It has been almost 3 months since my last post. The fact that it has been so long makes it feel like a confession, rather than a simple statement of fact. Truth be told, I needed to take a little break from focusing on thinking about my new normal and just live life for a while. But then there were two very significant events that recently occurred: (1) one of my closest (and oldest) friends was diagnosed with breast cancer, and (2) Pinktober rolled around. I wish my friend’s cancer would cease to exist, and I feel the same way sometimes about Pinktober.
The month of October has become synonymous with pinkwashing – pink is everywhere. I wasn’t sure why someone would pick a month in Fall to be so fucking pink, so I had to do a little research. It actually started out as a peach colored ribbon (which would be more appropriate given the month, in my opinion) by a breast cancer survivor to raise legislative awareness. In 1992, the National Cancer Institute’s (NCI) budget was $1.8 billion and only about 5 percent of it was being spent on cancer prevention/research. The peach ribbon was strictly a grassroots movement aimed at grabbing attention of lawmakers on NCI’s lack of proportionate spending, and of course, someone had to capitalize on it.
When Charlotte Hayley’s peach ribbons caught the attention of an editor at Self magazine – who wanted her to collaborate on their annual Breast Cancer Awareness issue – she shot it down because she thought it would become too commercialized. After all, this was a woman who handed out her peach ribbons and cards protesting NCI’s budget at the local supermarket. Her message continued to spread by word of mouth, and it doesn’t get much more grassroots than that… For legal reasons, Self decided to turn peach into pink, and Pinktober gained momentum, notoriously perpetuated by the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation (you should look into their budget).
In the month of October, every time I go somewhere, watch TV, or get on social media, there is always something pink. I see thousands of products, advertisements, and events that all revolve around the color pink with the promise of fundraising for breast cancer awareness and research. Fundraising in the name of the cause has generated trillions of dollars, and is so proliferate, that I can’t even buy a fucking carton of eggs without seeing that little pink ribbon. What Hayley feared would happen, is happening: breast cancer awareness has become its own commercial industry and has abandoned its roots.
So why am I so pinkangry? With all that revenue that has been generated, we are still waiting on a cure. I’m not going to totally shit on the little pink ribbon because I do think the campaign is effective. Most people who wouldn’t normally think about their annual mammogram are reminded and motivated to go get one. However, I do think the little pink ribbon is totally exploited for financial gain, and only a fraction of the hard-earned and well-intentioned donations are actually going to the cause. I find this extremely deceptive on the part of the folks who are employing pinkwashing to increase their bottom line.
The irony in all this is that I didn’t pay much attention to where my money donated to breast cancer awareness and research went before I got breast cancer. This Pinktober, please make it a habit to investigate any charities you wish to donate to. Do not buy that yogurt or box of crackers just because it has a pink ribbon on it; you’re going to be disappointed when you find out how much really goes to the cause. Donate to local charities that support patients and their quality of life – that has a huge impact. Make every month breast cancer awareness month, and don’t wait for October to get a mammogram or do a self-exam. I purposely did not endorse or list any charities/organizations – I want to you to do that discovery and analysis, on your own, of where the funds behind the little pink ribbon go.