Yet another "breast cancer awareness pitch"

A sea of pink

It’s June. Breast Cancer Awareness Month is months away. Yet, I’ve received countless “pitches” throughout the year from PR firms gearing up for another year of pink ribbon festivities and revenues. In the wake of mounting concerns about pinkwashing, profiteering, political biases, and the overwhelming diversion of funds from research, prevention, and the kinds of actions that might help people in dire straits after a cancer diagnosis, the happy-go-lucky pitches keep flowing in. Here’s one I recently received.

Hi and I hope this finds you well!

For upcoming stories and segments, please consider 26-year–old electric violinist Sarah Charness, a Boston native and current NYC resident who has audiences around the nation with her vivacious performances. From classical to TOP 40, musical performances are enhanced with Sarah’s energy and electrifying presence.

On Sunday June 2nd, Sarah Charness performed the “Star Spangled Banner” as the opening performance for annual Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Awareness Walk in Washington DC. As over 22,000 participants geared up to walk for the cause, Sarah’s sweet melodies filled the stage. Listen to her performance here:

With her signature pink electric violin in hand, Sarah can entertain your viewers with an electrifying performance playing with the most memorable, upbeat tunes of 2012.

I didn’t listen to Sarah’s performance. The link didn’t work. Even if it had, I was not interested in tuning in. Not because I have anything against the electric violin or a burgeoning musician who gives of her time and talent. But because I’m tired. I’m just tired of the fanfare, publicity, and mass marketing of events-fundraisers-products that have little, if anything, to do with actual breast cancer awareness. The sweet melodies of the electric violin may soothe some savage beasts, but they will not cure breast cancer. They will not give people the tools they need to face uncertain diagnoses, treatments, and prognoses. Nor will they keep anyone from going into bankruptcy to pay for them. They will not help us to understand risk or causation. They will not keep cancer from returning, and will not save lives.


Maybe it’s not so obvious; 22,000 people showed up in Washington, D.C. to raise money for the largest breast cancer charity in the world, Susan G. Komen for the Cure. As the “Star Spangled Banner” chimed through a mega sound system, well intentioned participants were not meant to be distracted by the fact that Komen is under scrutiny for its dwindling research allocationsscience denialismquestionable branding initiatives and corporate partnershipspinkwashing; insufficient attention to the breast cancer that kills (i.e., metastasis); efforts to squeeze out smaller charities; and the recent assault on women’s health involving Planned Parenthood’s grants for breast cancer screenings.

Breast Cancer Awareness pitches (and the stuff they sell) are not designed to address the realities of a charity run amuck or a social cause that sold out to its corporate sponsors. This one also failed to mention that the number of attendees at Komen’s events have declined by about thirty percent since the Planned Parenthood debacle. What awareness pitches do best is sell pink snippets of feel-good superficiality that keep the pink ribbon engine oiled and ready to churn forth. At least this pitch offers some sweet tunes to help the medicine go down.

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  • I can totally relate, Gayle. I’ve been getting pitches just like this all year. I tell people I’m not interested, and after awhile, I just click Delete. Sigh.

  • Lisa Valentine

    Sadly,these misguided pink ribbon pitches divert precious energy away from what really matters. If we could re-direct the energy (and the funding) to research to find the causes, potential cures, and how to prevent breast cancer, that would be energy put to good use. Thanks for keeping this conversation alive Gayle.

  • Keep up the awareness campaign, Gayle. People who may not know about your blog may suddenly find it and realize what Komen is really about. Pitches don’t impress me; home runs delivering clinical-study-stopping breast cancer drugs do. Carry on. xx

  • The electric violin and breast cancer….I’ve been working too hard because I laughed out loud.

    What I’m aware of? How many women are still dying. Breast Cancer Mortality Week. That might go somewhere. How many electric violins could we get to play that medly?

    Welcome back, Gayle.

  • Thank you all for your continued work to keep this conversation of change alive. I also laughed out loud when I read your comment, Jody. That would be quite a melody, wouldn’t it??

  • Gayle,
    I don’t blame you for being tired of the fanfare. It’s almost like we are waiting around for the next “unbelievable” cockamamie idea to show itself. I was so irate when a local news station in my neck of the woods mentioned nothing at all about the other Komen headlines in their recent coverage of the Mother’s Day Race. It just floored me that they could so blatantly turn their eyes away from a significant piece of the Komen story. Plus, to not mention that the numbers were down this year…talk about news slant.

    Tired or not, we’ll keep plowing ahead beating our drums. In the end, drums make more noise than violins, right?

  • Mary

    Lets face it pink washing puts money into a lot of corporate “deep” pockets with little benefit going to research, where the money may actually help to find a cause/cure. The way I see it breast cancer is an industry that makes a LOT of money for those involved in the pharmaceuticals, diagnostics and various treatments for the disease. Then there are the corporations and so called charities (Komen) making pink profits from pink hype and pink dodads. A cure or cause for the disease would leave a lot of corporations, drug companies etc. without the pink cash flow. Pink is a cash cow, to them, that must be kept alive at any cost, otherwise they would lose BIG time. Pity the poor corporate bosses who might see a decline in their standard of living if all the money raised for BC was used to actually eradicate the disease. Cynical, I know, but my take on the subject.

"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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