Pinkwashing for breast cancer awareness questioned
A portion of the bras hung across the Hot Metal Bridge over the Monongahela River are seen above the skyline in Pittsburgh, Wednesday, Oct. 5, 2011. Aerie, a bra company that's part of Pittsburgh-based American Eagle Outfitters, has a current breast cancer campaign: where this steel bridge in the city has been draped in thousands of bras, to heighten breast cancer awareness awareness. Aerie said $1 from every sale during October will be donated to a breast cancer charity, up to $50,000. (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic)
(AP) -- The country is awash in pink for breast cancer awareness month - and some women are sick of it.
While no one is questioning the need to fight the deadly disease, some breast cancer advocates are starting to ask whether one of the most successful charity campaigns in recent history has lost its focus.
"The pink drives me nuts," said Cynthia Ryan, an 18-year survivor of breast cancer who also volunteers to help other women with the disease. "It's the cheeriness I can't stand."
Activists have even coined a new word: pinkwashing.
They say that's when a company or organization does a pink breast cancer promotion, but at the same time sells and profits from pink-theme products.
Some of the pink products have generated plenty of discussion among breast cancer advocates.
A Smith & Wesson 9mm handgun with pink pistol grip? The manufacturer says a "Portion of the Proceeds Will Be Donated to a Breast Cancer Awareness Charity."
You can get the "Pink Ribbon Combo" at Jersey Mike's Subs, or the Sephora Collection Pink Eyelash Curler. One year, there was a pink bucket of Kentucky Fried Chicken.
The San Francisco group Breast Cancer Action has led the campaign to question pink products, but executive director Karuna Jaggar said it isn't saying all such products are bad.
She said there's no doubt that when the pink ribbon campaigns started about 20 years ago there was still a great need to raise awareness.
"At one time, pink was the means," Jaggar said. "Now, it's almost become the end in itself. In its most simplistic forms, pink has become a distraction. You put a pink ribbon on it, people stop asking questions."
Breast cancer activists agree that the use of a ribbon to promote awareness evolved in stages. They note that in 1979 there were yellow ribbons for the American hostages in Iran; in 1990, AIDS activists used red ribbons to call attention to victims of that disease; and 1991 saw the first major use of the pink ribbon, when the Susan G. Komen Foundation gave them out at a New York City race for cancer survivors.
But the ribbon symbol may tie into a far older tradition, according to the American Folk Life Center at the Library of Congress. It notes that various versions of the song "Round Her Neck She Wore A Yellow Ribbon" have been popular for 400 years, all with the theme of displaying the ribbon for an absent loved one.
And it's clear that too many loved ones are still lost to the disease, despite many advances in diagnosis and treatment. The National Cancer Institute estimates that about 40,000 women will die of breast cancer this year, and 230,000 new cases will be diagnosed.
But Jaggar, of Breast Cancer Action, wonders whether more awareness is what's needed to reduce those numbers.
And Breast Cancer Action does take exception to products it considers potentially harmful - like a perfume the Komen Foundation introduced this year, "Promise Me." Jaggar said the perfume contains some possibly toxic or hazardous ingredients, and Breast Cancer Action asked that Komen discontinue its sale.
Federal regulatory agencies don't consider small amounts of those ingredients to be a threat, and Komen's scientific and medical advisers didn't believe there was any problem. But Komen said that to allay any concerns the next batch of "Promise Me" will be reformulated without the ingredients that were criticized.
Leslie Aun, a spokeswoman for Susan G. Komen for the Cure, based in Dallas, said the advocacy group isn't apologizing for all the pink.
"Research doesn't come cheap. We need to raise money and we're not apologetic about it," Aun said.
Komen, founded in 1982, has contributed $685 million to breast cancer research and $1.3 billion to community programs that help with mammograms, transportation and other needs, Aun said.
Komen would love not to have to do marketing, but that's simply not realistic, she said.
"We don't think there's enough pink. We're able to make those investments in research because of programs like that," Aun said.
Samantha King, a professor at Queens University in Ontario and author of the book Pink Ribbons Inc., said that at first people warned that she'd get hate mail for writing critically about the pink campaigns.
"And in fact the opposite was true," King said. "I had underestimated the level of alienation that many women felt."
King said she felt the Komen Foundation crossed the line a few years ago, when they partnered with Kentucky Fried Chicken on the pink bucket of fast food.
"What's next, pink cigarettes for the cure?" King asked. "I think this really speaks to the fact that they've lost sight of their mission. Their primary purpose appears to be to sell products."
But perhaps not, said Ryan.
Over the last two years she's worked with homeless women who have breast cancer, in her hometown of Birmingham, Ala. Some of the women have an advanced stage of the disease, no health insurance and no place to call home. Yet when Ryan recently asked two of them what they wanted to help promote awareness among other homeless women, the response came quickly.
That answer promoted Ryan to take a hard look at her aversion to pink.
Now, she's not sure whether it's her place - or anyone else's - to proclaim that a particular pink-themed product is acceptable, or not.
"I'm conflicted," Ryan said, adding that she still worries that many people buy the pink products without really knowing where the money is going.
Jaggar said that different women will make a variety of choices. The point is to have them consider what the best choice is, instead of buying a pink product blindly.
