Pink ribbon…untied

6 Feb

I have long been uncomfortable with charities whose primary goal is to “raise awareness”.  What does that even mean?  To me it just sounds like a kinder, gentler way to say “ strategic marketing”.  There is one charity in particular that has long plagued me.  Sure, I have participated in some of their sponsored races, or bought the special edition Lily Pulitzer scarf in October.  But it’s about liking the print and wanting to run.  I’m not trying to establish my commitment to letting people know that I am “aware” of breast cancer.  If only it were that simple.  As the daughter of a mother who died from breast cancer, and a friend to a whole slew of women who have been through the ringer, I’d say that I had heard of breast cancer before Estee Lauder came out with that damn pink ribbon in the 90s.  I have felt as though if I said anything questionable about the You-Know-Who Foundation or others, it would be just like denouncing kittens and chubby, wittle-bittle babies while throwing a Heil Hitler salute.  Because, what kind of monster doesn’t want to support “awareness”?

Whew!  Last week, after The Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation for the Cure  made a political statement that they would no longer be providing grants to Planned Parenthood to aid funding of early breast cancer detection and screening for poor and uninsured women, the world went bonkers.  Facebook blew up, Twitter was freaking out…it was as big as Kim and Kris breaking up.  And now, I am finally free to express how grossed out I am and how I really feel about all of the pink crap that Komen has partnered in schlocking to the masses in the name of “awareness”.  The marketing practice, called “pink-washing”, targets consumers who think they are doing the right thing and making a difference by purchasing all sorts of items in the trademark soft “cancer-pink” color.  It’s so deceptive.  When I see pink I think feminine, fun, cheerful, upbeat, positive.  Pink is good.  Pink is sooo not cancer.  The breast cancer logo ribbon should be ashy and clammy, if possible.  It should convey feelings of nausea, anxiety and resentment.  It would be less misleading.

So the partnering companies come up with all manner of wares that they are looking to sell under Komen’s umbrella of warm and fuzzy good deeds.  Everything is billed as being “for the Cure”.  And you had better not mess with calling anything “for the Cure” without it having been cleared through Komen’s legal department first.  They have trademarked “for the Cure” as their intellectual property and Komen spends about $1,000,000.00 annually to preserve that “right”.  What could be better than convincing your consumer base that they are actually doing the world a favor every time they purchase a limited-edition pink nail polish, or that very special pair of pink rain boots?   The partnered company purports to donate a potion of proceeds toward “the Cure”, with an amount that usually caps at between $10,000-$30,000.  Remember Yoplait’s pink lids?  You saved the pink aluminum lids from your yogurt and mailed them back in to Yoplait and they would donate $0.10 per lid…up to $10,000.00.  I have to wonder if the U.S. Postal Service wasn’t in cahoots on that deal, too.  But a lot of these products are, well…let’s just say that some of the  “for the Cure” partners and products seem like very odd bedfellows to me.  For instance:

Do not adjust your screen.  That IS a pink-washed bucket o’ Kentucky Fried Chicken pictured above.  What, you may ask, does the Colonels’ 11 secret herbs and spices have to do with breast cancer research or awareness?  Beats the hell outta me.  It’s weird, right?

Meet the “Handgun for Hope”, offered by Discount Gun Sales for $429.99.  No lie.  This is a  Walther P-22 limited production pistol with an “exclusive DuraCoat Pink slide”.  The pink part commemorates breast cancer.  Because nothing says “Save the Ta-tas” like a cap in some one.

Have you ever fretted that the language barrier between you and your domestic help has kept her from knowing how important breast cancer awareness is to you and your family?  This pink Swiffer will assure her that you are “good people”, and she may even do a better job and quit pocketing the loose change from the dryer now that she knows!

You know, one way that you could really celebrate a Cure is with a pink flat-iron.  Sure, all those women with breast cancer are loosing their hair from chemotherapy, but that doesn’t mean that your hair has to look all frizzy.  

Again with the hair products?  It seems a little insensitive, especially from a company called “Bed Head”.

