Sunday, October 31, 2010

Breast Cancer Awareness Month Carnival Round-up

Finally, the month of Pinkwashing is over. The little children are gently packing the pink ornaments into their boxes - safe for another year. The pink towels and tablecloths are folded away, the trees are being taken down, the pink lights are blinking off. Retailers will count their profits for the season. Our mass cancer celebration ends for another year.

But, let us not forget the spirit of this month. Here are some of the things I either received myself or saw in print to promote "awareness."

Cocktails for Cancer
Arizona Central's Entertainment Section

"Everyone likes to support Breast Cancer Awareness in October. There are any number of ways, from walks to cupcakes to simple, silicone bracelets. Even bars want to give a little back. That's why this month, a handful of Valley bars and restaurants are shaking and stirring pink-themed cocktails to benefit causes related to Breast Cancer Awareness."

Dear Arizona Central's bad writer:  Most of the people who like to support breast cancer awareness in October are businesses hoping to make a buck on the suffering of others. Considering that there is a very strong link between alcohol use and breast cancer, the only thing this promotion demonstrates is your huge lack of awareness.   Drink booze, raise your risk of cancer. Period.   The nicest word I can use to describe this promotion is hypocritical.

And, shame on you, Komen, shame on you for accepting money from this promotion and the hundreds of thousands like it across the country.  Do you want to educate about the causes of cancer, or do you want to keep the money machine going?  If the answer is educate, than an ethical company would publicly denounce bars selling pink drinks and thus, teach people about its cancer-causing properties.  Of course, if your goal is to continue to receive money, then the more women who get cancer, the better for you.  Bottom's up.

Seminole Hard Rock Casino
Sent to me, with an offer of a promotional umbrella to give away to my readers.  Tell me this isn't a blatant example of using a disease to get people to buy what they are selling?

Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino will raise funds and public awareness for the Breast Cancer Research Foundation (BCRF) during October. Hard Rock Tampa will donate 25 percent of the proceeds from its Pinktober “Pink Sheets” guest room bookings, 75 percent of the retail price of limited edition collectible Pinktober Hard Rock pins, and 15 percent from the sales of collectible Hard Rock Pinktober charm bracelets, t-shirts, leather vests, sleepwear, travel mugs, bandanas, and pink-hued guitar-embossed “Sleep Like A Rock” bedding.

Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino will also offer, through its Seminole Hard Rock Retail Store, limited-edition collectibles with partial proceeds going to the BCRF. Special “Pink-tini” cocktails will be served in the casino’s Center and Lobby bars throughout October with partial proceeds also donated.

Why yes, that is a fine idea. Go drink pink cancer-causing drinks, sit in a smoky casino, throw your money away  in a fool's attempt to come out ahead, then go up to your room and put on a pink bathrobe and sleep on pink sheets, all so that you can feel good about your own bad habits.  "Partial proceeds" donated, I'm guessing, is in honor of the fact that many women now have partial breasts. 

Oh, and gamblers, when you go home, make sure you show everybody how altruistic you were, by wearing this sporty pin.

And, shame on you too, Breast Cancer Research Foundation for accepting money from this promotion.  Assuming this casino allows smoking, you are mixing two known carcinogens, booze and cigarettes, with a dangerous habit, gambling, in order to "help" cancer patients.  (At least this foundation actually does research and doesn't just promote "awareness").

Pink Ribbon Barbie
by Mattel

The description:
"Swathed in a pink organza gown that's both playful and elegant, the Pink Ribbon™ Barbie® Doll features a sparkly tulle stole that evokes the iconic pink ribbon. It's a symbol of the fight against breast cancer, and a sign of solidarity for all whose lives have been affected by it" 

They don't say if the doll comes with a wig, a mastectomy bra, and a five year supply of tamoxifen.


Because, awareness can never start too early.

Another promotion I received in my inbox:

True Religion Jeans

Dear Ann,

We are writing on behalf of True Religion brand jeans, one of the iconic premium denim brands on the market today. True Religion’s hippie, bohemian chic has become a coveted style to mimic. This October they’re showing their support of the fight against breast cancer by releasing a limited edition jean. Proceeds totaling $25,000 will be donated to Susan G. Komen for the Cure. The style, Reclaimed Becky in Indigo, has pink crystal broaches on the pockets and fly. “Found” vintage hardware on the coin pockets is unlike any other True Religion style and gives the piece a unique look. Because your blog details your journey with breast cancer, we thought you’d be interested in the True Religion effort. We’ve included a blog-friendly widget that can be embedded that shows the crystal broach and gives your readers a free shipping promo code through Nov. 6.

Is it ironic that a brand that calls itself True Religion wants to capitalize on my sharing my painful cancer "journey"  in order to sell jeans?  Is this what Jesus would do?  They thought I was some sort of tool that could be used - for free - to generate profits simply because I have cancer. Praise God.

What is definitely shameful is the amount of money they are giving to breast cancer "awareness" for the sale of these jeans: a mere $25,000, tax deductible of course. In light of the fact that each pair of jeans sells for $300.00, the sale of a mere 83 pairs of jeans goes to charity.   All the rest of what will surely be hundreds of thousands of pairs sold will be pure profit made on the backsides, er, I mean backs, of women with cancer.

Whatever you do, however cute you think these jeans are - don't buy them.

You're welcome, True Religion.

Cookies for the Cure
Milano Cookies by Pepperidge Farm Facebook Campaign

Have you experienced a moment of pure delight when savoring a Pepperidge Farm® Milano® cookie? Go to our Milano Moment Tab to share your moment, and we’ll donate 50¢ to Susan G. Komen for the Cure® (up to $50,000).

