This is a very tough question. I love pink. I always have loved pink. I still want to love pink. Surely we don’t need to destroy the beauty of the color pink because of “pinkwashing”.
I first heard the word from Gayle Sulik who I met at a luncheon during the NBCC May 2011 Summit and Lobby Day in Washington DC. Gayle wrote a fascinating book called “Pink Ribbon Blues” loaded with lots of great thought-provoking revelations about pinkwashing. I also heard about it from Breast Cancer Action (www.bcaction.org). They are a wonderful organization that really looks at important issues like the effect on the environment, carcinogens, and cause marketing have on breast cancer. They have a documentary well worth seeing called “Pink Ribbons, Inc.“, directed by Lea Pool, which has started playing in major cities.
I am also aware that the pink put us on some type of map perceiving breast cancer. However, selling products that contribute to causing cancer, while consumers think they are giving money to help cancer, is an example of pinkwashing. When I saw a pink ribbon on the big pink round Kentucky fried cup, there was something wrong with that picture.
We know this is not a happy pink color disease. At the same time we have to take back the pink’s past and present visual connection to improve so many issues related to breast cancer. I wish instead of pointing a finger of blame we could accept the pink as a starting voice about breast cancer. Blaming the color pink will get breast cancer advocacy nowhere.
Maybe on some level it did enter my subconscious when I volunteered for Komen, but I ignored it at the time. I remember clearly right before my close friend Lila started to show signs of her breast cancer’s rapid disease progression, I told her about the Komen perfume. While holding on to her walker with her wig on, Lila thought that there was something wrong with Komen selling perfume with carcinogens in it to raise funds for breast cancer. It was also insulting to anyone doing chemo since the smell of perfume has a terrible effect on most patients during their chemotherapy treatment. But if Lila heard about the “Planned Parenthood” debacle, she would have been quite upset with the Komen brand.
Politics and giving are best not connected. My facts and figures showed that Komen gave the most money to breast cancer research, although I do wonder at what cost. I could stay feeling betrayed by the Komen brand, but it is completely separate from the color pink.
What I am saying is we have to make peace with the pink before us. Being at war within the community is never a good idea. There are so many instances where people’s hearts and minds were in the right place with the pink, and it is not fair to dismiss the association because of political hypocrisy. At the same time we can look at some of the advertising and be aware when someone is selling us something that goes against what we are trying to do.
The simple fact is we want a vaccine to prevent breast cancer (all cancers would make me even happier), prevent metastasis, and reverse metastasis once it has happened.
Whether that means making peace with the pink or not, we must focus our energies in the same place by recognizing what we have in common. We all agree that we want to end this disease. Let us take back the color pink, think and remember that we are all in this fight together.
- “Pink Ribbons, Inc.” (wnyc.org)