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Pink Ribbons and Corporate PR Won’t Cure Cancer

These women want solutions for breast cancer, not pinkwashed corporate sales events.

Jim Hightower

Must everything be commercialized — even cancer?

That’s a question more and more women suffering from breast cancer are asking about the so-called “pinkification” of their disease. They’re referring to the ubiquitous breast cancer awareness campaign that uses pink ribbons and pink everything to promote mammograms for early detection of the cancer.

Sounds innocent enough, except for a couple of ugly realities.

Pink Problem No. 1 is that the campaign has become a cheap way for profiteering corporations to glom onto a feel-good cause, literally wrapping themselves in pink to sell their products under the guise that they’re altruists helping women fight this deadly illness.

Flamingos-pink-breast-cancer-awareness-whitehouse

Alexis Fam / Flickr

For example, during October’s Breast Cancer Awareness Month, Delta Air Lines dresses flight attendants in pink and sells pink lemonade on its flights. Ford sells “pink warrior” decals for its cars. And Dick’s Sporting Goods offers pink football cleats and other specially tinted merchandise.

Pink Problem No. 2 is that the millions of dollars thrown into these corporate and charitable PR campaigns are focused on detection of the disease, rather than on the more crucial needs of developing preventative measures and cures, caring for those who do get the cancer, and mounting an all-out research effort to determine its environmental causes.

“What do we have to show for the billions spent on pink ribbon products?” asks Karuna Jaggar, director of the activist group Breast Cancer Action. “A lot of us are done with awareness,” she says. “We want action.”

We’ve had 25 years of pinkwashing, yet the disease is as rampant as ever. Wearing a pink ribbon isn’t enough. To help shift the effort into causes, cures, and caring, go to www.BreastCancerDeadline2020.org.

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OtherWords columnist Jim Hightower is a radio commentator, writer, and public speaker. He’s also the editor of the populist newsletter, The Hightower Lowdown, and a member of the Public Citizen board. OtherWords.org.