WEDNESDAY NIGHT SUMMER RERUN: An unfortunate divide in the fight against breast cancer


Photos: Susan G. Komen Race For The Cure in Milwaukee

The 2016 Komen Southeast Wisconsin
Race for the Cure takes place this Sunday at 9:00 a.m. at the Milwaukee Art Museum at the Lakefront. It’s described as the world’s largest and most successful education and fundraising event for breast cancer ever created.

In the weeks ahead you’re going to see pink, a lot of pink, the color associated with the crusade against breast cancer. But many are re-thinking the use of pink. I wrote about it in October of 2007:

This is the month set aside to draw attention to the deadly disease, breast cancer.

There are pink ribbons and numerous products marketed and packaged in pink to generate funds for breast cancer research.

But while some raise awareness, others raise questions.

The group is called, Breast Cancer Action,” based out of San Francisco, and billing itself as the “bad girls of breast cancer.” For six years, the group has been running an anti-pink product campaign. You just saw one of their ads with their slogan, “Think Before You Pink.”

They’re not alone.

Samantha King has written a book, “Pink Ribbons, Inc.,” that focuses on the belief that corporate sponsorships and all those pink promotions have put the attention on finding a cure when the task at hand should be determining why the cancer rate is so high.

According to the Associated Press (AP):

The group’s (Breast Cancer Action) executive director, Barbara Brenner, a breast cancer survivor who never wears a pink ribbon herself, says that in many cases corporate images get what she calls a “pinkwash” while the cause gets nominal donations.

“Awareness, we don’t need any more of,” she said. “We have plenty of awareness. The question is what we do now.”

Another Brenner quote:

“Mammography, schmammography, why can’t we find a better detection device?”

The “pink” crusade against breast cancer is an example of “cause marketing,” and as the AP points out, this campaign is the best-known of its kind in the world.

It’s hard to argue with the success or the rationale behind the pink symbol, aimed at women who do most of the shopping.

The AP reports, “This year, Campbell is making 14 million pink cans and shipping them to 60 grocery chains around the country that comprise nearly two-thirds of supermarkets. While some pink products are sold at a higher price, the pink soup is marked down — with a special 3 cans for $5 deal. As part of the deal, the stores are giving Campbell special space to display the pink cans.”

Campbell’s soup is but one example of the power of pink and the money generated to fight breast cancer. But the group, “Breast Cancer Action,” provides another perspective. From their website:

Since its inception in 2002, BCA’s Think Before You Pink campaign has been urging consumers to ask critical questions about the hundreds of pink ribbon products and promotions that are marketed every October in honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month (BCA calls it Breast Cancer Industry Month). Calling for transparency and accountability from companies that use pink ribbons to sell products, BCA believes that consumers can and should ask questions about how the money is being raised and where the money is going.

The big question of the campaign this year is which companies are engaging in pink ribbon marketing while manufacturing products that are contributing to the epidemic. Toward this end, BCA is singling out the car, dairy, and cosmetics industries.

“These pinkwashing companies are trying to have it both ways,” says BCA Executive Director Barbara A. Brenner. “If they care as deeply as they say they do about women’s lives, they’ll clean up their products.”

For example, Ford, Mercedes, and BMW are each raising funds with campaigns that urge consumers to buy and drive cars for breast cancer awareness and research. However, car exhaust contains toxic chemicals that are linked to the disease, and by urging consumers to buy and drive polluting cars in the name of breast cancer, they are also encouraging consumers to unwittingly help increase the incidence of the disease.

“We’re not telling anyone not to buy these products or not to drive,” says Brenner. “We’re asking that consumers think before they buy, contact the companies to demand cleaner products, and remember that they have options. That’s why it’s called ‘Think Before You Pink’.”

The group’s executive director Brenner told the AP it might be better just to write a check to a charity rather than buy the blushed goods.

Both “sides,” if you will, in this struggle have laudable, if not similar goals. One wants to find a cure, the other thinks the emphasis should be on the high cancer rate. One is working with corporations to sponsor money-making products for research. The other questions how much and where the money goes. It is unfortunate that there has to be this divide in what should be a united front against this deadly cancer.

One thought on “WEDNESDAY NIGHT SUMMER RERUN: An unfortunate divide in the fight against breast cancer

  1. Pingback: UPDATE: WEDNESDAY NIGHT SUMMER RERUN: An unfortunate divide in the fight against breast cancer | This Just In… From Franklin, WI

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s