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Like A Pink Punch To The Gut

I remember when I first made up my mind to hate the color pink. I had never really been a fan, but one glance at my 4th grade class pictures sealed the deal. The dark fuchsia pants and pale pink button-down shirt that I had on in the picture was the furthest thing from flattering. I looked like a strawberry-scented James Dahl character with ill-fitting pleated pants and an overly starched and rigid top. The style of the clothes was bad, but the Pepto Bismol shades were worse. I decided right then and there that pink and I were getting a divorce. For good.

As the years went by, life provided me with more reasons to hate pink. Frustration over society-defined gender roles piled on as did annoyance at the image of ultimate feminine woman. And then came the big one.

Breast cancer.

My mom passed away after a six-year long battle with breast cancer at the age of 45.

When pink later became symbolic of breast cancer awareness, I wanted to punch some pink piggies. I know that some people choose to wear pink to honor or remember or show support for a loved one. That is not what I get my panties in a bunch about--it's the way corporate America has grabbed that pink flag and waved it to and fro for their own profit that makes me furious.

I remember once standing in the grocery store and staring at a bag of pink ribbon-adorned M&Ms, my blood boiling harder with every passing second. I held the bag in my hands looking for an indication that Mars at least was planning to give some money to the cause. I found that they had promised to donate $0.50 for each bag sold to the Susan B. Komen Foundation (there was a ceiling to the amount they would donate, but I don't remember what it was just that it was pretty low). That's all fine and dandy, but the hypocrisy of it all still screamed at me. There isn't much you can do to prevent breast cancer, but a healthy lifestyle is high up on that list. Do we have to fund an organization that aims to cure breast cancer by slapping a pink ribbon on a bag of something that can contribute to obesity? Really?

Of course we do--slapping a pink ribbon on a product is a great way for a company to profit. There has been plenty of media coverage about 3M's "effective" use of cause marketing. They once reportedly spent $500,000 marketing their giant pink ribbon made out of pink Post-It Notes that benefited the cause, but then only donated $300,000 to that cause. That begs the question how much did they actually make from all of that advertising?

Enough to encourage other companies to dabble in the pink ribbon fun.

Now there are pink ribbons on everything all through the month of October. You'd think by looking around that millions and millions and millions of dollars are being funneled towards finding a cure, but then there's that whole thing where cause marketing isn't regulated. That means a company can slap a pink ribbon on something in the name of "awareness" and not donate a single penny.

Awareness? AWARENESS? I'm pretty sure every person on this planet is aware of what breast cancer can do. I'm also sure pretty much every person knows that early detection is best. Has anyone's life ever actually been saved by a stupid pink ribbon on a box of Lean Cuisine pasta? By the way, the answer is "no" because the company did not donate one single cent just because you bought that box marked with pink. Or maybe it did save a life. I'm sure at least one woman walked into a grocery store, saw that box, and suddenly realized NOW was the time for a mammogram. AWARENESS! THANKS TO RAVIOLI!

Everyone has a story. Some have seen the scars of a mastectomy. Some have witnessed the toll that chemotherapy takes on a body. Some have lived the pain. We all know it's bad.

I, for one, don't need pink to remind me.

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Reader Comments (24)

My hubby and I had this same discussion the other day, he hates it as much as you do. It thinks it is total hogwash, but feels like he can't really say much, especially as a man, because people will hate him for it. Thanks for giving like minded people a voice!

October 17, 2010 | Unregistered Commentertiffany harkleroad

Have I told you lately how much I love you?! The pink all over products that are direct contributors to obesity gets me too, but not as much as all the pink cosmetics and toiletries that contain toxic chemicals and compounds that have been shown to cause cancer!

And I wore a pink shirt the other day and felt completely awkward in it - I am not a pink fan either.

October 17, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterNicole

I usually quietly boycott all things Susan G Komen - not because I don't support Breast Cancer research...but because I feel it has lost meaning (and overshadows other causes but that is my personal rant). I have trouble with any cause that turns into something like "hey, I'll slap a pink ribbon on my ass - look at me! I suppose breast cancer awareness!" I have a friend who heads up a team for the Race for the Cure every year. Last year, I respectfully explained why I didn't want to walk. This year, her mother is fighting for her life due to breast cancer so I shut the hell up and wore a bunch of pink crap to support my friend.

Seriously - what marketing machine is in charge of Susan G Komen and can we hire them to do some other causes because they have done a phenomenal job.

October 17, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMichelle Smiles

Supposed to be "Support"

And last year - I totally felt like Kramer at the AIDS walk "Who? Who doesn't wear the red ribbon?"

