Awareness month more than a colour

These days, everything but the leaves is turning Pepto pink, a reminder that it is Pinktober, or Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

These days, everything but the leaves is turning Pepto pink, a reminder that it is Pinktober, or Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

The retina-assaulting shade is everywhere: On KitchenAid mixers, Wonderbras, Dyson vacuum cleaners, toilet paper and lipstick.

It’s no surprise breast cancer became a corporate pet cause — pink products target women, who have buying power and a warranted fear of the disease. It attacks the female identity — it is a trauma to lose an intrinsic part of your womanhood, motherhood and sexuality. The colour is equally loaded — pink symbolizes femininity and calm; co-opting the colour is a glib way to acknowledge the Big C without actually acknowledging it as the body-destroying curse it is.

Pink sales encourage people to act charitably, but according to the fine print, it’s corporations that can benefit more than any foundation or cancer patient. Commonly, companies pass on a small percentage of sales (from five to 15 per cent), or, as Hershey’s Bliss chocolates pledges in the States, donate a paltry $300,000 US rather than take away from profits.

In a case that’s the current target of the Breast Cancer Action’s Think Before You Pink campaign, pharmaceutical giant Eli Lilly makes rBGH — an artificial hormone given to dairy cows that increases people’s risks of cancer — but also produces cancer drugs. Last year, BMW donated $1 US for every mile on a test drive of its carcinogen-spewing cars to the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation.

I’m not some tinfoil hat-wearing cancer grinch; I have a pessimism that comes only from witnessing family members fight cancer. My dad’s sinus cancer is in remission; his sister is fighting the same type of cancer; another aunt survived breast cancer; my sister has had two breast cancer scares.

Something is awry when cutesy ribbons eclipse what cancer does to someone physically and emotionally. It’s a further insult that consumer dollars pay companies and not prevention programs.

There isn’t a person in the Western world that isn’t “aware” of breast cancer. Companies should retire their token gestures and marketing campaigns — the money is better spent supporting patients, preventing environmental exposure to carcinogens, or encouraging healthy lifestyles (that’s why I cheer on the Run for the Cure).

Better yet, give your $400 directly to an organization and forgo the pink mixer altogether. You can’t match Pepto to a kitchen anyway.

 
 
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