Thursday, September 21, 2006

not pink, pissed

I hate it when my most cynical intuitions about an issue are proved right. For years, it was with a lot of misgiving that I watched the development of the "Look Good, Feel Good" campaign with the very corporations who are quite likely the very ones that produce the products containing the toxic chemicals that are so strongly linked to breast cancer. (check your antiperspirant -- it probably contains some forms of parabens) Then, corporation after corporation has started to sport the pink ribbon and promise that some portion of the profits goes to breast cancer research.

People want to do something. They hate to see their friends or family suffering or losing the battle to this terrible disease. But they do not respond to the suffering of men who have this disease. They do not understand that there may be several other diseases that a woman is far more likely to contract and die from. They pay no attention to the hundreds of thousands of women who are dying of AIDS in Africa and other parts of the world. Where's the pink ribbon campaign for them?

I'm not in any way suggesting that if you have a burning desire to do something you shouldn't be applauded. But do it intelligently. Make sure the corporation you are donating through is accountable, that they aren't contributing to the problem, that your donation is going where you intend it to go.

Even better, lets get back to what should be the true goal of Health Care: 1. promoting health, 2. preventing disease.

On "Ontario Today", on CBC Radio today, Thursday, Samantha King was on the show. She is the author of Pink Ribbons Inc: Breast Cancer and the Politics of Philanthropy, a book that warns people to watch out for corporations using breast cancer fundraising as part of their marketing campaigns. While King took care to point out that much good has been done by making breast cancer a topic that can be discussed in public where it once was only discussed in whispers (men suffering from the disease still generally hide in shame), and lauded the efforts to find less traumatic treatment, she did question why so little focus is on prevention.

A caller mentioned a group that I believe started in California (correct me if I'm wrong, because the coffee pot gurgled louder than the radio at this point) whose slogan is: I'm not pink, I'm pissed! Anybody know more about them?

What strikes me is that on some inner-gut level, many women realize that our society brings this disease upon us. Read the heart-wrenching reaction of Twisty, when she found she had breast cancer in 2005. Coincidentally, Twisty also blogs about King, on Sept. 19, 2006.


Blogger Annie in Austin said...

How interesting Kati, that you're also a reader of South Austin's own Twisty. Before her big battle started, there were occasional observations on nature, and even a Photo Gallery of the Critters found in her garden. Twisty's had one heck of a journey, and I hope she can overcome the latest bout and keep writing until she's a very old woman.

The pink thing always seemed a little Barbie to me. Although I wouldn't buy a product with the idea that the donation counted for anything, I have sponsored friends who entered various events to raise money - not because of their cause, but as a tribute to the bonds of our friendship.

I don't know about your experiences as a skeptic, but some of my friends and family do not appreciate my cynicism about corporations and institutions! They send me inspirational forwards and I reply with a link from Snopes.

Cranky Annie

11:49 a.m.  
Blogger Xris said...

Kati: I had similar reactions when so-called celebrities were suddenly sporting red ribbons "in support of people with AIDS". Visibility is important, especially for stigmatized diseases such as AIDS and cancer, but it's not enough.

I never wore a red ribbon. My preferred symbol was the ACT-UP graphic of the pink triangle with the words SILENCE = DEATH beneath. That best expressed for me what was at stake.

As for corporate appropriation of social issues: it is, and always can be nothing more than, marketing. Examples abound: Revlon "supporting" breast cancer research while they continue to profit from carinogenic cosmetics, Tanqueray using the AIDS Bike Rides (now defunct) to market an addictive product linked to the transmission and progression of the disease, and so on. It's not even a question of conflicts of interest: there is only one interest - profit - and the supposed other "interest" is simply a means to that end.

12:20 p.m.  
Blogger Kati said...

I understand how being against "pink" might seem heartless. I like you have sponsored friends in runs for breast cancer as well, for similar personal reasons. Sadly, a few of my acquaintances who seem to most willingly accept anything that is marketed to them, are also the ones who seem to be most vociferous about their beliefs in traditional values (they are homophobic,xenophobic etc. etc.). A discussion with them goes along the lines of "I'm not prejudiced, but that's just the way I feel!" While the refusal that I perceive in them to be logical, fair, openminded drives me crazy, I'm also quite aware that I have that biblical beam in my own eye. What beam?? I know I'm not consistent either. I have shopped at Walmart. I suppose I struggle as much as anyone to live consciously, trying to be aware of what the repurcussions of my actions might be. As for Twisty, via the internet, I am discovering a wealth of fascinating people in Austin. Just how big is Austin anyway?? All these interesting writers who seem to be from there! If there is something special in the water in Austin, it's a blessing to the whole world!

11:00 a.m.  
Blogger Kati said...

xris, it would be easier to believe in the purported motivations of corporate donations if they were made anonymously, say. no,if it smells like a rat, it probably is rat. as they say, follow the money, always follow the money. meanwhile, I guess the best we can do is to act consciously. we may make mistakes and be misunderstood, but hey! it's a journey.

11:05 a.m.  
Anonymous Julia Schopick said...

I know what you mean. I am absolutely convinced that I must buy Samantha King's book!

There are many other excellent articles out there that give a similar, also interesting perspective on the topic of the "pinking" of breast cancer awareness. I link to three of them from my website,

To access these three articles, please go to the links on the left side of my site, and look under “CANCER." (There are also other interesting links under "PHARMACEUTICAL COMPANIES.")

The three articles are:

1)"Welcome to Cancerland: A Mammogram Leads to a Cult of Pink Kitsch," by Barbara Ehrenreich. A classic.

2)"Chemo Concession" (contains some surprising information about the chemotherapy industry)

3) “Vaccine Against Cancer,” about a really interesting cancer treatment being used by a doctor in Germany.

All three articles (and many of the others I link to, as well) support Samantha King's perspective on the “think pink” phenomenon. I hope you will find them informative. Thanks very much for giving them a look!

In closing, when WILL these "pinking" organizations ever raise money to find, as Ms. King suggests, less toxic treatments?

Julia Schopick

6:38 p.m.  

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