It Is Time To Rethink “Pink”

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In the past, breast cancer was a disease spoken about behind closed doors. Women had little support, and there was limited acknowledgment of the emotional ramifications of suffering from the disease, or the emotional trauma of losing one or both breasts.

However, these days people are definitely aware, and most are comfortable talking about breast cancer in public. After all, over the years consumers have increasingly been bombard with pink products everywhere they go during the month of October since the late 80s and early 90s.

It has become more about “breast cancer awareness” than the disease itself though. Everything has been so heavily covered in pink ribbons that the disease seems secondary to the cutesy – sometimes sexual – marketing of breast cancer.

Breast Cancer Awareness Month has slowly grown into a gold mine for Corporate America, and now it is just another pragmatic scheme more beneficial to the retail industry than preventing and curing breast cancer.

In 1985, NBCAM was formed by a partnership between the American Cancer Society and Imperial Chemical Industries, which is now part of AstraZeneca (a pharmaceutical company that just so happens to produce and sell several anti-breast cancer drugs).

The original organization has and still does a pretty good job of making sure that dollars touch patients and research initiatives, but a lot of companies use the pink ribbon-related marketing to increase sales while contributing only a small fraction of proceeds to the cause. Also many use “pinkwashing” to improve their public image while manufacturing products that may be carcinogenic.

The reality is that there is nothing pink and rosy about breast cancer; it is a serious disease that slowly kills. They have put a pretty face on this disease that is not so pretty.

While it is understood that many efforts are meant to encourage those who are suffering or recovering, slogans like “Save the Ta-Ta’s” and “Save Second Base” trivialize the ramifications of breast cancer. The National Cancery Institue says it can metastasize to bone, the brain, liver, lungs, and also commonly spreads to the lymph nodes, if not caught early enough.

It is a disfigurement of the female anatomy – which is closely tied to not only sexuality but also maternity and feminine identity.

Barbra Brenner, former executive director of Breast Cancer Action, said, “Breast cancer advocacy is being transformed from meaningful civic participation into purchasing products.”

The fight against breast cancer should not be about awareness of the disease anymore, but rather supporters should put their focus on back on the real cause, informing women (and men) about their care options.

As the poorest state in the Union, Mississippi should be concerned with getting preventative care for the low-income, uninsured, and under-served women. The National Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program, funded by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, only has one office in the whole state. Also, it only serves 11.7% of those eligible for their affordable breast cancer screenings.

It is time for consumers to put their donation dollars where they matter, and actively involve themselves in teaching women (and men) what they really need to know in order fight breast cancer and stay healthy. Support organizations that deliver on their promises and promote society and not their own pocketbooks.

– Kelsey Kitch, Editor

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