Here it is, October. It's October first and I haven't yet left my house today, but I’m bracing myself for the obnoxious pink onslaught.
Breast Cancer “Awareness” month is more annoying than it is helpful, for numerous reasons. It should be Breast Cancer Prevention month or Breast Cancer Action month, for starters – we are all plenty AWARE, thank you very much, that breast cancer exists and is bad. For myself and many other breast cancer survivors, or people who have had loved ones die from breast cancer, it is insulting and painful to be confronted at every turn with pink products that, at best, are just ridiculous (pink toilet paper, pink frying pans), and at their worst, may contribute to breast cancer (pink-bottled alcohol, Komen’s toxic-chemical-containing “Promise Me” perfume). If I have the misfortune of having to refill my Tamoxifen in October (which happened to me last year), the pharmacy gives it to me in a bottle with a breast-cancer-pink cap. AT THE VERY LEAST, pink items that are trying to increase people’s “awareness” of breast cancer should be aimed towards people who genuinely may not be aware of all there is to know about the disease… NOT women who are already being treated for it!
Even just going to the supermarket during October is an ordeal for those of us who have been affected by the horrors of this disease – everywhere you turn, there’s pink. Hey, pink crackers, because we want you to be aware of breast cancer! Pink yogurt! We care about breast cancer! Pink paper plates! Pink ribbons on cereal! Breast cancer! Breast cancer! Hey, think about breast cancer! Pink bottles of seasoning blends! BREAST CANCER! Pink plastic forks and knives, because HEY, THINK ABOUT BREAST CANCER! PINK! RIBBONS! Pink bags of chips for breast cancer!!!! It’s exhausting and difficult. I’m more “aware” of breast cancer than I ever wanted to be, and October just feels like I’m having breast cancer shoved in my face again and again. If I’m not careful, I can get sucked back into the painful memories – sobbing on diagnosis day, followed by months of wires, needles, blood, fear, stranger’s hands. Spending the day before my 31st birthday agonizing over the decision of whether or not to have both of my breasts cut off. Yeah, pass the bottle of pink crap, let’s take a trip down awareness lane.
In some ways, people argue, this commercialization of breast cancer is good, because more money is put into researching a cure, helping women access treatment, etc. However, things have really gone too far. Michaels, a craft supply store, has an entire pink/breast cancer awareness section during October. There are pink ribbons, stickers, paper, etc., including stickers that proclaim “LOSING IS NOT AN OPTION!” and other slogans common in the ‘fight against breast cancer.’ There are also Pink Parties, where you can pay $25 to take a class at Michaels and make breast cancer cards, banners, and scrap books. What the hell? We're supposed to happily make some lacy, pink, anti-breast cancer scrapbook, with pink-ribboned rosettes?? Think about how weird and wrong it would be if you went into a craft supply store and were confronted with a big display of, say, diabetes craft supplies, or alcoholism craft supplies. Can you even picture it?? There’s so much breast cancer paraphernalia to buy it almost seems like – as disgusting as this is – we’re supposed to find it “fun” to be a member of a special club and wear the cheerful, “FIGHT LIKE A GIRL!” shirts, the pink ribbon earrings, the promising perfume, while creating breast cancer art projects. It’s insane, and it doesn’t happen with any other disease. What about all the other types of cancer, huh? There are people who have cancer of the tongue, bladder, anus, brain. They don’t get t-shirts and baseball caps and jewelry and craft supplies. And I’m in no way arguing that they should! I’m saying that the energy that goes into creating and marketing and selling junk like pink toilet paper, pink alcohol, and pink buckets of fried chicken could be much better spent.
Nowadays, many companies are enthusiastically jumping on the pink ribbon bandwagon, pink-ing their products because it will increase their profits, not because they really care about eradicating breast cancer. Many consumers will choose pink products because they want to help end breast cancer, and it makes them feel good to purchase a pink product that they think is really doing something. It’s quite possible that it’s not. One woman who posted to BCAction’s Facebook page had come across pink office paper from a company that had promised to donate a portion of sales in 2010 to breast cancer research. It’s now 2011 and the paper is still being sold at Michaels, but not a single penny from those sales is going towards breast cancer research anymore. It’s all going to the company that makes the paper. I emailed Michaels to ask if any of the money from their Pink Parties goes towards breast cancer research, and if so, how much. The only response I received was from a customer service rep suggesting I snail mail the coporate office for "additional information about donations." "Additional" information, implying that I already had some preliminary information, which I did not. There's no information on Michaels' website about what they do with the profits from Pink Parties.
Breast cancer is not fun, pretty, pink. It is not something to celebrate and have a party about. Wake up, WAKE UP.
Edited to add, I really like this blogger's perspective on things. Here is her letter to the Susan G. Komen foundation, asking them to stop the Pinkwashing: http://cancerfree2b.com/2011/09/27/dear-susan-g-komen/