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Why I Dislike Pinkwashing

Why I Dislike Pinkwashing
Why I Dislike Pinkwashing

Today I’m going to tell you why I dislike Pinkwashing. October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month (it’s also Depression Awareness Month) and I am inundated with emails from PR reps about BCA products. In the past I’ve shared all kinds of Breast Cancer Awareness products, but after researching to find out that companies only donate a percentage of the sales to AWARENESS, not towards RESEARCH, I’m through with them.

I had a breast cancer scare in my 20s (you can read my story here). My best friend had a bilateral masectomy (both sides of his chest removed). My grandmother had breast cancer (and she survived it and she’s still alive at 91.5). And my best friend’s grandfather had breast cancer. Breast cancer comes at men and women, young and old.

I think more than enough ‘awareness’ has been researched on the issue of breast cancer. Money needs to stop going towards awareness and go towards research. This is why I dislike Pinkwashing. I hate the thought of money being wasted on awareness when researchers need money to find a cure.

Breast cancer is a very serious subject to me. After I learned that most of the money raised for Breast Cancer doesn’t even go towards finding a cure, I’m not interested in supporting that. I donate money to the BCRF. My friend Shannon from A Girl’s Gotta Spa! has a great post that talks about the best charities to donate to for breast cancer research.

As always, I think you should do whatever you feel is best for you. For me, I won’t be buying any pink products unless I was already planning to buy that type of product to begin with. I think it’s much better to donate directly to an organization that I KNOW will take the money and use it for research, rather than to pay for awareness.

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  • You articulated this very well. I think most people are “aware” of how serious breast cancer is and that we need to fund the research to find ways of prevention and cures for this horrible disease. I think that most people are “unaware” that by buying so many of these “pink” products they are not actually funding the research. My son is wearing pink socks in his football game today along with the rest of the team. It would have been better to take the money for the socks (small though it is) and donate it to cancer research. Thanks for sharing this.

  • Thank you for this post, Courtney. I have a similar perspective on charity work, non-profits etc. In my former life, I worked for several NGO’s in different countries and during that time I became aware of many things, not least of which is the way that money and donations are handled, how projects are implemented etc. etc. I am very purposeful with how I donate/support these days and people may not always understand. But when you’ve seen and become aware of certain things you can make more informed decisions. 🙂

  • I highly recommend the documentary Pink Ribbons Inc, I believe it is still available on Netflix. It is a real eye opener on how the best of intentions often get hijacked by corporate interests and turned into just another profit scheme. I refuse to buy anything that turns pink just in October. I will direct any money I want to contribute to organizations I believe in and have researched myself.

  • Very interesting and thought-provoking. I truly hadn’t thought much about the difference in BCA versus BCR, and now I feel stupid for not realizing that before! Thank you for bringing this to light. I couldn’t agree more about donating directly to a charity with an A+ or A rating or a local center where the money will go directly to benefit those affected. Thanks, Phyrra!

  • It’s time for Breast Cancer Awareness Awareness. I think people need to stop wasting money on pink sneakers and shirts and just give the money directly to research….

  • I very much agree with you on this issue. I recently read a couple of books about how there are a lot of breast cancer charities that do not use donated money in productive ways; it is very important to do your research before donating to any charity.

  • I love this! I always get looked at like a terrible person when someone asks me if I will donate to SGK Foundation and I say no. Once I explain myself they look shocked and in disbelief.

    October is a huge month for many different types of awareness. My son has ADHD and SPD (Sensory Processing Disorder; also called Sensory Integration Dysfunction), a niece with ADD, a friend whose son has Spina Bifida, several friends with Autistic children, and one friend who has a child with with Down’s Syndrome. All of these disabilities recognize October as their month. It’s also recognized as pregnancy and infant loss awareness month. I’m sad to say I have several friends who have experienced this as well. It seems like every time a friend has a kid with a disability, or a family member with a illness, their awareness month is October.

  • I couldn’t agree more! While I have been fortunate enough to not have any significant risk factors affect my family (and only one person to my knowledge affected by it, my maternal great-grandmother, now deceased of natural causes), I sink all of my charitable dollars into Alopecia areata awareness and research, which personally affects me (diagnosed in 1982 at age 4, and still fabulous at 36!) I also try to spread awareness about clinical depression, since it affects more people than breast cancer does. Thanks again for echoing my personal feelings about pinkwashing (besides the fact that I don’t like the color pink anyway!)

    • I do feel like Depression Awareness is still needed. Some people think you can just turn depression off and that’s not how it worked. I feel like Robin Williams died from depression, so it’s clearly a serious issue.

      I’m glad you like this post! Yes alopecia is something not many people know about, so it helps to raise awareness for it!

  • This is a really good point I never even realized, thank you for taking the time to make a post about it. I’m with you, I’d rather fund research than awareness, any day.

  • Oh Phyrra, you’re so right and thank you for this post. I actually volunteered for 4 years at an oncology hospital when I was still in school and it was so hard to see how many people are stricken with cancers. While all cancers have different names, a lot of the symptoms can be very similar in their effects on a person’s overall quality of life and the treatments for all are pretty equally awful. I felt compassion and empathy towards all of their causes and I never understood why we can’t donate specifically to *research* for them all, rather than awareness. From my professional experience, awareness is basically a sugar-coated term that means “giving money to administrative staff who make posters and host events for various charities”… very little actually EVER goes to research (there are some exceptions).

