Put the pink ribbon to rest

It’s time to put a stop to this madness. No more “awareness.” No more car magnets, “save the ta-tas” stickers and shirts, specially-packaged yogurt, no more running and racing to chase down a cure. The pink ribbon needs a well-deserved funeral.

Do you know why Komen never tells the history of the pink ribbon? Because it isn’t a good one. The pink ribbon was the result of an attorney decision because the originator of the breast-cancer awareness ribbon wanted no part in contributing to a company’s bottom line.

From “Pretty In Pink,” originally published in the now-defunct breast-cancer magazine Mamm and reprinted by Breast Cancer Action:

 Early in 1992, Alexandra Penney, then the editor in chief of Self, was busy designing the magazine’s second annual Breast Cancer Awareness Month issue.

The previous year’s effort, inspired and guest edited by Evelyn Lauder—Estée Lauder senior corporate vice president and a breast cancer survivor—had been a huge hit. The question was, how to do it again and even better.

Then Penney had a flash of inspiration—she would create a ribbon, and enlist the cosmetics giant to distribute it in New York City stores. Evelyn Lauder went her one better: She promised to put the ribbon on cosmetics counters across the country.

Penney recalls the birth of the ribbon now from her office at Ziff-Davis. “You know how it is when things are in the air,” Penney says. “A week later Liz Smith wrote about a woman who was already doing a peach-colored ribbon for breast cancer.”

The woman was 68-year-old Charlotte Haley, the granddaughter, sister, and mother of women who had battled breast cancer. Her peach-colored loops were handmade in her dining room. Each set of five came with a card saying: “The National Cancer Institute annual budget is $1.8 billion, only 5 percent goes for cancer prevention. Help us wake up our legislators and America by wearing this ribbon.”

Haley was strictly grassroots, handing the cards out at the local supermarket and writing prominent women, everyone from former First Ladies to Dear Abby. Her message spread by word of mouth. By the time Liz Smith printed her phone number, Haley had distributed thousands. Then Self magazine called.

“We said, ‘We want to go in with you on this, we’ll give you national attention, there’s nothing in it for us,” Penney says. Even five years later, her voice still sounds startled by Haley’s answer. “She wanted nothing to do with us. Said we were too commercial.”

At the end of September 1992, Liz Smith printed a follow-up to Haley’s story. She reported that Estee Lauder had experienced “problems” trying to work with Haley, and quoted the activist claiming that Self had asked her to relinquish the concept of the ribbon. “We didn’t want to crowd her,” Penney says. “But we really wanted to do a ribbon. We asked our lawyers and they said, ‘ Come up with another color.”

They chose pink.

Yesterday Susan B. Komen for the Cure announced that it would not withdraw grants to Planned Parenthood after all. This move has angered both sides of the debate who no longer trust the organization.

The post a few days ago, Why you should have boycotted Komen before this week, has reached thousands of people. I’ve read opinions of those who think Komen “caved into bullies,” either mentioning Planned Parenthood or conservatives as the bullies.

But are these people really the bullies? I don’t think so. If anyone is the bully here, it is Komen. SGK has reminded us for years that THEY are the real deal when it comes to breast cancer research. This week they were angered over news of a pink breast cancer awareness gun that claimed to be sold to benefit the organization. Instead of focusing on pinkwashing, they announced immediately that they were going to seek legal advice.

It’s true that a lot of companies try to peddle breast-cancer awareness products and some even try to say profits will go toward Komen. This organization is well within its rights to protect its trademark, and with pink guns, that’s totally acceptable. But why has Komen trademarked the word “cure?” Should no one else aim to “cure” breast cancer? What about other diseases? That kind of bullying should be unacceptable.

Regardless of where you stand on the Planned Parenthood issue, keep this in mind: This is not about Planned Parenthood. This is about an organization that is trying to save face and keep corporate donors and partnerships. This organization is not being pro-life or pro-choice right now. It is being pro-profit, and it is doing whatever it can to drum up support.

What can you do? These are some steps you can take. The first one apply whether you decide to support a women’s health charity, a hunger charity, an animal-rights group or any other kind of organization. The last one is strictly about breast cancer.

1) Educate yourself. Don’t give to an organization because of what it says it does. Read reports on it. Look at it critically. Look at the pros, the cons, and most importantly, unbiased research from people who don’t have a dog in this fight. Read from all sources, not just the message boards or even what you read in this post. Search charitynavigator.org and read news stories from reliable sources. The Associated Press and Reuters are about as unbiased as you are going to get.

2)  Ask questions. What is the organization doing? What is its track record? Is it partnering with corporations that contribute to the problem you’re trying to solve?

