Breast Cancer Awareness Month, Day 23
Fact for the day
Few things in modern culture are without controversy and detractors. This includes the use of pink ribbons as a symbol of support for the fight against breast cancer. Below are some quotations from the Wikipedia article on “Pink Ribbon” that summarize the controversies.
The Pink ribbon campaign is frequently used in cause-related marketing, a cooperation between non-profits and businesses to promote a product that also supports a cause. Because the pink ribbon is not licensed by any corporation, it is more open to being abused by businesses that donate little or none of their revenue to breast cancer research. While companies such as Estée Lauder have distributed over 70 million pink ribbons, and donated over $25 million to breast cancer research, other companies have been discovered using the pink ribbon inappropriately—either by not donating their profits, or by using the pink ribbon on products that include ingredients which cause cancer.
See also: Susan G. Komen Foundation § Pinkwashing in cause marketing
The misuse of marketing campaigns by businesses using the pink ribbon on their products have been described as pinkwashing, a portmanteau of pink ribbon and whitewash, which was coined by Breast Cancer Action. They use the term to highlight companies or products which feature a pink ribbon without donating more than a negligible or token amount of money to a charity or with no transparency regarding where the funds are going.
It also describes the use of a pink ribbon on products with known or suspected links to cancer. The use of breast cancer or the pink ribbon in cause marketing to promote products such as firearms or pornography has also drawn controversy.
Pink Ribbons, Inc.
Associate professor of kinesiology and health studies at Queen's University Samantha King claims in her 2006 book Pink Ribbons, Inc.: Breast Cancer and the Politics of Philanthropy that breast cancer has been transformed from a serious disease and individual tragedy to a market-driven industry of survivorship and corporate sales pitch. The book inspired a 2012 National Film Board of Canada documentary, Pink Ribbons, Inc., directed by Léa Pool, which highlights instances of corporate misuse of the pink ribbon and other issues around the campaign.
Breast Cancer Action
San Francisco-based Breast Cancer Action calls the annual awareness campaign "Breast Cancer Industry Month" to emphasize the costs of treatment. Their "Think Before You Pink" campaign urges people to "do something besides shop." The group has particularly excoriated major cosmetic companies such as Avon, Revlon, and Estée Lauder, which have claimed to promote women's health while simultaneously using known and/or suspected cancer-causing chemicals, such as parabens and phthalates in their products.
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I suppose it was inevitable that something that was initiated with the best intentions would be corrupted by powerful commercial interests. It’s the American way. The moral of the story is that not only do women need to be aware of the dangers of breast cancer and the options for treating and surviving it. They also need to be aware of the entities that are trying to exploit that very awareness for commercial gain.
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