I love pink. There, I said it. I am a sucker for anything pink. I covet the pink KitchenAid stand mixer ““ which is, like most things pink, a “breast cancer awareness” item. Fifty dollars of your $350 purchase goes to Susan G. Komen for the Cure.  I just typed “cute” instead of “cure” ““ even my Freudian typo brain knows how much I love pink items. Pink RibbonThe practice of manufacturing pink items that either are purported to promote breast cancer awareness or donate to foundations like Susan G. Komen for the Cure is called “pinkwashing” and blogs such as Think Before you Pink are out to make sure women are educated about pinkwashing. They want us to consider what is really going on behind the marketing of pink products.

I will admit to bristling at the thought of critique against pink products. You will pry my pink computer out of my cold, dead, color-coordinated hands. But, with October being Breast Cancer Awareness month, the pink products are out in full force. When I saw an ad in a magazine for a bag of cat food with a pink stripe across the front that claims to be some sort of breast cancer awareness cat food, I decided it had gone too far. Purina wants you to register to take a “cat nap for cancer” on their Facebook page and they’ll donate $2 per nap to Susan G. Komen for the Cure.  Supposedly this is because they were inspired by cancer survivors discussing that playing with their cats was calming and helped them fight their cancer. You don’t need to convince me that it’s for a good cause to get me to take a nap, but even I know this is pinkwashing at its best. Anyway, the cat food bag just goes in the garbage, and I’m not interested in a pink product that I can’t carry around with me.

Think Before You Pink’s critique of pinkwashing is that it doesn’t do much to really promote more awareness of breast cancer other than that breast cancer exists and some of your money might go towards something that helps.  They write:

“Do we need pink M&Ms to remind us about an epidemic that threatens one out of every eight women throughout their lifetime? These cause marketing opportunities are great for corporations who want to improve their image – but for women affected by breast cancer, they fail to address the source of the epidemic and are therefore a source of intense frustration.

Pink products do not tell us about the disparities that impact different demographics with cancer. Access to services, treatment and information unjustly varies among populations. Pink products do not tell us that 50% or more of cancer causes can be attributed to environmental factors. Pink ribbon products fail to address these issues and yet often benefit the companies who make a profit by contributing to the breast cancer epidemic. There are things you can do right now, other than shopping, to help end this epidemic.”

This definitely gave me some pause.  Heart disease affects more women than breast cancer.  And Think Before You Pink is correct: buying a pink water bottle doesn’t tell me anything about how I can take steps to prevent breast cancer or do my own breast self-exam. And for all you know, the money from that pink sweatshirt may just go toward marketing other pink products. In the end, I’m glad the concept of pinkwashing was brought to my attention. I think it’s important to be critical and aware of all the ways that we are sold things. Especially since I am a marketer’s dream ““ a good commercial or a fancy new package will always catch my eye. It does not mean that I am not going to stop and admire a new set of pink makeup brushes, but I will definitely be doing my research on the companies that sell them before I buy.

5 replies on “Pinkwashing”

I, too, love pink stuff, but have been deeply skeptical of how buying pink stuff (which I would do anyway) makes anyone more “aware” of breast cancer. Awareness of self exams, doctor accessibility, lifestyle risks, etc. would all be more useful than adding a pink ribbon logo to my underpants tag, you know?

I found KFC’s pinkwashing to be the most offensive. I believe they started marketing their pink products at the same time they unveiled the double down. Whatever if people want to eat that, but presenting it in a cancer awareness package is just too much.

I’ve become so disillusioned with all of these pink products; I saw a “pink” workout DVD advertised in a magazine, but the small print said that only $1 of the $15 DVD price actually went towards breast cancer research, and it didn’t even specify to what specific organization. Like you, fancy packaging or bright colors always catch my eye, but I definitely agree that it’s important to think critically, especially when shopping and buying are being reframed as activism.

I will say that, as far as cat-napping for a cure goes, last year when the Susan G. Komen Race For The Cure was going on, one option was to sleep in for the cure. I thought that was sort of awesome, because it is highly unlikely that I will ever be able to race for anything, no matter how worthy the cause. Slightly different than donating $2 per nap, as I imagine you pay a registration fee and can get sponsors just like the runners, but not entirely unheard of.

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