For example, the lingerie company Aerie, based in Pittsburgh, draped thousands of bras on one of the many steel bridges in the city, to heighten awareness. Aerie said $1 from every sale during October will be donated to a breast cancer charity, up to $50,000.
Jaggar said that's the type of detail shoppers should pay attention to, and decide whether $1 out of a $20 or $30 sale is enough.
Jani Strand, a spokeswoman for Aerie's parent company, American Eagle Outfitters, said company officials feel strongly that it's a good thing to get young women talking about breast cancer.
Aerie's target audience is 20-year-old women, and Strand said the things that get that age group excited about a cause are different from what attracts older women.
©2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
- Breast cancer: A market-driven industry Aug 22, 2006 | not rated yet | 0
- Are everyday products from cosmetics to household cleaners causing the high rates of breast cancer? Jun 15, 2009 | not rated yet | 0
- Breast-cancer awareness now in national consciousness Apr 08, 2011 | not rated yet | 0
- 'Pink ribbon dollars' help fill financial gaps for breast cancer programs Aug 31, 2011 | not rated yet | 0
- Heart disease beats breast cancer as the biggest killer Jun 19, 2011 | not rated yet | 0
- Motion perception revisited: High Phi effect challenges established motion perception assumptions Apr 23, 2013 | 3 / 5 (2) | 2
- Anything you can do I can do better: Neuromolecular foundations of the superiority illusion (Update) Apr 02, 2013 | 4.5 / 5 (11) | 5
- The visual system as economist: Neural resource allocation in visual adaptation Mar 30, 2013 | 5 / 5 (2) | 9
- Separate lives: Neuronal and organismal lifespans decoupled Mar 27, 2013 | 4.9 / 5 (8) | 0
- Sizing things up: The evolutionary neurobiology of scale invariance Feb 28, 2013 | 4.8 / 5 (10) | 14
Pressure-volume curve: Elastic Recoil Pressure don't make sense
15 hours ago From pressure-volume curve of the lung and chest wall (attached photo), I don't understand why would the elastic recoil pressure of the lung is...
If you became brain-dead, would you want them to pull the plug?
May 17, 2013 I'd want the rest of me to stay alive. Sure it's a lousy way to live but it beats being all-the-way dead. Maybe if I make it 20 years they'll...
MRI bill question
May 15, 2013 Dear PFers, The hospital gave us a $12k bill for one MRI (head with contrast). The people I talked to at the hospital tell me that they do not...
Ratio of Hydrogen of Oxygen in Dessicated Animal Protein
May 13, 2013 As an experiment, for the past few months I've been consuming at least one portion of Jell-O or unflavored Knox gelatin per day. I'm 64, in very...
Alcohol and acetaminophen
May 13, 2013 Edit: sorry for the typo in the title , can't edit I looked around on google quite a bit and it's very hard to find precise information on the...
Marie Curie's leukemia
May 13, 2013 Does anyone know what might be the cause of Marie Curie's cancer
- More from Physics Forums - Medical Sciences
More news stories
A ground-breaking advance in colonoscopy technology signals the future of colorectal care, according to research presented today at Digestive Disease Week(DDW). Additional research focuses on optimizing the minimal withdrawal ...
Cancer 8 hours ago | 5 / 5 (1) | 0
(HealthDay)—Concurrent use of two immune checkpoint antibodies—ipilimumab and nivolumab—may be effective for the treatment of advanced melanoma, according to a proof-of-principal study presented in ...
Cancer May 17, 2013 | not rated yet | 0
(HealthDay)—The risks of metastasis and death associated with cutaneous squamous cell carcinoma (CSCC) are low, but significant, and risk factors for poor outcome include tumor diameter, invasion beyond ...
Cancer May 17, 2013 | not rated yet | 0 |
A new review finds cancer survivors suffer a diverse and complex set of impairments, affecting virtually every organ system. Writing in CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians, Julie Silver, M.D., associate professor at Harvar ...
Cancer May 17, 2013 | not rated yet | 0
(AP)—A California doctor has been sentenced to 14 years in federal prison for bilking her patients out of more than $1 million by promising that an herbal supplement could cure late-stage cancer and other diseases.
Cancer May 17, 2013 | not rated yet | 0
An increasing number of U.S. children are experiencing gastrointestinal issues that require interventions to resolve, according to research presented at Digestive Disease Week (DDW).
8 hours ago | not rated yet | 0 |
The latest makeover to a massive psychiatric tome honored by some, reviled by others and even called the "Bible" of mental disorders is being released Saturday with a host of new changes.
6 hours ago | not rated yet | 0
A new case of the deadly coronavirus has been detected in Saudi Arabia where 15 people have already died after contracting it, the health ministry announced on Saturday on its Internet website.
6 hours ago | not rated yet | 0
Big names in medicine are set to give an upbeat assessment of the war on AIDS on Tuesday, 30 years after French researchers identified the virus that causes the disease.
17 hours ago | 5 / 5 (1) | 0
For combat veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, 'fear circuitry' in the brain never rests
Chronic trauma can inflict lasting damage to brain regions associated with fear and anxiety. Previous imaging studies of people with post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, have shown that these brain regions can over-or ...
18 hours ago | 5 / 5 (1) | 0 |