The Pink Leftovers

Now that Pinktober is officially over and we’ve had a few days to recover we might ask ourselves, “Where have all the pink leftovers gone?” Jan already commented in October that she feared what would would happen to the pink gear from the NFL.

“Many of the NFL players are wearing pink gloves, pink wrist wraps, pink shoes, etc. While the sentiment is nice, what will happen to these articles after October? I hope I’m wrong, but I don’t think we will see them on the field any longer. What will happen to them? If they want to donate them, who will want them? Football players don’t tend to embrace bright pink. My guess is they will be discarded and end up in a landfill somewhere. Another negative, unintended consequence of “pinking?”

Certainly the landfills are full enough. If the pink items are not discarded directly, you can usually purchase them cheap as soon as November hits, and then discard them later.

Dina Roth Port posted a photo from her local grocery store for 50 percent off breast cancer. Yes, that is what the sign says. Not 50 percent off pink ribbon products. Not continue your support of breast cancer awareness for 50 percent off. 50% OFF BREAST CANCER. Whether it’s 50 percent off or not, what consumer actually wants breast cancer? Not a very good deal even at discount prices. Dina was astounded and planned to ask the store to take down the sign. I wonder what they’ll say.

While this particular sign is egregious, it illustrates clearly what has gone awry in the pink marketplace. Deep awareness of the disease has been replaced with superficial support for the cause through the purchase and display of pink ribbon products. In the meantime, the realities of breast cancer and the fact that we really have no idea what causes it is hidden in a sea of pink product placement.

Ms. Port remarks later in her blog that “Awareness is crucial and I think we should take it any way we can get it. But we need to take the awareness a step further and do something about it.”

I agree and disagree. I agree that awareness is crucial. Awareness involves truth in advertising, getting accurate information to the public about what we really know about breast cancer and what we don’t, the limitations of current diagnostic technologies, the scientific controversies surrounding current treatments, the diverse experiences of diagnosed people, knowledge about where funds are coming from and where they are going, and the kinds of research that hold the most promise. Instead we get sound bites and promotional materials. If we’re lucky, we’ll get a good reporter who tries to connect the dots.

I also agree that awareness is not enough, and that we must take action. At an individual level, we need to take care of ourselves the best way we know how, using all of the information at our disposal and seeking out new information that will deepen our understanding of cancer. We can also support one another and our communities. We can put our dollars to use directly in support of the people and organizations we believe in, and we can withhold them from companies and organizations that are exploiting our cause or even contributing to the cancer burden. We can even participate in research ourselves, such as the Army of Women that enables the diagnosed and undiagnosed to participate in breast cancer research.

At a collective level, we can do even more. Research streams can be more collaborative, with increased attention to basic research and exploration of the causes of cancer, which include links to the environment. Treatments can be studied for long term effects before they reach the market. Companies that profit from diagnosis and treatment can be disentangled from awareness campaigns. Cause-marketing programs can be held to high standards of transparency and accountability. Cancer education can be disseminated in schools and communities instead of through advertising. Breast cancer organizations can expand their scope to address broader health concerns such as health disparities, health literacy, and patients’ rights.

Because all of these actions are possible and necessary, I do not agree that “we should take [awareness] any way we can get it.” We deserve better. We can set higher standards. Deep down, I think Dina Roth Port believes that too. After all, she is asking the grocery store to take that sign down! Let’s follow suit and hold our pink ribbon suppliers accountable.

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2 comments to The Pink Leftovers

  • Great post Gayle. Pink “awareness” is one thing but “accountable awareness” is exactly what we need, amongst other things. Filtering the pink noise out to get to information that might actually help me (physically and mentally) is an extremely frustrating process at best. With all of the money pouring into the breast cancer cause, why is this still the case ?

  • Good question. It seems that in some cases the marketing of the cause has taken precedence over the mission.

"women urged to get screened because it might save their lives. But that’s only 1 possible outcome, and it’s the least likely one" @cragcrest

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

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