October is breast cancer awareness month in the United States. The idea behind “raising awareness” is to motivate people to donate money to breast cancer research.
People and organizations put on pink in an effort to combat the disease that is expected to take 40,290 lives this year.
Women are more likely to get breast cancer than any other type of cancer, and 85 percent of breast cancer development occurs in women who don’t have a family history of breast cancer.
Breast cancer sucks and it makes sense that we want to get rid of it. However, there are several efforts to raise awareness of the disease, especially during October, that are hiding negative intentions.
To begin with, the pink ribbon symbol is not regulated, so any company can slap it onto its products regardless of whether it’s actually giving money to breast cancer research.
Even if a company is giving money to breast cancer groups, it’s impossible to tell which group and how much money just from the pink ribbon on the box.
This is problematic when the fine print says that the company has already set a limit for how much money it will give; the consumer doesn’t know whether the cap has already been met and may not actually be contributing to the donations with their purchase.
Meanwhile, Breast Cancer Action, an advocacy organization put together by a group of women with breast cancer in San Francisco, coined the term “pinkwashing” to describe companies that market pink ribbon products which are linked to the disease itself.
There are a number of toxins that go into brand name hair and skin products that correlate with the incidence of breast cancer.
For example, Avon, a popular makeup brand that hosts walks and sells pink products labeled as part of a “breast cancer crusade,” has several products classified by the Environmental Working Group as “high hazard” due to “hormone disruptors, neurotoxins and possible carcinogens.”
The terminology surrounding breast cancer can also be awkward. Variations of the slogan “save the tatas” are common, and while they turn heads, they prioritize breasts over, I don’t know, the rest of the woman.
I’m not sure anyone actually wants to fight breast cancer expressly to keep women from losing their breasts, but the language of “saving” breasts perpetuates our culture’s perverted ideology about women’s body parts.
Words like “boobies” and “tatas” also are only associated with women. About one percent of breast cancer cases develop in men, and while that doesn’t seem to be a lot, survival rates are lower for men because they are less aware of self-detection methods and of the fact that they can even get it.
If you want to fight breast cancer, do as Breast Cancer Action suggests and “think before you pink.”
Before you buy something with a pink ribbon on it, ask yourself whether you absolutely know where your money is going. Ask yourself what the language on your wristband is promoting. Research different organizations devoted to breast cancer research and advocacy, like Breast Cancer Action, and consider making direct donations and calling out hypocritical companies on social media.