Before they think pink, consumers should think twice

By EDEN LITRELL ’14
Sports and Wellness Editor

October: the leaves are falling from the trees, the insects are finally dying and a flood of pink products are upon us. From pink energy drinks at the grocery store to helpful messages about mammogram statistics plastered over the Keohane Sports Center, everything seems oriented towards making sure we are aware of breast cancer. Unless you’ve been living under a very large rock, the message sank in years ago. Unfortunately, the focus of October has shifted from making us aware of breast cancer to selling us a bunch of pink stuff we don’t need.

Breast Cancer Action, a not-for-profit, has a Think Before You Pink campaign devoted to busting the myths surrounding breast cancer. Did you know that the pink products we buy, such as the 2011 perfume Promise Me commissioned by the Susan G. Komen for the Cure, often contain cancer-causing chemicals? Cosmetic companies like Estee Lauder and Avon are in on the act, simultaneously raising money for breast cancer while selling products containing hormone-disrupting chemicals and carcinogens. And these companies often give only a tiny fraction of the profits they make selling pink merchandise to breast cancer charities. ABC News reports that some companies selling pink products give no money to breast cancer charities at all, claiming that the awareness they are raising is enough to justify the pink ribbon.

Breast Cancer Action devotes itself not only to raising awareness of cancer, but also preventing cancer in the first place, something that gets lost in the wave of corporate marketing attempt to cash in on consumers’ good will. Companies should not be able to turn a profit marketing carcinogenic products as fighting against breast cancer.

A second trend during October, which is just as annoying as the thoughtless consumerism, is the ever popular “save the ta-tas” slogan, or some variation thereof. This slogan is terrible for many reasons, primarily because it implies that a woman’s breasts are more important than the woman herself. The slogan’s second layer of horrible irony is that the treatment of this disease often involves mastectomy, or the surgical removal of one or both breasts. Saving women often involves getting rid of the “ta-tas” our culture values so highly.

Buying pink products or “save the ta-tas” bumper stickers is not a substitute for actual action in support of curing breast cancer, and breast cancer is not the be-all and end-all of diseases that affect women. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, heart disease is the leading cause of death for women in the United States.

Cancer is a viciously unfair, terrible disease, and buying pink products makes us feel better by combatting a prevalent sense of helplessness. But the truth is that we are being swindled. Want to make a difference? Donate directly to cancer research, or consider that October is also Domestic Violence Awareness month. A recent World Health Organization Report showed that over a third of women worldwide have experienced intimate partner violence or non-partner sexual violence. Consider donating to a less trendy, but just as worthy cause, such as domestic violence shelters, or the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network.

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