It’s Pinktober. Breast Cancer Awareness Month. It has become fashionable to complain about the pink tidal wave that engulfs us each October. Hurling insults at corporate America is hardly new, but now there’s growing anger towards all sorts of organizations that wave the pink flag. Why all the fuss about the pink proliferation?
First, a history lesson.
The Komen Foundation did not invent the pink ribbon. Cosmetics giant Estee Lauder and the magazine Self did that. They were inspired by a breast cancer survivor named Charlotte Haley who’d begun an awareness campaign distributing thousands of peach colored ribbons she’d made herself. At first they tried to work with her. The color of the ribbon was later changed to pink when Charlotte resisted the commercialization of her efforts.
Breast Cancer Awareness Month has been with us since the mid-eighties. It began as a collaborative effort between cancer charities and what is now the drug company, Astra Zeneca. Big business and breast cancer have always been connected. Given the rampant nature of the disease, is this any surprise?
What has changed over time is the sheer number of companies and groups that have jumped on the pink bandwagon. Savvy sellers recognized that “cause marketing” was another means to increase the bottom line. Little or no scrutiny went into how much money was raised or where it actually went. The focus of Breast Cancer Awareness Month has always been on early detection. Not prevention, not treatment, not the suffering of those living and dying every day from breast cancer.
The term pinkwashing was created by the group Breast Cancer Action to call attention to those groups and companies that claim to support the fight against breast cancer but whose products may be connected to the disease. It’s grown in scope to include shady charities or those who claim to make generous donations who really don’t do squat.
I do not mind the October pink parade. I also do not feel compelled to buy laundry detergent, yogurt, nail polish, bras, kitchen gadgets, football jerseys or anything else just because a company affiliates themselves with some aspect of the breast cancer battle. Many times I have refused to support organizations that don’t meet my personal criteria. Engage brain before opening wallet is my rule.
The most amusing fundraiser this Pinktober? The porno web site Pornhub.com is donating one penny for every thirty views of selected boob videos. Total projected donation? Around $25,000 going to the Komen Foundation. A very nice chunk of change. Let’s hope those in power at Komen have learned their lesson and will focus on their mission, not politics. I am watching them closely to see if they will ever make the cut again in my own personal book of organizations I support. Right now Komen is still on my questionable list, although I’m sure my charming husband would not mind doing his part by watching some Pornhub boob movies. There is nothing wrong with buying something pink, looking at pink body parts or any other activity that keeps the ball rolling. We need all the help we can get.