Thursday, April 16, 2015

The Pink Ribbon Effect, Or, The Commidification Of Charity

A friend about to have a double mastectomy let me know about this long-form rant on the state of breast cancer charities. I don't agree with all of it, and in particular, I haven't read up enough on some of her recommended charities at the end to know whether they're legit, but they generally go against my own recommendations of eschewing big charities, Nonetheless, the author talks about her own personal and very painful experiences with cancer and surgery, and how these have resulted in her own clarifying moment about the kinds of cheap symbolism sprouting around breast cancer particularly (emboldening mine, as always):
While I am beyond thrilled that breast cancer is no longer a taboo issue and that people are talking about it, the commercialism has gotten out of hand. There is nothing pink and rosy about breast cancer, yet it has been pink-washed to death. It is a serious disease that kills.

And while I do think we need more awareness and education (about metastatic disease, about how young women can develop breast cancer, about how women (young and old) DO die from this disease, about the importance of research, etc.), I don't think we need the kind of awareness that buying a jar of salsa with a pink ribbon on it brings. While I hardly ever see "awareness" products addressing the topics above, I can't go anywhere without seeing pink products. Heck, I just have to look out of my front window to see giant pink garbage totes. The stores are filled with pink as companies try to make a buck off breast cancer. If you look carefully at these products, you'll find that some of them don't even donate a cent to breast cancer awareness, support, research, etc. And oftentimes those that do make a very minimal donation -- and not always to organizations/programs where the money is well spent.

What is most unfortunate is that well-meaning people are willing to buy pink products, even pay a little extra, because they think they are helping to do something to "cure" breast cancer or to provide "hope" to breast cancer patients. Why is this sad? Because those dollars spent on pink flowers, pink shirts, or a pink box of crackers or spaghetti sauce could be going to research, our only real "hope" of beating this horrible disease.
 Which is, I think, the most important point: buy a t-shirt, and maybe the seller will eventually kick back some small fraction of the purchase price. Send money to a group that's actually doing research, and hopefully most of that goes to paying scientists to find cures. And never, ever forget that "awareness" is a self-licking lollipop: you're just paying for ad campaigns, at best. It's really not hard.

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