    Since my family has also had various cancers (my grandmother eventually died of breast cancer), I worked for a biotech company that was trying to prevent breast cancer. However, I have to admit that I was always frustrated with the minuscule amounts of research done and the absolute blowing out of proportion of any and all *potential* promised treatments/preventions. I went to bed every night wondering if what I was doing as part of that cycle was only perpetuating this cancer business that does not aim at making people better, but rather at perpetuating a business. I wish everyone’s heart would be in the right place and that we could put the right infrastructure in place to funnel money to real laboratories working towards a cure, not just of breast cancer, but any kind of cancer.

  • Agreed, and thanks for mentioning this. I’m sure most people are unaware of how little they are making an impact on finding a cure, or perhaps they are just content to be armchair activists (hopefully not). The problem is how much this oversaturation dilutes the funding of better organizations and simultaneously gives the appearance that research is being well-funded and could make people disinclined to open their wallets at all. And of course it dwarfs the many other cancers and issues that have been mentioned that don’t have the convenience of a color swatch to call attention to themselves. At least half the time I wear light pink (or have pink hair) people ask if it’s “for breast cancer”. No. My grandmother died of breast cancer, I care about breast cancer, but no.

    • I feel like people are unaware because companies deliberately obfuscate the issue, which is why I wanted to shed some light on it. And you’re right, I want to see all cancers cured, not just breast cancer, though that has affected me personally like you

  • In addition to what you said above, I would add that the focus on breast cancer to the exclusion of other cancers bothers me. Everyone in my family has had cancer, and most died from it. Not one was breast cancer. Prostate cancer, lung cancer, ovarian cancer, melanoma… all these different cancers are equally as important ,and equally, or sometimes more, deadly (in the case of melanoma)! To focus on one part of my body to the exclusion of the rest of it is troubling to me. Why can’t we just have a Cancer Month and get it all out there?

  • /sigh and here i thought it was a great excuse to pick up something pink that i don’t really need but like the look of. i didn’t realize the money was only going towards awareness. thanks for letting us know!

  • THANK YOU. I feel the same way but I never voice my frustrations because cancer is such a sensitive topic and I don’t want to offend anyone, but I’ve never really supported these BCA campaigns and foundations. You really don’t know where the money is going or how it’s being used. These foundations are money-makers… think of all the pink merchandise they crank out and people just buy it up because they think they are doing something good for a good cause, and I think the foundations totally take advantage of that. How do you know that your donated money isn’t going into their president’s new mansion or yacht? I guess that’s an extreme way of looking at it but it really makes you think. I agree with researching charities before you donate to them; find one that has some kind of accountability or really emphasizes research rather than awareness because you’re right, BC has had more than enough awareness. My paternal Grandmother died of breast cancer when I was 7 so it is a personal thing for me as well. Thank you for this post!♥

    • so there’s a site that actually grades charities on how they spend their money. A Girl’s Gotta Spa!’s post lists it (I linked to her above), so that might help. I totally feel like you do. I want the money to go to research, not for someone’s yacht.

  • I hate that they do that..I always feel like poo when everytime I go to the store I deny all but 1 02 2 different round up for drills they always have..I wanna know that the money is going towards something other then someones large paycheck or p.r.

  • Thank you for speaking out about this! I (unfortunately) got a peek inside the Susan G. Komen foundation and am very done with the pink washing, myself. Raising awareness does NOTHING if it’s not contributing toward a cure (or diagnoses, if self-diagnosis is possible). I’m usually scared to speak up about this, though, as people assume a lack of support means I’m pro-cancer or something. So thank you for being a voice!

    • You’re welcome Beth! It was only 2 years ago I thought that all companies who did something for Breast Cancer were battling the cause. I’m glad to help educate people so that they can make a choice they are comfortable with.

  • Thanks for linking to my article! I am with you! When a brand says they’ll donate 5%, 10% etc. only a fraction of that percent actually goes to research. The general public doesn’t know this and it’s time that we create this awareness! The best thing anyone can do is to donate *directly* to an A rated charity and skip the lipstick counter…and yes, even that cancer walk. Charity Navigator and Charity Watch are great places to start researching cancer charities. Even look locally to cancer wellness centers in your area. For example there is one where I live that gives spa treatments and yoga, etc. to those battling cancer. I’m over the pinkwashing.

  • I am with you, Phyrra! I do Thirty-One on the side as a hobby, and we offer ribbons of different colors for whatever causes people support. People can have them added to their bags. 31 cents from each ribbon sale is donated to the Thirty-One Gives charity. I know it’s not a fortune or even directly towards that particular cause, but the donations have helped the Ronald McDonald House and other charities.

    I wouldn’t even tell people about the ribbons if this weren’t the case. I don’t like “pinkwashing” or any kind of awareness “washing.” I think it’s a cheap way to raise sales. Why not donate some portions to the research, a hospital, etc.?

  • Thank you for posting this. I never realized there was that difference and now that I am aware, I totally agree with you about it.

    Enough awareness. That money would definitely be better off used for researching a cure.

    • No problem! I didn’t know either, and once I found out I was sickened. I want a cure for cancer. I donate money for that yearly. It’s very important to me.

  • Brava! I also give to organizations that provide support for those with breast cancer.

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