Catch up on stories you may have missed this month

This year especially journalists and others have been asking deeper questions about breast cancer awareness, the commercialization of the pink ribbon industry, the portrayal of breast cancer in relation to other diseases, and how consumers can avoid pinkwashing. I was interviewed for some of this month’s stories, and I wrote some of my own.

pink ribbon cupcakesBreast Cancer: The Flaws in the Cause by Megan Ellis, Oct. 31, 2014.

Breast Cancer Awareness Month has come and gone, and once again it didn’t come without a series of controversies as a result of advertisers and those cashing in on the cause. You magazine and fracking company Baker Hughes’ pink drill bits stirred up their own set of controversies this month, bringing the commercial side of Breast Cancer Awareness Month into the limelight. From sexualisation and trivialisation of the disease, we take a look at what problems are facing breast cancer awareness month. “It is consumption-oriented, entertainment-based, festive, trendy, and targets consumers in the name of awareness but using typical marketing strategies aimed to increase participation in the cause and profit for the industry,” Sulik says.

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How to Make the Biggest Impact with your Breast Cancer Donations

Money by Kerie Anne Renzulli, Oct. 24, 2014.

With all the different charities vying for your generosity, it can be overwhelming trying to figure out where exactly you should donate. To make that task easier, MONEY—with the help of Gayle Sulik, Samantha King and Charity Navigator—identified five breast cancer charities where you can feel confident that your dollars will be put to good use funding prevention research, education, and patient support. These organizations have high levels of accountability, have successfully sustained their programs over time, and spend a high percentage of their revenue on programs and services rather than administrative or fundraising costs.

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The Very Pink, Very Controversial Business of Breast Cancer Awareness

Racked by Chavie Lieber, Oct. 22, 2014.

As a growing number of pink products flood the market, the commodification of breast cancer is coming under increased scrutiny. The cottage industry is completely unregulated, with a great deal of brands failing to disclose exactly how much money they actually donate—not to mention that charities don’t always share where the money goes either. Activists feel the products present misleading images and facts about a disease that has claimed the lives of millions. With some brands even producing items with unsafe ingredients, many argue that BCA products have come to violate consumer ethics, doing more harm than good.

“It’s almost like Breast Cancer Awareness Month has become a holiday, a shopping extravaganza, like Christmas in July,” muses Gayle Sulik, a medical sociologist at the University of Albany who wrote a book on the subject titled Pink Ribbon Blues. “It’s created a spectacle around the cause which actually diverts attention from the epidemic. The realities of breast cancer—not just the disease, but the treatments, controversies, mammogram screenings—the public at large doesn’t know what to make of this stuff because instead, all the awareness is focused on product marketing.”

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NFL, pink ribbons not enough to win over women

by Linda Rubin and Gayle Sulik, CNN, October 16, 2014

NFL Ribbon FieldDoes anyone doubt that the NFL’s support of breast cancer awareness is mainly a strategy designed to give the impression that the NFL cares about women, and generate more female football fans? After all, from a public relations perspective, the pink ribbon is worth its weight in gold. But there is another women’s issue, domestic violence, that touches many women and men, some of whom are professional football players. And as it happens, “Pinkotober” is also Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Might the NFL throw the power of its brand behind this problem?

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Reflecting on Breast Cancer Awareness

Feminist Reflections by Gayle Sulik, Oct. 16, 2014.

The bulk of my work, but especially in and around the month of October, is concentrated on breast cancer. “Awareness.” Culture. Industry. Advocacy. Mass Media. Scientific Controversies. Sound bites. Misinformation. Profiteering. Marketing pitches. Parades of pink. People in the middle try to set the record straight, often while dealing with realities of a disease that are never truly addressed in a comprehensive way.

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The Problem with National Breast Cancer Awareness Month

Women’s Health Magazine by Robin Hilmantel, Oct. 15, 2014.

You might think that breast health advocates and women who’ve had breast cancer would eagerly await the pink ribbon movement each October. You’d be wrong. “In some of the media, what you tend to see is a dumbing down in a sense,” says Gayle Sulik, Ph.D., founder and executive director of Breast Cancer Consortium. “It’s hard to talk about cancer; it’s very, very complicated. And so when you connect it to a campaign and want to have a headline, sometimes really important details get lost.”

“As more people have been diagnosed with breast cancer, they see the disconnect [between the breast cancer awareness messaging] because they’re living it,” says Sulik. “Breast cancer is not just one disease, and early detection doesn’t cut it. … We want to get the diversity of stories out because there’s been so much of a focus over the years about heroically beating breast cancer, and there are too many people who don’t beat it. There are too many people who may still be alive and living with it but are certainly not cured, so I think that stuff has to get out, as well.”

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3 Questions We Need to Answer for Breast Cancer Awareness Month

by Gayle Sulik, Chronicle of Philanthropy October 13, 2014

Breast cancer is multibillion-dollar industry tied with a pretty pink bow. Companies strategically use the Mother-of-all-causes as a vital component of their marketing portfolios. Sometimes they just use the color, now so seamlessly entwined with breast cancer that it’s barely perceptible. Advertisements encourage consumers to buy pink, do pink, and think pink, all in the name of “awareness” and ending breast cancer forever. I’d like to see the end of breast cancer and all other cancers. Who wouldn’t? I’d also like to see real awareness.

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Ribbon LogoPink Ribbon Envy: Living with an Uncool Cancer

The Nib by Adam Bessie and Dan Archer, Oct. 1, 2014.

Awareness campaigns have turned diseases into consumer brands, but some illnesses remain invisible. A graphic comic strip takes on serious issues about the commercialization of breast cancer and the way the pink ribbon seems to blast away other important causes. Written by Adam Bessie and co-written and drawn by Dan Archer, the comic features interviews with marketer Brock Greene and Gayle Sulik.


Rethinking Pink: How This Work Started, Why It Continues

by Gayle Sulik, Psychology Today, Sept. 29, 2014

How two friendships started and fueled a hard look behind the pink curtain. It all started with Cathy. Then after Rachel came into my life I knew the critical stance I had taken on the culture and industry surrounding breast cancer would keep going until meaningful change became a reality. Neither of these women could have known how much influence their lives would have on breast cancer activism or how their voices would continue to matter after they were gone.

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"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

“Pink Ribbon Blues”

Paperback includes a new Introduction on fundraising controversies and a color insert with images of, and reactions to, the pinking of breast cancer (2012).

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"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

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?

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