If nothing else, take this with you:

3) Stop buying pink-ribbon stuff.  I have just avoided this marketing altogether by refusing to buy any products with pink ribbons on them – even if it’s from a brand I normally use. For instance, I buy Charmin, but I will go through the entire shelf before finding a package that doesn’t have a pink ribbon on it. I want companies to stop using the ribbon, and I do not want to contribute to any sales figures when they’re looking to see how many pink products they sold.

We need to stand together. This is not about pitting pro-choice against pro-life. This is about Komen vs. women. Nip it in the bud.

Good find on the web: Race for the Cure to being relevant (Gin and Tacos)

Why you should have boycotted Komen by now

Credit: Lady Liberty’s Lamp

Social Media has blown up over Komen’s latest decision to withdraw funding from Planned Parenthood. I’m sure you’ve read every rant that could possibly be read on that subject, so instead, I will give you this list of horrible things Susan B. Komen for the cure has done.

1. Komen files lawsuits against anyone using the term “for the cure.” If you want to raise funds for a research charity, be it for Diabetes, AIDS, or even breast cancer, don’t even think about using the phrase “for the/a cure,” using pink ribbons, or not clearing stuff through Komen first. Because Komen has attorneys. By the end of 2010, Komen had filed lawsuits against more than 100 small organizations for using derivatives of “for the cure” for non-Komen-sponsored events. Take, for example, Kites for a Cure, a family-run Kite-flying event organized to raise funds for lung cancer research.

This is what the organizer told Huffington Post:

Mary Ann Tighe, said the Komen foundation sent her a letter asking her to stop using the phrase “for a cure” in their title and to never use the color pink in conjunction with their fundraising. What bothered her most about the whole ordeal, she said, was that Komen forced her to spend money and time on legal fees and proceedings instead of raising funds for cancer.

You got that? Unless you are with Komen or you are Robert Smith, you cannot use the word “Cure.” Because, by Jove, Komen’s got this whole curing thing covered. No one else need apply.

2. Komen has turned philanthropy into deceptive consumer marketing. Every year, Komen partners with a wide number of brands for promotional, pink-ribbon products that get the OK on the phrase “for the cure.” In many instances, a very small portion of that purchase actually goes to Komen, and in most instances, these companies set an annual cap for donations to Komen. As a result, the consumers, which are primarily women, are targeted with “feel-good” packaging, feel they are making a difference, and only pennies of their purchase are actually going for breast cancer research and prevention. The money spent on these promotional products, which include everything from cereal and yogurt to luxury SUVs, could just as easily (and more effectively) go directly to a breast cancer organization.

Here’s a short clip from Penn & Teller: Bullsh&t that explains it better than I can.

3. Komen is the world’s largest pinkwasher. “Pinkwashing” is a term used for decorating a product that has been directly linked to breast cancer with pink ribbons and sentiments of hope that make one believe they’re doing something. Take, for instance, Komen’s major Whiskey-Tango-Foxtrot with KFC for its “Buckets for the Cure” campaign.

Komen and KFC came together to sell pink buckets of fried chicken a few years ago. I’m not sure they’ll be making that same mistake again, since it’s supposed to be an organization geared toward women’s health and it’s selling extremely unhealthy food to promote it. Now, I love fried chicken. But I would never buy fried chicken to cure heart disease, diabetes or breast cancer. That’s not even cancelling out your donation.

It’s absolutely NUTS.

I’m really glad that people are taking a stand against Komen. But what they have done as an organization is just – awful. I’ve only removed the first layer; there are many more to remove. I urge you to visit thinkbeforeyoupink.org  to learn more about the history of pink ribbon marketing and get a FREE toolkit with materials you can use to educate yourself and others on pink-ribbon marketing.

This campaign was started by Breast Cancer Action , where you can go for more education on what’s wrong with the fight against breast cancer and you can support an organization that truly works to fight this horrible epidemic.

The National Film Board of Canada is releasing a new documentary called Pink Ribbons Inc. that looks into the history of the pink ribbon and breast-cancer marketing. Today is the release date, and I REALLY hope this makes it to a theater around me soon.

Here is the trailer. It should give you goosebumps.

Follow-up: Put the pink ribbon to rest

The Pinkwasher Strikes Back: Five Deceptive Breast Cancer Awareness Products

It’s Breast Cancer Marketing Month! Yes, that month where cities douse themselves in pink in hopes of curing breast cancer. And they’re totally not trying to make a fast buck off you. Nope! Um, right.

Here’s what’s been sold in stores this year:

1. Mopping For The Cure
For the past few years, Procter & Gamble has sold “limited-edition” pink products during October. These products feature a ribbon with the very positive and true message that “Early Detection Saves Lives,” but upon further examination of the packaging, it’s revealed that no proceeds from the sale of these products will go to breast cancer research, mammograms, awareness or anything else related to breast cancer.

