Think Before You Pink

Hi, October is upon which is Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

I think by now we are all quite aware of breast cancer because the Komen Foundation has done such a spectacular job of branding the color and selling merchandise with ribbons. Now, tons of companies join this corporate hydra and change the color of something and vow to kick a few dollars to the cause. A lot of this is just profiting on the suffering of women to sell products. An alcoholic beverage will go pink to sell more units, a household product will come in a special edition color. It is everywhere.

My request to all sports franchises this October is to please consider where your dollars go. I know how much teams love to put on a breast cancer awareness night because well, it is a great way to fill an arena. Teams typically sell pink shirts with logos, vowing to fight cancer. But, can you not? Can you at least circle back to the fact that men can get breast cancer too and the importance of early detection and shirking stigmas?

I’ve written about this before, but I’m bringing it up again:

In the jobs I’ve had, it has meant interacting with women in various stages of the cancer. I once worked at Victoria’s Secret, how and why I’m still not entirely sure. I was only there a year but it coincided with the worst time in my life. But while there I did have a lot of women come in after their mastectomy or had recovered from their reconstructions, looking for a new bra. That’s all they wanted, was something to make them feel pretty and happy. And enough of them remarked they didn’t want anything pink either. I remember one woman telling me the worst part about getting breast cancer was “all the pink shit.”

At my job now, it is still the same. The great part about dragon boating, is it encourages inclusiveness and there are tons of breast cancer survivor teams. A few weeks ago a customer needed help with a package I had shipped out. She needed it going to a different address and I was sorting it out. She called me back a few minutes later and apologized and told me I had it going to the right address. She must have apologized four times and told me how the chemo makes her confused. I just wanted to crawl under my desk and sob for days.

A lot of these teams want pink items. They see a color as a testament to what they are battling or have fought through because pink is so tied to the idea of being feminine. My boss has a huge heart for BCS teams and does whatever he can to help them out. His mother had breast cancer. But this was in the 70s when it was a death sentence and they just basically cut everything out of you. So we do whatever we can for these teams.

Did you know Komen owns the color pink? And they keep lawyers on retainer to send out cease and desist letters if they feel you are using THEIR pink? I learned this at my job. And my god, is that vile. We also have a charity and it contains the name For Life. Komen also believes they own this too and any group wanting to do something For Life be it saving puppies or helping children, you’re not allowed to use those words. They spend a lot of time C&D’ing these tiny groups who just want to raise money for a cause they believe in. Often these charities will comply since they fear the legal force of Komen coming down on them.

Remember to save the person okay? A woman is more than her breasts. And we should support women throughout all stages of this terrible cancer. We should be actively working to do shit instead of wristbands that say I LOVE BOOBIES or SAVE THE TATAS.

Here are some alternative charities you can donate to, in all the hullabaloo of pink October:

The Susan G. Komen foundation has a terrible recent history of pleasing their corporate sponsors & far-right supporters before actually helping women, and throws an outrageous amount of money towards promotion and merchandise in comparison to cancer research.

Here are some better alternatives to buying Komen logo’d pink nail polish, pink cupcakes, pink smoothies, etc. if you feel like donating to the fight against breast cancer this month:

Breast Cancer Research Foundation (BCRF)  claims 88% of their proceeds will go towards funding research (compared to around 20% in Komen’s 2009-2010 fiscal period).

National Breast Cancer Foundation put 86% towards mammograms, education, and other programs in 2012. “works to prevent breast cancer by eliminating our exposure to toxic chemicals and radiation linked to the disease” and claims to put 78% of your donations towards environmental prevention research.

And keep it local if you can. Help your neighbors. And I know a lot of you just want to help your mothers, sisters, wives and all the other important women in your life. It is important to know what a marketing scam this month has become and why we should take it back.

Further reading: