Runaway Ribbons and De Facto Cause Support

Paula’s thinking pink, are you? Regardless, you may be supporting pink cause marketing by default.

Pink products are so ubiquitous  – especially during breast cancer awareness month that you might have to go out of your way to avoid pink ribbons when you purchase your favorite products.

One of my readers told me a story about how she accidentally bought a pink-ribboned item even though she usually avoids products with the pink ribbon because she does not believe in cause marketing. She prefers to support social causes in more direct ways, like being a member of an advocacy group or reading about breast cancer from evidence-based sources. Even so, one day Maria ended up participating in cause marketing without her knowledge.

She told me that she went to a local department store to buy a new tea kettle. On display was a bright red kettle from a brand she likes, KitchenAid. She asked a sales person to find one in its original packaging, and she bought it.

When Maria got home and opened the box, she saw an inconspicuous pink ribbon she hadn’t noticed before. Furious about inadvertently participated in pink cause marketing, she returned the kettle and bought another brand.

Would it have been so bad to keep the pink-ribboned kettle and give a few cents to the cause through some marketing program?

For Maria, the answer is an unequivocal yes.

“Why trivialize and weaken the fight against breast cancer by diluting it with the marketing efforts of corporations,” she remarks. “The fight can stand alone.”

The sea of pink during Breast Cancer Awareness Month and now throughout the year is especially unsettling to Maria because she believes it makes light of a dire situation. One of her close friends died from breast cancer. Her friend had access to health insurance and the best doctors and facilities. She engaged in treatment, did what she was supposed to do, fought hard, and then died. It was not a cheerful experience.

From Maria’s perspective, pink ribboned product placements hide the dark reality of breast cancer and profit from the disease at the same time. For her, the tea kettle incident highlights how rampant but empty the pink ribbon has become. What’s more, whether you want to support breast cancer through pink cause marketing or not, sometimes you have little choice.

If you eat yogurt in October you might unwittingly give 10 cents indirectly to some company or organization that purports to be in the interests of the breast cancer cause when they may or may not be at all. If you buy a new tea kettle and you like KitchenAid, guess what? You’ll be giving money too. Does American Airlines have the only nonstop flight to your next destination? You see where this is going. Personal choice is becoming less and less a part of the cause marketing equation.

You see where this is going. Personal choice is becoming less and less a part of the cause marketing equation.

To bring personal choice back in, it’s time for consumers to do what Maria did and stand up to the pink. She now reminds herself to read boxes and labels carefully to know where those extra donor pennies are going. She also believes that conscientious consumers should investigate issues, causes, and organizations before lending their support so they know how they truly operate.

Thanks for sharing your experience, Maria. It makes an important point about how vigilant consumers must be to ensure that our purchases and donations are getting to the people and programs we want to support.

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To speak her truth, she needed to give her words and identity away, to a trusted poet and friend @stevedavenport breastcancerconsortium.net/ov…

“Pink Ribbon Blues”

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* GAYLE IN THE MEDIA *

"Seeing clearly through the pink haze" Toronto Sun

*Sad face*: Being happy does not help you live longer" New Scientist

How should we address breast cancer when norms continually change? The Guardian

Your Fun 'No Bra Day' Photos Are Overshadowing Terminal Breast Cancer Patients Broadly

Backlash against “pinkwashing” of breast cancer awareness campaigns BMJ

Breast Cancer to Rise 50 Percent by 2030? Hey, Not So Fast! Health News Review

Breast Cancer: The Flaws in the Cause iafrica.com

How to Make the Biggest Impact With Your Breast Cancer Donations Money

The Very Pink, Very Controversial Business of Breast Cancer Awareness Racked

NFL, Pink Ribbons Not Enough to Win over Women CNN

3 Questions We Need to Answer for Breast Cancer Awareness Month Chronicle of Philanthropy

The problem with National Breast Cancer Awareness Month Women's Health Magazine

Pink Ribbon Envy: Living with an Uncool Cancer The Nib

A Year After Bombings, Some Say 'Boston Strong' Has Gone Overboard NPR, All Things Considered

Canadian Mammogram Study KCRW, NPR Affiliate

Time to Debunk the Mammography Myth CNN

Breast Cancer: Awareness, Activism & Pinkwashing NPR Charlotte

Buying Pink Al Jazeera's The Stream Watch »

The Pink Backlash Orlando Sentinel

Why Jolie's Test Costs So Much CNN

Preventative Mastectomies: Disease and Deception BlogTalkRadio

Angelina Jolie and the 'Breast Cancer Gene' KCRW

Our Feel-Good War on Breast Cancer The New York Times Magazine.

The Story Behind the Pink Ribbon Campaign Sisters Talk Radio

WISH Interview Women's International Summit for Health

Making Cancer About The Patient, Not The Body Part CBS Pittsburgh

Sexy breast cancer campaigns anger many patients USA Today

The perils of pink The Daily

Komen pink campaign creates breast-cancer blues for some Dallas Morning News

A yellow flag for the NFL's pink New York Daily

Gayle Sulik named #7 in SharecareNow’s Top 10 Online Influencers in Breast Cancer

Breast cancer cancer causes so easily derailed Philly Inquirer

Komen Charity Under Microscope for Funding, Science Reuters

The Fight Against Cancer - And Abortion? Salon.com

Susan G. Komen For the Cure defunds Planned Parenthood. In Deep with Angie Coiro

Amid Breast Cancer Month, Is there Pink Fatigue? NPR's All Things Considered

How is Breast Cancer Culture Undermining Women's Health? America’s Radio News Network

Pink Ribbon Culture and Breast Cancer The Kojo Nnamdi Show

The Big Business of Breast Cancer
Marie Claire

Does Breast Cancer Awareness Month Crowd Out Other Diseases? Slate

Pink Inc. Has Many Starting to See Red The Sacramento Bee

Get Your Pink Off Ottawa Citizen

Komen Pink Ribbons Raise Green and Questions USA Today

** MORE MEDIA LINKS **
** MORE RADIO INTERVIEWS **