You can’t swing a dead cat in the month of October without hitting a pink ribbon. Breast cancer awareness is everywhere. The month of October is covered in pink ribbons. You want to support the cause, raise awareness, and make a difference. I’m about to reveal a dirty little secret of the pink ribbon industry that will make you think twice before you pink. It’s why you should be informed about what you support, and why I am not a fan of the pink ribbon craze. Read on…
In full disclosure, I own plenty of items covered in pink ribbons. Either current or past I’ve owned a pink ribbon iPod, pink ribbon running shoes, pink ribbon earbuds, and more. I even sell pink ribbon items in our eBay store. I’m all about solidarity with other breast cancer survivors.
It’s not that I hate the pink ribbon itself or what it stands for. It’s the corporate greed around exploiting the pink ribbon for profit. And even worse, the organizations that manipulate women and feed off the breast cancer fear to line their own pockets instead of the research and/or awareness that they claim to promote.
Pink Ribbons Blues
According to Pink Ribbon Blues by Gayle Sulik, “While millions walk, run, and purchase products for a cure, cancer rates continue to rise, industry thrives, and breast cancer is stigmatized anew for those who reject the pink ribbon model. Charities and companies profit from a disease in the name of its cure. Corporate and political agendas stand in the way of patients’ rights and access to quality care. Profit motives supersede efforts to provide accurate and useful health information or to improve the lives of those who are living with, and at risk for, breast cancer; and billions of dollars are siphoned into branding efforts instead of the prevention and eradication of disease. The incident is an extraordinary object lesson in the political values and beliefs that, along with national and international politics, underlie different players in breast cancer advocacy. It is also a multifaceted example of how pink ribbon culture currently functions.”
Another expert from the book Pink Ribbon Blues gives an example about AVON’s Walk to End Breast Cancer. The walk “requires participants to raise $1,800 and states on its website that this money is given ‘to local, regional and national breast cancer organizations.’ In 2015, it lists that about $18 million total was given to such organizations in grants. Yet, about $34 million was raised from these events (a number we could only find by locating the press release from each of the walks Avon held in 2015 and adding up the numbers). This means 47% (or $16 million) of the money raised from the 2015 walks isn’t publicly accounted for.”
According to Pink Ribbons, Inc, Komen is another big name to watch out for. “Komen’s website seems to also have the gall to downplay or even deny any possible breast cancer link between well-known and obvious environmental toxins. This includes BPA – an endocrine disruptor that mimics estrogen, found in products such as plastics, liners of canned food and even toilet paper; phthalates – another hormone disruptor found in personal care and cleaning products; and parabens – a preservative found in cosmetics that acts like a weak estrogen. All of these chemicals increase the risk for hormone-driven cancers. Watchdogs have pointed out that Komen receives generous donations from companies who use BPA in their products (Coca-Cola, General Mills, 3M, to name a few).”
The documentary continues, “the pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca is the maker of the drug tamoxifen. AstraZeneca gave $97,000 to Komen affiliates in 2008. They have been known to have a very large presence at Komen “race for the cure” events and they have been a major force in Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Incidentally, tamoxifen is listed as a carcinogen by the World Health Organization as it increases the risk of uterine and other cancers. Komen promotes the use of tamoxifen.”
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To Pink or Not to Pink?
Buyer beware. Or at least informed. If you want to purchase a pink ribbon product or participate in a walk to show solidarity, it’s all good. If you are concerned about where your money goes, then do your research. In my book, The Insider’s Guide to Creating a Successful Breast Cancer Campaign, I disclose some questions to consider:
- Is it a local or national charity?
- What do you want your contribution to accomplish?
- Do you want your money to go to research or to a foundation that supports women directly?
Don’t always assume that the “popular” organizations are the best ones. These large organizations spend the majority of their money on marketing and organizing walks and races than on cancer patients. The smaller organizations generally have a smaller overhead and more money goes directly to impact individual lives.
Look at their records. Ask questions about their organization. If the organization isn’t cooperative or transparent, then maybe someone else should receive your money.
How Pink Fortitude Pinks
Pink Fortitude, LLC is a proud sponsor of the National Breast Center Foundation. The organization is local to the Washington, DC metro area. It has low overhead and the money goes directly to help women going through breast cancer treatment.
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