October 17, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMichelle Smiles

I 100% agree with you and all the reasons you state. And I'd like to add another one. I think that all this slapping a pink ribbon on everything actually HURTS an organizations ability to raise funds for research. You see....if I was someone who didn't work in fundraising.....I, as a regular person would assume that WOW, they must raise so much money in October because all these companies are saying they are donating to the cause and I buy some of these products so yah, I'm totally good. No need for me to give money because I know they are getting oh so much money, I'll donate elsewhere (or...not at all?). Which, fine, people should and can donate to whatever cause(s) they want. However, it sucks that they might/probably think that these various breast cancer groups are raising oh so much money for research in October. I mean, I'm sure they are raising a fair amount but I think it must hurt them long term. I mean, if someone called me up in November looking for a donation to the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation, I'd probably be inclined to say something like "uh, didn't you just raise a ton of money last month?? Why are you asking me now?"

October 18, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterElle

I haven't been personally affected by breast cancer (a good friend from HS's mom had a double mastectomy; that's the closest I've come), but the entire month of October makes me absolutely miserable for the same reason. I once requested information about the 3 Day Walk and was disgusted when I saw what the registration fee and minimum fundraising amount were. I promptly threw it all away when a bit of research showed me exactly how much money raised from the 3 Days across the country actually went to SGK Foundation.

Not to mention how livid I was in September when I saw pink ribbons start popping up every where when it was actually Childhood Cancer Awareness Month. It's astonishing how little actually goes to pediatric cancer research, and that's something that HAS affected my family.

M and I had this talk yesterday. He mentioned that it's really nice the way MLB handles this kind of thing - one day of the year they wear pink (and one day of the year they wear light blue, for prostate cancer), and they're done with it. The NFL wayyyy over does it with the amount of pink they wear in October.

October 18, 2010 | Unregistered Commentermamaphan

Well said, and it needed to be. I get so frustrated with companies jumping on bandwagons to benefit only themselves. If they truly cared about anything other than their bottom dollar, they'd pay for mammograms for the communities they're in.

October 18, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterKaren

My mom was diagnosed with breast cancer in October 13 years ago. She lived but said on the actual anniversary of her surgery that she didn't need any reminders about Breast Cancer Awareness in October and that, in fact, she kind of wanted to forget about it.

I'm aware. Pretty much every woman I know is aware having been touched by it in some form or fashion. If people want to make a difference, give directly to research. Or go sign up for the Army of Women and participate in some studies.

October 18, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMadame Queen

Amen. Hubby and I went to Sam's Club this weekend and HOLY CRAP was there a lot of pink. As soon as you walk in the door they have pink boxes and bags and everything else lined up. Personally, I love pink, it's my favorite color. But it does not need to be on the giant bag of every single thing they sell.

My aunt Barbara is a breast cancer survivor, so I'm aware. If I buy something "for the cause" every penny better go to that cause. I prefer to give my money directly to the source, that way I know 100% went were it should.

October 18, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterLisa J.

my mom died of breast cancer. three of my aunts have had (and survived) breast cancer. i'm all to aware of what breast cancer can do to a woman, a family. i fucking hate pink. always have. always will.

excellent post, my friend. so well said.

October 18, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterhello haha narf

That's the answer to everything any more... slap a ribbon on it. Makes everyone feel like they did something without acutally having to do anything.

My company is always pushing these fund raisers at work. I feel if they're so concerned about the charity du jour, then cut a big honkin' check and leave the rest of us out of it. We have our own problems...

October 18, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterbluzdude

I think the pink is overkill. If these companies want to donate money, why not save the money they are spending to go pink and then just donate that?

I was at the game yesterday and was bothered by the pink some players wore. Again, overkill. And the cynic in me thinks that Ben could not care any less about women so I kind of doubt his sincerity and assume it is just a PR move.

I cannot imagine there are too many people who need a reminder about the seriousness of any type of cancer (or any other condition, for that matter).

October 18, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterfacie

Oh, I could not agree more. I'm sick of ribbons-for-a-cause in general, but the pinkification of breast cancer "awareness" is so sickening. Just make a donation. EVERYONE with a pulse over the age of 10 is "aware" of breast cancer. Who's working on treatment/cures? Anyone? Anyone?

October 18, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterKimLy

You know I love you. Even more after this post. Perfect sentiment and I couldn't have said it better myself.

October 18, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterSarah

Weird. I've been thinking a lot about this lately, but I come from entirely opposite point of view. I hate pink...but I hate it BECAUSE it is helping raise awareness for breast cancer. I get irritated b/c I lost my Dad to multiple myeloma, which no one ever talks about or wears colors for. I think I'm jealous of the pink that people affected by breast cancer can at least recognize each other when they're out and about. "Oh, you too?" kind of thing. Me? I want that kinship. I am jealous that I can't just see a magnet on someone's car and say, "There's someone who knows the suffering I've seen."