So far I’ve seen the ribbons on the Swiffer and a package of Charmin. To be fair, Procter and Gamble has partnered with the National Breast Cancer Foundation. But that still doesn’t mean buying their products will be as good as making a direct donation to the NBCF.

So, if you like the color pink, buy it. To me it just screams “Look, you’re making a difference! Now, get back in the kitchen and scrub the linoleum.”

2. BubbleWrap For The Cure

Okay, buying pink BubbleWrap won’t necessarily NOT fund Breast Cancer. For every roll of this stuff you buy, Duck Brand will donate a whopping 10 cents to the Breast Cancer Research Foundation up to $75,000. So you don’t know if your purchase is really going to help breast cancer or not. If you’re in need of BubbleWrap, and you like pink, buy it. But also remember that BubbleWrap is extremely difficult to recycle, so use sparingly. I’m about to switch to friendlier ways of packaging things, such as paper.

3. Riveting for the Cure
One of the coolest things about old government propaganda posters is that they are available to the public domain. Take Rosie the Riveter here, who is on this water-bottle cozy wearing a pink bandana, rolling up her sleeves and saying “We can Cure” instead of “We can Do It!” And then there’s a pink ribbon and the word “hope.”

I examined the package, aaaand sure enough – none of this goes to any kind of organization. I also didn’t check to see if these bottles were BPA-free, but nothing on the package indicated as such.

4. Pretzels For The Cure
Palmer’s Candies makes these “Breast Cancer Awareness” Strawberry-flavored pretzels. The package says proceeds from the pretzel sales will go toward breast cancer research; however, no organization is named on the packaging.

I love Pretzels and I’m sure these taste good, but if I’m wanting to fight off cancer I want to know how much and where my pennies are going. 

By the way, did you know that breast cancer isn’t even the most common cause of death in women? It’s heart disease. You know what can contribute to heart disease? Sodium. You know what has a lot of sodium in it? Pretzels.

I googled Palmer’s Candies and couldn’t find anything on ‘em. No web site, nothing. There is another company called Palmer’s that makes skin care products and donates to Susan G. Komen for the Cure. If anybody can find something on these confectioners I’d love to see it. (Update: A friend on Google Plus found the company web site, located at www.palmercandy.com . Still nothing on the web site about what charities this company supports.)

5. Mushrooms for the Cure

A friend of mine sent these to me on Facebook. My only response is – WTF Mushrooms? Really, now? I have nothing against produce; it does a body good, can help fight off certain cancers but you know what? Putting mushrooms in a pink poly-styrene container really isn’t doing anything to help the breast cancer epidemic.

I can’t get across enough the importance of looking at labels before you decide to spend all your money on a bunch of pink crap every October. Women are the BIGGEST consumers in this country. They know we love to shop, and they know we care. A lot of companies do a lot of wonderful things for women, but please, please, please read the fine print. This is madness. Every year I say it has to stop and every year it gets bigger and more obnoxious. Sigh.

For more information on deceptive breast cancer marketing (“pinkwashing,”), visit ThinkBeforeYouPink.Org.

Booze it up for Breast Cancer Marketing – I mean, ‘Awareness Month’

It’s here again! My least favorite month to go shopping, because I’m bombarded with all this pink ribbon stuff that is geared toward me and to make me have some false sense that I’m helping find a cure for breast cancer.

This year is no different from previous years; I’m sure you’ve already seen yogurt, cereal, toilet paper and what-not that will give a teeny-tiny percentage of whatever product they’re selling you to some breast cancer research fund. Sometimes they tell you up-front, sometimes they say it will go to some unnamed, obscure “breast cancer research” charity that you can’t look up online.

In this photo you see my favorite marketing ploy of the year: Support Her Vodka. Now you can get drunk for a cause!

Let’s forget that alcohol has direct links to breast cancer, oh, because I’m buyin’ something that MAKES A DIFFERENCE! it even SAYS SO on the BOTTLE!

Oh, and if you can’t get your hands on this vodka, don’t worry – There’s Sutter Home for Hope and Mike’s Hard Pink Lemonade.

If you aren’t offended, you should be. And if you don’t see the blatant marketing ploy here, you should.

Breast cancer is a horrible, horrible disease, but the cause is being hijacked by these companies that prey on your sensibilities, and your wallet. Instead of buying that pink-ribboned product, give the money directly to an organization that purchases mammograms for women or is directly related to breast cancer research.

Breast cancer is also the ONLY disease that is so widely marketed because it’s “safe.” Last year, Farrah Fawcett died of rectal cancer, but I seriously doubt any wine distributor is going to start marketing to “cure” it, because it’s not as pretty as cute ol’ pink-ribboned breast cancer.

If you do decide to buy pink products this month, Ask yourself the following questions:

- Does the product specifically say the organization to which it will donate its proceeds?