If you really want to impress your house guests with your philanthropic spirit, you might consider stocking the powder room with Cashmere’s couture toilet paper.  Let everyone in your home tell breast cancer how they feel about it by wiping their ass with pink 2-ply.

This past October, lots of sports teams got in on the pink-washing.  Hot Tub wore pink sweat bands during football games that one of the moms got for all of the boys.  Some boys wore pink shoe laces.  It’s a nice gesture and all, but I am pretty sure that not one 10 year-old boy was dumbfounded when presented with the pink ribbon terry wrist bands only to ask, “Breast Cancer?  What is that?”   They all already knew.  I knew what it was when I was six.  We don’t need pink rubber bracelets, pink cordless drills or a pink George Foreman Lean Mean Grill to be aware of breast cancer.  Do we?

Oddly enough, despite all of the awareness and all of the funds that have been raised for more marketing of awareness and research, scientists are no closer to finding a cure for breast cancer, nor a definitive cause.  What we know now is what we knew thirty years ago…early detection through self exams is your best bet.  I’m not saying that you shouldn’t buy pink stuff.  If you like pink, then buy it. October will be your month!  I like pink and I even have a pink flat-iron, but not the official cancer one.  But maybe, just maybe consider stepping away from the pink ribbon engraved blender and instead send that money that you “think” “might” get donated to a charity to a local hospital, a hospice center or to a family who is getting further crushed by mounting medical bills.

6 Responses to “Pink ribbon…untied”

  1. Tracy February 6, 2012 at 3:15 pm #

    Totally agree with you. I happen to know at least two breast cancer survivors who said they are sick and tired of all that is pink. Now, on another note, that happens to be one of my guns, but mine is all black 😉

    • Hot damn, Charlotte Ann! February 6, 2012 at 4:01 pm #

      And I would totally buy it in pink, because I think it’s funny and ironic to have a pretty, pink pistol. I wouldn’t buy the pink one over the black one because I thought they were going to donate $1.50 to a charity. And if there was a P-22 that came bedazzled with a unicorn silhouette, I’d get that one.

  2. Laurie Ford February 6, 2012 at 3:26 pm #

    Great point Charlotte…would love to know what percent of sales they collect go to actual research! Any why do they have to make this political? just stay on topic not take on other issues!!

    • Hot damn, Charlotte Ann! February 6, 2012 at 3:56 pm #

      All of the cause marketing irks me to no end. Remember those damn Livestrong yellow bracelets that spawned all of the other rubber bracelets, including the WWJD ones? Ugh. I tell you What Jesus Would Do…he wouldn’t go around congratulating himself for being a consumer with a heart. It’s not a very regulated industry and “a portion of proceeds” is just really too vague. In all of the scuffle-butt last week, I read that Komen’s CEO’s annual salary is $459,000. I absolutely love capitalism and a free market economy, but something about that just seems a little stinky to me.

  3. Laurel February 6, 2012 at 4:25 pm #

    Thank you SOOOOOO MUCH! I tripped into a FB flame war with some random friend of a friend last year over this issue. Remember the “post your bra color” day? With all the random updates like “White, polka dots, yellow…?”

    A guy friend said something about all the color status on FB. I told him what they meant and made a snarky comment about the non-linear connection between random colors and breast cancer awareness. Next thing I know random righteous girl is raising hell about me thinking breast cancer is funny. Apparently, non-linear works for her. I pointed out that men posting the color of their underwear would not automatically make me more aware of prostate cancer, or actually even think of prostate cancer. That confirmed her opinion that I am heartless and horrible and want everyone to get breast cancer and die.

    I do not understand how we all got snookered into thinking that “awareness” is even better than action on an issue.

    • Hot damn, Charlotte Ann! February 6, 2012 at 5:08 pm #

      Girl, I got your back. I just don’t see how soliciting money for something as unquantifiable as “awareness” accomplishes much of anything aside from moving product. And a lot of the time the cutesy pink ribbon water bottles have nothing to do with funding anything other than someone’s personal bank account. I’d feel much better about money going into community endowment funds to assist families being ravaged by a very sick parent. Just saying’.

      Sent from my iPhone

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