Pinkwashing America: one ribbon at a time

Pink, pink everywhere!

Since 1985, October has been designated Breast Cancer Awareness month.

It’s that time of year again. This is the month when organizations flood the stores with pink merchandise plastered with overlapping ribbons.

The pink ribbons used to adorn family and friends who were directly affected by the disease, but now they have become a marketing tactic.

Merchandise you may not necessarily need begins to tug at your heartstrings when you read that a percentage of that purchase is “for the cure.”

The problem with this is that the percentage that goes to funding research is miniscule.

Susan G. Komen: For the Cure is a multi-million dollar company, but in 2011 only 15 percent of their donations went to research.

The awareness campaigns by these organizations are little more than a highly effective form of advertising, used to raise money for themselves, while getting praise for their efforts to “save lives.”

One of the most profound contradictions came when Susan G. Komen partnered with Kentucky Fried Chicken in 2010 with a pink bucket. Seriously?

The American Institute for Cancer Research reported that 60 to 70 percent of all cancers can be prevented with lifestyle changes. Their dietary recommendations are to “choose predominantly plant-based diets . . . and minimally processed starchy staple foods.” Pink buckets of fried chicken totally fall into that category, right?

Organizations like Susan G. Komen spend millions every October to make us aware of breast cancer.

But here’s the thing: we already know.

What I would like to know is, where is the pink the rest of the year? Apparently the world is only supposed to be aware of breast cancer in October, but every other month don’t worry about it.

There are more than 200 types of cancer, but only one is singled out. Granted, more than 2.7 million people are affected by breast cancer, but that doesn’t make the others any less important.

October is also Liver Cancer Awareness month. Yet the stores are not being flooded with green ribbons to make people aware of the fight against that cancer.

Or how about the month of September when there are seven different cancers sharing one month, prostate cancer being one of them.

Prostate cancer is the second most common cancer and it affects more than 2.5 million men. However, there has been no sign of those light blue ribbons anywhere.

So what exactly makes breast cancer stand out? Because there is no way people just love pink this much –and only in October.

I wish I had the answers. Just like I wish I had the cure, just like I’m sure anyone affected by the disease wishes they could cure their loved one.

But we don’t have the cure, and unfortunately raising awareness with pink merchandise doesn’t give us a cure either.

My grandmother lived with breast cancer for 18 years before she died and it is quite appalling that the disease that took her life, and the lives of many others, is being used to turn a profit.