- Will the company donate a portion of its profits from every pink item sold, or does it have a cap on its donations? (Yoplait and other companies have done this in the past).

- How much of my money is really going toward breast cancer research?

And finally…

- Are there any direct links between the product I’m purchasing and breast cancer?

Don’t let your boobies get bamboozled this month! Educate yourself!

For more information, visit thinkbeforeyoupink.org.

The bastardization of the pink ribbon

I’d held off on doing my annual rant on Breast Cancer Industry Month, because I do support the fight against breast cancer and want my fellow ladies to raise awareness and I want all of us to find a cure. Besides, I wasn’t being as bombarded with the month as I had in the past.

HOWEVER. This pink-ribbon product madness has got to stop.

Less than an hour ago I was in the checkout line at my local grocery store when I saw, surrounded by copies of People and Cosmopolitan:

A pink-ribbon calculator. With the message “Think Pink” on it. And stamped on it said “Proceeds from the sale of this calculator go to fight breast cancer.”

“Fight breast cancer, you say?”, I said to myself. So I picked up the package. I looked all over the front. I looked all over the back. I looked for ANY DAMN PLACE where it said what percentage would go to an organization that works to fight breast cancer. Komen? No. The Breast Cancer Research Foundation? No. There was NO charity listed.

So here’s the deal: Be careful about all this pink-ribbon crap you see. Because there are MARKETING VULTURES out there who want your money to buy their pink-ribboned crap and make you feel like you’re doing something to help women.

Ask questions. From Breast Cancer Action, a watchdog for marketing strategies such as these, these are the questions you need to ask yourself when considering thinking pink:

1. How much money from your purchase actually goes toward breast cancer? Is the amount clearly stated on the package?

When the package does state the amount of the donation, is that amount enough? Fox Home Entertainment, for example, sold “DVDs for the Cure” for $14.95 and donated 50 cents to Susan G. Komen for the Cure. Is this a significant contribution, or a piddly amount? You decide. If you can’t tell how much money is being donated, or if you don’t think it’s enough, give directly to the organization instead.

2. What is the maximum amount that will be donated?

Many companies place a cap on the amount of money that will be donated. For example, Give Hope Jeans, sold by White House Black Market for $88, donated “net proceeds” from the sale to the organization Living Beyond Breast Cancer. But they’ve capped their contributions at $200,000. This means that once they had reached the $200,000 limit they stopped contributing, no matter how many pairs of jeans were purchased.

In some cases, that cap is a generous amount. In some cases it’s not. But you should know that, whenever there is a cap, your individual purchase may not contribute anything to the cause, depending on when you shop and whether the cap has already been met.

3. How are the funds being raised?

Does making the purchase ensure a contribution to the cause? Or do you, the shopper, have to jump through hoops to make sure the money gets where it’s supposed to go? Lean Cuisine, for example, had a pink ribbon on its boxes of frozen meals, but the purchase of the meal did not result in a donation to a breast cancer organization. Instead, consumers had to visit the Lean Cuisine web site and buy a pink Lean Cuisine lunch tote. Only then would $5 of the tote purchase be donated to Susan G. Komen for the Cure.

4. To what breast cancer organization does the money go, and what types of programs does it support?

Does the product’s package tell you where the money goes and what will be done with it? For example, Penn is selling pink tennis balls and the package states that 15 cents of your purchase will go to “a Breast Cancer Research Organization.” It doesn’t tell you which organization or what kind of research will be done. Will the money go to fund the same studies that have been ongoing for decades (which already get enormous financial support)? Or will it go to under-funded, innovative research into the causes of breast cancer?

If the donation is going to breast cancer services, is it reaching the people most in need, in the most effective way? The Breast Cancer Site store, for example, donates money to the National Breast Cancer Foundation, which helps pay for mammograms for women who cannot afford them. But mammograms are already covered for low-income women through the National Breast and Cervical Cancer Screening Program. Although this screening program does have limitations, what is most needed is the funding to get low-income women treatment if breast cancer is found. Click here to learn more about this issue.

5. What is the company doing to assure that its products are not actually contributing to the breast cancer epidemic?

Many companies that raise funds for breast cancer also make products that are linked to the disease. Breast Cancer Action calls these companies “pinkwashers.” BMW, for example, gives $1 to Susan G. Komen for the Cure each time you test-drive one of their cars, even though pollutants found in car exhaust are linked to breast cancer. Many cosmetics companies whose products contain chemicals linked to breast cancer also sell their items for the cause.

I vote, don’t buy anything with pink ribbons on it and give the money instead to a woman who has breast cancer. She could probably use it much more than any of these corporations.

For more information and updates on their latest campaign, visit Thinkbeforeyoupink.org

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