Maybe I think of the pink as more of a way for people affected by breast cancer to recognize each other in the same I'm kinda jealous.

It's funny how we both circle the same issue, but in opposite directions, but come back at the same conclusions: Cancer Sucks. Pink does too.


October 18, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterZoot

I second nearly all of the above.

Watching the Steelers game yesterday and seeing Roethlisberger in his pink towel made me cringe. Because nothing says awareness of womens' health like that guy. Cringe.

October 18, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterEleanor's Trousers

I didn't know any of this! I totally assumed that if the pink ribbon was on something it was helping the organization. Thank you for educating me and hopefully my ignorance no longer supports these companies!

Also, I'm so sorry about your mom!

October 18, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterCanadianMama

Well said, my friend.

October 18, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterKellie

I realized my comment might seem hypocritical since my Twitter pic is pink this month so I wanted to splain a bit. I hate the commercialization of the pink ribbon, the fact that some benefit while others suffer so greatly. But I can't sweep away something that is so close to me, something that I will most likely battle myself considering my family history and my body type. Most everyone has an issue close to their heart and I can't fault those who want to do something about this particular cause. However I do so hate the folks take advantage / mislead.
And I still fucking hate pink. Even if this month my photo is terribly tainted with it.

October 18, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterhello haha narf

Sister, I hear you.

I did not loose anybody to breast cancer for now (friend - 36-years-old and pregnant (!!!) got diagnosed lately), BUT

... I lost my dad in the age of 46 after two years fight because of a brain tumor.

... I lost my mom in the age of 58 after 15 years fight to multiple myeloma.

... one of my best friends fights the much less well known ovarian cancer.

Plus the endless row of parents of close friends we already lost to cancer usually not much older than 60 years old. Seriously ... I read the statistics about people getting older and older, but I don't see it. Arounds me it is the opposite. Our parents generation dies much earlier than the war and hunger beaten of my grandparents for one reason - cancer.

Don't get me wrong: I pray for everybody fighting breast cancer and I want the scientists develop something for cure even late diagnosed patients SO much.

There are so many cancer types pulling away people from their loved ones who get much less attention and have no "all is pink" campaign going on.
So my personal decision is more about doing something like my blog post about ovarian cancer - the much less and often too late diagnosed enemy of women to support my friend or join campaigns who are more about #beatcancer in general.

We can travel space but not cure cancer? THAT CANNOT BE!

And honestly: After being involved in my parents fighting cancer for like exactly half of my life I sometimes just take a time "off" and allow myself to not even think about it .... just for a short while before it again gets me ... all around me.

And finally:
I look crap in pink, too.

October 18, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterChristina / CKapaun

Big hugs for having the courage to say things a lot of us would hesitate to say. And bigger hugs for having had to endure things a lot of us have not endured.

October 18, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterRougie

I would like to provide a quick response highlighting a positive effect of the pink ribbon campaign.

Breast cancer used to be heavily stigmatized. It was a disease that you kept a secret. Women with breast cancer would stop receiving calls from their friends and family...

My mother was recently profiled on a survivor's website. I'd like to quote her here.

"I grew up where you didn’t talk about things like that.

Any friends that had had cancer, it was something you whispered about.

‘She’s got cancer.’

You didn’t talk about it.

It was sad and it was depressing and you didn’t want anyone to know. But, talking to people at work… I decided to be very open and to tell everybody.”

The awareness part of the campaign has changed that. You can march for breast cancer. You can wear a pink ribbon for yourself or someone else, and some people will call you a hero for surviving instead of pretending you or your disease don't exist.

I agree that the excessive commercialization is disgusting, but wanted to show the other face of that little pink ribbon.

October 18, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterBrittany

As a volunteer board member for my local affiliate of Susan G. Komen for the Cure (the new name for what was once the foundation), I just want to give a different point of view. Yes, our national organization is a strong PR machine, but I want to remind everyone that your LOCAL affiliates are all independently run groups (usually completely volunteer) that are raising money to fund grants in your local areas.

Seventy five percent of dollars raised at local races fund grants in your home towns that support education, screening and treatment for people who cannot afford it. The remaining 25 percent goes to the same place that all of the other "pink" dollars go: to Komen national, where it's spent strictly for research for a cure.

I know the pink is overwhelming. Heck, I don't even like the color pink. But, I do like the cause. Our mission is "to end breast cancer forever." There's no color for that, just a lot of work to do.

October 20, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterSusan

AMEN! All the products that turn pink once a year drive me nuts.

October 21, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterRachael
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