No, buying the cookies isn't enough.  You actually have to share a cookie experience for them to donate.  And, if 100,000 people don't do this, Komen doesn't get the $50,000.  Pepperidge Farm earns about $162,000,000 (that's million, folks) every three months, so I would say this 50k is extremely generous wouldn't you?    Oh, and don't forget - it's a tax deductible donation.

I wanted to check to see how many people had actually shared their cookie moment, but when you click on the tab, they request permission to rape your privacy settings. They want access to post on your wall, your friends walls, and even see your insights pages, so I backed off.  I suppose 50k is a fair trade for getting extremely personal marketing information from 100,000 people (and their friends). How altruistic of you, Pepperidge Farm.  How very, very generous.  Way to save cancer patients. Looks like you found True Religion too.

Oh, and by the way?  Obesity is linked to breast cancer too.   Apparently, Milano isn't aware of that. Shame on you again,  Komen.

Walther P-22 Hope Edition

 Hope Edition?  Hope .... for the Cure?

Komen thinks so, since they partnered with them. 


A sequined sling.  Handy for those with broken bones from mets.  They also have a pink ribbon cast cover,  a face mask, as well as pink ribbon logoed walkers.  Yes, you can get grandma a walker with pink ribbons and pink tennis balls.  ActiveForever says "a portion of the sales will go towards breast cancer awareness."  That's it.  No other information - no charity or group listed, no mention of what portion.   I assume that means the owner is going to take the proceeds, hit a bar for some pink cocktails and stare at the boobs of the cocktail waitresses, trying to figure out which 1 out of 8 will end up with cancer.

And, finally, this puzzling item found by the girls of BCO.

Giraffe Poop

A giraffe shitting out a pink ribbon while running away. I think that pretty much sums up the month.

Did you know that the month of Pink October was started 1985 by AstraZeneca, which manufactures  Arimidex and Tamoxifen?  Did you know that the Estee Lauder company designed the pink ribbon and slapped it on cosmetics to fuel sales?  The Komen Foundation jumped on the bandwagon later, but make no mistake: this campaign began as an attempt to fund early detection in order to get more tamoxifen into people.  Nothing has changed, only now it's not just tamoxifen being sold, it's jeans and guns and cookies and vacuum cleaners...the list goes on and on, indiscriminately - whether the items sold contribute to the disease or not.   Companies don't donate their own money - they encourage you to buy their product and then pass along a small amount, almost all of which is capped, and which comes out of a marketing budget.  Most of the profits of those cookies you buy  - when they are even accounted for - go to large corporations and not cancer patients.

I'm not against corporations making a profit - not even huge ones.  Not even massively huge ones.  I do object when they do it on the backs of suffering women, when there is little accountability, and the dollars are being siphoned into ineffectual awareness campaigns rather than real research.

My disease is not a marketing opportunity. Please, think before you pink.

If you agree, sign the petition: If we have to have an "awareness" month, lets make it Cancer Awareness Month and include all men, women and children who are struggling with this devastating illness.

I leave you with this quote by Gayle Sulik:

"The primary function of pink ribbon culture is now to maintain breast cancer's status as a women's health epidemic, uphold the image that society is doing something about it, expand the social and political influence of key players in the breast cancer movement, and keep the money flowing." 

Some interesting articles on the same topic.

The Boston Globe

The Daily Finance 

And finally,  this sums it all up:



  1. My favorite is PINK valve caps for your car. If you google that a lot of interesting ones come up. But then someone referred this book to me today - its now on the top of my reading list. See this article on about it.

  2. Caroline, the author of that book is Gayle Sulik, who I quoted above and who is on my blogroll. Glad she's getting the press she deserves.

  3. Ann, I'm glad you wrote about this using examples. I agree with you, this has gone too far. I have friends without cancer say, "Anything for the cause," but I don't agree. Some things just shouldn't be sold under the guise of aiding the cause. I was never more aware of how ridiculous Pink October had gotten until I saw a pink ribbon car air freshener in the store the other day. Some things are just so wrong. Besides, breathing that stinky aroma in an enclosed car can't possibly be good for you.

  4. Great entry, Ann. I couldn't agree more. I have Gayle's book on order and can't wait to read it. It's not only women in the breast cancer community talking about Pinktober either as evidenced by the Slate and Huffington Post articles

    So glad this month is over.


  5. Sometimes I think you live inside my head. I enjoy your blog so much, you are "the voice" for those of us who looked at our doctor and said, "but I hate pink." You make me laugh, give me a lot to think about, and provide us with some great information.

  6. This is quite a roundup, Ann. It really brings home the message that there's something rotten in Denmark! I think next year we should have some pink parties that gather up all this stuff and collectively write op-eds about them and submit them to our local newspapers.

  7. Great post, and I couldn't agree more. One bit of info you may not know is that Estee Lauder stole the pink ribbon and cancer awareness idea from a woman who had three close family members diagnosed with breast cancer. Her name is Charlotte Haley, and she used a peach ribbon attached to a card pointing out that the National Cancer Foundation's budget for breast cancer research and prevention was minimal, and urged folks to contact their legislators. A year later (1991 I believe) Estee Lauder started their pink ribbon campaign after their legal dept. Said they were safe from a lawsuit if they used a different color ribbon. Lovely, huh?

  8. "A giraffe shitting out a pink ribbon while running away. I think that pretty much sums up the month." ...bhaaahahhahaaa!!!!! FUN-NY!!


  9. Thank you so much for making laugh during a week where I am so hating this whole cancer shit! Since this was my first October after being diagnosed, I couldn't wait for the month the finish -- I hated having the pink ribbon thrown in my face every time I turned around.


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