28. The Intervention Begins With Us!

043-egglands-bestEarlier this month, I purchased a dozen of Egglands Best organic eggs only to find out the next morning that each one had a trademarked running ribbon stamped on it. There was no indication on the packaging that this particular dozen eggs was part of a cause marketing relationship. My husband laughed and said, “They got you!”After I finished my breakfast, I felt a bit nauseous. Should I have skipped breakfast and returned the eggs? I didn’t.

0105-bake-for-the-cureA friend of mine with breast cancer wanted to do some baking and needed yeast for the recipe. She went to the store and her only option was a pink ribbon brand. How could the store carry only one brand of yeast? Why did it have to have a pink ribbon on it? She usually goes out of her way to avoid participating in pink cause marketing because she worries about exploiting the disease for profit. She didn’t have time to go to another store. She bought the yeast.

Whether you want to support breast cancer through pink cause marketing or not, personal choice increasingly is becoming a smaller part of the equation. If you shop in October — and often throughout the year — you may unwittingly give your money to some some company or organization you do not support, and/or one that is not necessarily in the best interest of ending breast cancer. Even those of us who are adamant that pinking for profit must stop are implicated in the ubiquity of pink cause marketing. Yet, when we have the opportunity to intervene, it can make a real difference.

Last year, a woman named Maria told me she had purchased a red tea kettle at a department store only to notice after she got home that there was an inconspicuous pink ribbon on the box. There was no indication at the display that the kettle was part of a cause marketing plan. Should she have inspected all of the packaging? How much fine print do consumers have to read? After realizing that she inadvertently supported a pink campaign, she returned the kettle and bought a different brand. How many others are using their buying power to make such a bold statement?

Jan Hasak, author of Mourning Has Broken: Reflections on Surviving Cancer, writes a blog of the same name. In Vacuum Woes and Pinking Shears, Jan explains how she made a conscious choice to avoid pink consumption. “Why,” she asks “should I support causes that promise to direct the money to breast cancer research but end up, upon further investigation, only (or mostly) lining the pockets of the profit-minded?” Jan takes an opportunity to explain to a sales clerk why she doesn’t believe in pink marketing, a conversation that opens the door for the clerk to share her own pink ribbon woes. It is an amazing story of direct, everyday action elevating consciousness about breast cancer.

0109b-emergenc-pink-lemonadeKatherine O’Brien of I Hate Breast Cancer goes to the source of a cause marketing campaign she finds particularly offensive. Since its launch in 2007, Emergen-C Pink has donated more than $300,000 primarily to the Keep A Breast (KAB) Foundation which is now well known for its “boobies” bracelets and other heavily marketed, sexy paraphernalia. After sending a letter to the manufacturer of “Emergen-C” (Alacer Corp.) to inform them of the limited resources going toward metastatic research and to state her concerns about the company’s relationship with an organization that gains supporters by selling sexiness and trivializing breast cancer, Katherine shares the company’s response publicly along with her return letter. That was the end of the correspondence, but I imagine the marketing team at Alacer will have a some immune-boosting food for thought.

Patrick Hayden, in Thousands of Breast Cancer Supporters Scammed by Mail-Order Jeweler,  explains his discovery of obvious corporate fraud from a mail-order discount jewelery seller, The Concorde Collection. He gathered publicly available information, such as the “F” the company received from the Better Business Bureau, along with information he gathered and documented while working as a customer service representative for the company. Hayden found that breast cancer supporters were being swindled by the company’s defective merchandise, false advertising, and misleading Satisfaction Guarantee. By giving his insider information Hayden helps other buyers to be-aware.

A woman known as the “Komen Bandit” decided to take her concerns about metastatic breast cancer to the streets — or more specifically, to the Komen races. Alongside the flood of pink t-shirts, she and other bandits go to the races wearing hand made shirts to draw attention to the needs of the BC Mets community. They have statements such as: “Not surviving. Still Fighting. Fund stage IV research.” To read more about it, see “Enter the Komen Bandits.” Bandits continue to emerge in a variety of social spaces to make their concerns about pink culture and industry the forefront of their advocacy. Read more here.

When Sarah Horton, author of Being Sarah, was asked to speak at a breast cancer event, she said yes. But part of the agreement was that they share eye-opening information about breast cancer. What resulted was a welcomed presentation and a little book of breast cancer facts called “Open Your Eyes.” Download the book here, and a diagram of how to put it together here. In the midst of all of this, Sarah also published daily during Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and while I would swoop in here and there on various blogs, my own writing kept me too preoccupied to delve deeply. As the month comes to a close, I look forward to going back and reading them in their entirety from day one. Eyes wide open.

There are many ways to intervene in pink culture and industry. As individuals we can’t do everything. But we can do SOMETHING!

Do you have an intervention story of your own?

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4 comments to 28. The Intervention Begins With Us!

  • I had no idea about the Emergen-C Pink–thank you. Yet another product to cross off my shopping list. It’s gotten to the point that I won’t even buy non-pinked items from companies “supporting” the cause. For example, I recently moved to another brand of toilet paper because I was incensed that my go-to twelve pack had a pink ribbon. Even though there were identical unribboned packages on the same shelf, I chose to go with another brand entirely. My choices are becoming more limited though, as it seems everyone is on the pink bandwagon these days. But I feel it’s an important way to resist the movement, even if over the month I’m stopping just five dollars from going toward Komen.

  • Thanks Gayle for featuring the ‘Open your eyes’ booklet! And like you, doing a blogaday means I’ve not had enough time to read others… so will be catching up in November. Best, Sarah

  • What a great set of eye-opening articles in this post! I’m very curious about the story that Patrick Hayden has to tell – it isn’t showing properly here on my phone, but maybe the whole article is on the regular site.


  • A woman emailed me about passing on non-pink cancer info. She received a phone call last year from a breast cancer organization. When the operator asked for a donation, she explained that she supports Breast Cancer Action, which seeks out corporations that pollute the environment. The telemarketer had never heard of BCA and showed a great deal of interest. She literally changed the conversation about breast cancer during an appeal call. Fantastic!

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"Seeing clearly through the pink haze" Toronto Sun

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

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

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

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Pink Ribbon Culture and Breast Cancer The Kojo Nnamdi Show

The Big Business of Breast Cancer
Marie Claire

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

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Komen Pink Ribbons Raise Green and Questions USA Today