Modern Lady v. “Pinktober”

Originally posted in Feministing

Last week on Infomania, Erin Gibson took a critical look at the corporate-sponsored pink-ribbon madness of Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

Gibson, who is clearly all for awareness and research funding, is nonetheless skeptical of companies that slap a pink ribbon on their products for the month of October, and of people who buy those products and consider their part done. “These products are magic!” Gibson says, “They make consumers and corporations feel like they’re actually doing something good, even if they’re not sure what that is!”

Like Gibson, I see the need to raise awareness of breast cancer and money for research. I have a breast cancer survivor in my family, and I know that some of these corporations and some of their customers are genuinely committed to promoting prevention and funding a cure. But I agree with Gibson that Breast Cancer Awareness Month, or Pinktober, as she calls it, has been somewhat hijacked by companies more interested in boosting their corporate social responsibility bona fides than in raising awareness or finding a cure. It’s also a convenient way for consumers to feel like they’re doing something about breast cancer without having to expend real effort or change their behavior in any way. If there is any behavioral change, it’s that people might buy more stuff. But for this one month, it’s not really shopping. It’s not consumerism. It is charity. Because the stuff has a pink ribbon on it!

Bottom line: awareness and early detection save lives, and funding research is crucial. But buying eggs with pink ribbona stamped on them doesn’t make us better or more aware than if we bought unstamped eggs. And while some portion of the profits will go to a breast cancer charity, and that is great, we shouldn’t imagine for a moment that because we buy those eggs, our contribution to this important cause is complete until next October rolls around.

As Gibson says, you could go out and buy a whole bunch of pink-washed products this month, and be pleased that 5% of the profits are going to a breast cancer charity. Or you could send that money directly to a breast cancer charity.

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One Comment

  1. Posted October 21, 2010 at 3:28 pm | Permalink

    Chloe, I loved this segment too. I would venture to say that, as a BC patient and enrollee in a clinical trial for a new breast cancer vaccine, a lot of wool is being pulled over a lot of people’s eyes. Not to mention the inherent sexism in the whole popularization of breast cancer (cause there are a lot of other kinds) and the “pinkness” of it all — “That’s all right, little ladies, we’ll get y’all all fixed up.” Plus, I wonder where all the Komen money goes, cause they have a lot of it. In fact, I just started a #pinkstinks campaign on Twitter and a Facebook group!

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