My thoughts on Pink-tober

(I cross-posted this with my other blog, but it bears repeating.)

Awareness isn’t a cure for a disease. Awareness means that you are now more knowledgeable about a subject matter than you were before. Support isn’t a cure for a disease. Support means that you are an empathetic human with concern for your fellow man (or woman).

Perhaps it will come as a surprise to no one that I am generally annoyed with all of the Breast Cancer Awareness hype that happens every October. I find it annoying on a trivial level. (Pink drill bits! Pink lobster bibs! Pink cat litter!) But I’m also offended that the major marketers of the world are trying to cash in on the misfortune of others AND are perpetuating the misinformation that wearing pink will cure breast cancer.

http://www.athermalimage.com owns this image. Or at least posted it first.

I’m not an unfeeling jerk about breast cancer. One of the cancers my grandmother died of in the 90s was breast cancer. My aunt is a breast cancer survivor. I have had my own health scares in the department that led to my first mammogram at the age of 33. A poem that I wrote about this very experience was a national finalist for a contest this fall. In short, I’m pretty damn aware of breast cancer. I’m confident most of the literate people in this country are too.

I saw a term on the Facebook today that sums it up completely: Pinkwashing. Yes. To paraphrase one of my favorite movies, “It looks like the whole [place] is covered in Pepto-Bismal.” (Bonus points if you can name that movie.) Companies are jumping on the Pink Train, scared that they will miss part of their Pink Profits for the entire month of October.

Here’s the sad, yet hopefully obvious truth: a pink ribbon is not a vaccine. Just because you buy yogurt with a pink lid (my friend Lisa reminded me of the pink lids) doesn’t mean that you will not get breast cancer some day. I see a lot of statistics flying around the internet about how much money the Susan G. Komen foundation actual goes to cancer research. Like anything else on the internet, I can’t claim it as gospel. The truth is, I don’t know how much money from October Pink sales of anything goes towards actually finding a cure for breast cancer. I can, however offer my best educated guess that the bigger the name, the bigger the amount of money needed for their existence. Pink letterhead isn’t free.

I think we’re all aware of breasts and breast cancer by now. Unless we are total d-bags with no souls, we are very supportive too. My question is: what’s the next step? I’m a writer, not a scientist or a foundation CEO, so I’m certain I don’t have the answer. But I know I’m not going to cure cancer by buying a pink spatula. Neither will you. I challenge you all to spend your well-intentioned money in better ways. If you know someone with breast cancer, offer to spend your pink money helping her out with a bill or something to make her smile. It will mean a lot more than pretending your pink snow tires will save her.

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