maybe dudes? Look it up.

Breast cancer awareness, y’all!

The book/documentary Pink Ribbons, Inc. is excellent & worth watching for anyone with a body.

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