Think Before You Pink: The Pitfalls Of The Pink Ribbon

Think Before You Pink: The Pitfalls Of The Pink Ribbon

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, which explains all of the pink ribbons that you see on different business campaigns. “Pinkwashing,” as many people refer to it, is the act of caring about breast cancer awareness, despite the fact that those same businesses may sell or produce products that contain chemicals linked to causing breast cancer. For this reason, many people aim to inform people about pink ribbon scams and how they can donate to the right causes. 

Do Your Research

This is a general blanket rule when it comes to donating money. Always know where you’re investing your time and money because too many corporations can profit from illnesses, especially in regards to the pink ribbon. Organizations should always be clear about what donations are funding, and it should be clear on their websites. If an organization or corporation can’t inform the public about where those dollars are going, consider donating to a different space. Additionally, always consider whether the product you’re buying contributes to an increased risk of breast cancer

Indications Of Pinkwashing

Creative marketing will get you nine times out of 10, which is an unfortunate reality. When it comes to the pink ribbon, there are no regulations on who can and cannot use it for marketing purposes. Any organization, then, can participate in pinkwashing, which is a term that Breast Cancer Action coined in 2002. One sign of pink washing is if they put a limit on how much money you can donate to the cause. Some companies will sell products that tote the pink ribbon, but cap how much money made from that product will go towards breast cancer research and funding. Another red flag is if the company doesn’t provide information on where the money is going. If you don’t see that information on the website or social media, pinkwashing is happening. 

Keep in mind that some products being sold in the name of breast cancer actually contribute to the disease. Certain cosmetics, for example, contain harmful chemicals that increase the risk of breast cancer. Always pay attention to what an organization sells before donating. Additionally, check what they aim to achieve by selling products or hosting events for the pink ribbon. Awareness is excellent, but are the organizations speaking to actions? Action is always more critical!

Pink Promotions Can Degrade Women

“Save the boobies,” “save the ta-tas,” or even “save second base” campaigns demean and insult women. Not only are these slogans degrading, but they also distract from the focus of saving women’s lives. These slogans highlight narrow beauty standards and depict women as sexual objects. The “sexy/cute” campaign ideas hide the lives lived by women of diversity and complexity. It is important to honor all women in the fight against breast cancer and not narrowly define body parts as the central focus for breast cancer campaigns. 

Pink Ribbon Culture Obscures Breast Cancer Reality

It seems counterintuitive that raising awareness about a disease could obscure the harsh reality of the disease itself. This is done, however, by creating a singular story of triumphant survivorship and positive thinking. The idea for breast cancer campaigns is that everything is pink, pretty, and positive. Breast cancer is anything but pretty and pink, and it is obscured by “fight like a girl” or “fight hard” campaigns. Some women who fight the good fight still develop metastatic cancer and can die from the disease. Basically, breast cancer is profitable when it is palatable, and the pink ribbon covers up the harsh reality that many women deal with. 

Find An Organization You Can Trust

Even though there are organizations that profit off Breast Cancer Awareness Month, there are great foundations that put donation dollars to good use. Many of these organizations are dedicated to finding a cure, as well as supporting patients and survivors. If you are not sure where to start, try to search through Charity Navigator which features a list of high-rated organizations. You can also check resources on the Breast Cancer Action website. Great organizations include Silent Spring Institute, Tigerlily Foundation, METAvivor, and Women’s Cancer Resource Center. 

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