Breast cancer awareness month is over. Thank God.

You might think that breast cancer survivors enjoy or appreciate October. Maybe some do. It’s not that I hate BCAM, but I see many issues with it.

For one, we have enough awareness of breast cancer. We see pink ribbons everywhere. The disease has been commodified essentially. We have many other cancers, however, that could use awareness. Why not have an all cancers awareness month– and make it more fun for survivors while we’re at it! I’ll take a 10% discount at Starbucks for the month, please and thank you.

One of the most frustrating parts of BCAM as a recent survivor is being surrounded by pink ribbons at every turn. As someone trying to put the trauma of treatment behind me, this can be especially difficult. I’m at the store trying to buy some toilet paper, surrounded by cashiers in Pinktober shirts, and suddenly I’m flashing back to being in the same store in a mask and gloves, bald and with a non-existent immune system in the start of a mysterious pandemic. It’s just not cool, man.

From the comic “Pink Ribbon Envy” by Adam Bessie and Dan Archer

In the worst of cases, October is usurped by companies who jack up prices in the name of “cancer awareness” and then donate 10 cents off a $400 purchase to an organization focused more on their leadership than on actual cancer patients.

I have noticed more consumer pushback on that particular issue, though. On social media, nearly every ad I came across promoting BCAM last month was hijacked by comments reading something along the lines of “Which organization is this actually supporting?” or “What about a teal-colored one for ovarian cancer?” or “Stop commodifying my disease!” As someone who has designed an entire unit for her college students on analyzing advertisements, these comments made me slightly giddy. We need clarity from brands. Tell me who you’re actually supporting here. Yes, make a teal one. And don’t commodify my disease unless you’re raising money specifically for the people actively fighting it or for the research that will cure my stage 4 brothers and sisters someday soon.

Of course, I’ll happily donate to an organization that’s making a tangible difference. Otherwise, I’ll give the cashier a side-eye and say, “I’ve already donated one breast, seven lymph nodes, a year of my life, a chunk of my mental health, and the naïve certainty of my future to breast cancer already. I think I’m good, thanks!” 😉

Happy November!

14 thoughts on “Pinkwashed

  1. Oddly enough, your post reminds me of the time WWE tied up with the Susan G. Komen Foundation to promote breast cancer awareness. I do remember John Cena merchandise — pink armbands, pink caps, and all the stuff — and the McMahons pledging to donate a portion of sales to the Komen Foundation.

    Another company that comes to mind is KFC. There’s one article I chanced upon some time ago that calls out the joint for its breast cancer awareness drive, while offering food items that cause the disease to begin with.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh, my, KFC?! That seems so unexpected! I never had a bone to pick with Susan G. Komen, but many other survivors love to hate on the foundation, so of course I am now well informed about how most of their money goes to blanket “awareness” and administrative costs rather than actual support of patients or survivors. I’m not sure if that’s changed more recently, but I’m still a bit wary of the organization.

      Liked by 1 person

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