Worried About the Pinkwashing of Breast Cancer? We Are, Too.
Submitted by Danika Carter to the AllergyKids Foundation October 26, 2010
I’m sure you know October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. How could you not know? Everything not Halloween related has a pink ribbon on it.
But do we really need any more awareness? Isn’t everyone “aware” of breast cancer now? With 1 in 8 women getting breast cancer in her life, and about 40% of people getting some form of cancer in their life, aren’t we all aware? Don’t most of us know someone who has had breast cancer, or who has had a family member with breast cancer? Personally, I’ve known more people who’ve either had breast cancer or had a family member with it than I have fingers.
So what is this pink ribbon campaign all about and is it effective? You might be surprised to know that the pink ribbon campaign was started by large corporations, not by grassroots efforts. It has been a marketing ploy from the very beginning.
Breast Cancer Awareness Month was created by the corporation AstraZeneca in 1985 and they continue to be a major sponsor. Until recently AstraZeneca made toxic chemicals, many of which have been linked to cancer. They currently make the top cancer treatment drug, and they own cancer treatment centers. They make money giving us cancer and treating us for it. Is it any wonder there’s little to no focus on prevention and we’ve yet to see a cure?
According to Stacy Malkan, author of Not Just a Pretty Face: The Ugly Side of the Beauty Industry, the original ribbon wasn’t pink at all, it was peach. The peach ribbon was introduced in the early ‘90s by Charlotte Haley. She was angry that only 5% of the National Cancer Institute’s budget when towards cancer prevention and lobbied for the issue to receive more attention.
Shortly after Charlotte began her lobbying efforts with her peach ribbon she was approached by Evelyn Lauder of Estee Lauder and Alexandra Penney of Self Magazine who wanted to outdo the previous year’s breast cancer awareness month edition, and asked Charlotte if they could use her peach ribbon. The Estee Lauder Company wanted to distribute them at their cosmetics counters. Charlotte refused. “For Charlotte the ribbon was a tool to inspire women to become politically active, not sell products” says Stacy Malkan.
So, Estee Lauder changed the color to pink because focus groups said it was calmer, safer, and happier. Since then it has been used as a marketing ploy to pray on people’s emotions and get them to purchase products, many of which contain chemicals linked to cancer. It’s insincere. In fact, to me it’s emotional manipulation. With so many of us loving someone who’s either had this disease, or known someone who does, these companies play on our pain, and our fear of getting the disease. Buying pink ribbon products gives us the feeling we are doing something positive; when in reality it has very little effect. Most companies don’t even tell us how much of the money from our purchase is going towards charity. Many companies put a ceiling on how much they will donate, no matter how much they sell.
We’ve had 25 years of awareness campaigns and more women than ever are getting breast cancer. Millions of dollars are donated every year to organizations looking for a cure by the very corporations that are polluting our bodies and our environment and fighting against stronger toxic chemical laws. And, it seems every year we see more and more pink ribbon products and are told to “shop for a cure.”
We don’t need any more awareness. What we need now is action so that no one else needs a cure. We need to lobby our elected officials at all levels to protect us from carcinogens and hormone disruptors. And, it’s election season, so we need to do it NOW. As soon as you are done reading this, call the candidates running for office in your area and tell them that if they want your vote, they need to come out strongly in favor of toxic chemical reform.
We also need to start detoxing our lives. Most cancer isn’t genetic. It’s caused by environmental factors. We need to change every area we have control over. By doing so, not only are we protecting ourselves, our families and our environment, but we are also sending a strong message to the corporations exploiting this disease.
We CAN make a difference…on ourselves, our families, our environment, large corporations and our government. We are women and we are strong. As Stacy Malkan says, “Women are 54% of the vote, 60% of college graduates and buy 85% of consumer products.” There is no reason we can’t be effective.
So go out and do something real to prevent breast cancer. Do it now. Think before you buy pink ribbon products. Support organizations that are fighting for cancer prevention:
- Breast Cancer Fund
- Breast Cancer Action (see their “Think Before You Pink” campaign) & BCA Montreal
- Women’s Voices for the Earth
- Campaign for Safe Cosmetics
This article originally appeared @Your Organic Life’s Blog as seen here.