Shopping for a Cure? Why We Should “Re-Think Pink”

IMG_0540After opening up my inbox to an email from a restaurant promoting the sale of bagels in the shape of breast cancer ribbons, I quickly realized that it’s that time of the year again. If you step foot into any grocery store or shopping mall over the next few weeks, you’ll most likely notice an abundance of pink ribbons plastered on a variety of commercial products that boast companies’ support of Breast Cancer Awareness Month. The month of October has become a commercial holiday for these corporations who claim that the sale of their “pinkwashed” products will help find a cure. But are they doing more harm than good?

It seems that this month of awareness has turned breast cancer into a passive, pink celebration of sisterhood and strength, shying away from the undeniable truth that it’s a terrible and deadly epidemic that still lacks a cure after thirty years of “awareness.” Not to mention the fact that any company can slap a pink ribbon on their products, despite the fact that their proceeds may not even directly benefit the search for a cure. In fact some companies claim to donate a proportion of their proceeds from each and every product sold to research, yet in reality, they fail to inform consumers that they simply discontinue their donations once their maximum cap has been met. Even if these companies consistently donate to research, their contributions are small and divided amongst many organizations. Are we really making a difference by supporting their products? 

Meanwhile, other companies use a pink ribbon to promote healthy lifestyle choices even though the very products supporting cancer ribbons are shown to contain carcinogens that may raise the risk of developing cancer. You don’t have look long at Susan G. Komen’s previous partnerships with KFC and Mike’s Hard Lemonade to question their dedication to actually finding a cure. It’s almost as if some companies are taking advantage the breast cancer epidemic to increase their profit and improve their corporate image.

BReast-cancer-awareness-2012-productsHowever, I don’t believe that all hope is lost for Breast Cancer Awareness month. The solution? Instead of placing your trust in commercial pink ribbon programs, donate directly to local organizations that fund innovative research and prevention methods. It is time for us to become informed consumers and move our focus away from awareness and instead use our resources to fuel effective methods of breast cancer research.  Here are some donation options:

  • Donate to your local Planned Parenthood, an organization that provides breast cancer screenings, exams, and mammograms.
  • Donate to Movable Feast –  provides nutritious foods and other services in order to preserve quality of life for people with HIV/AIDS, cancer, and other life-threatening conditions.
  • The John Fetting Fund for Breast Cancer Prevention at John’s Hopkins.
  • The Marlene and Stewart Greenebaum Cancer Center, ranked #11 out of 900 cancer centers in the nation by U.S. News & World Report’s 2012 Best Hospitals Survey.
  • Breast Cancer Action: Founded in 1990 by a group of breast cancer survivors who approach the disease as both a social justice issue and a public health concern. They pressure local governments to put more funding towards research and challenge consumers to ask critical questions about the validity of commercial pink ribbon promotions. For more information, visit:
  • Push government officials to fund breast cancer research and new treatment options by supporting the National Breast Cancer Coalition (NBCC).

Interested in learning more about this issue? Join the Women’s Center and WILL October 7-9th to catch a viewing of the documentary Pink Ribbons Inc. Viewing times can be found on the Women’s Center myUMBC group and the WILL facebook event.

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