A lot of things converged over the past week to make this post happen. In the back of my head, I had thought about writing it for a couple of weeks, but a few things sparked it now – specifically: the month, an episode of The League, a fracking company’s plans to distribute pink drill bits “for the cure” and a twitter conversation among chemically-conscious women. Here’s how it all comes together:
I hate the pink campaign. I think it’s dumb. I also think someone has found the cure for cancer, but all this freaking pink product marketing is so incredibly lucrative that we can’t not have breast cancer. I know that’s crazy talk, but that’s just how I feel. And October is the month when everything turns pink “for the cure”.
The pink ribbon campaign began as a way to raise awareness for both breast cancer and the lack of funding for the disease. The first breast cancer ribbons were created by Charlotte Hayley, who handed out peach-colored ribbons on cards highlighting the tiny percentage of federal funding that was then attributed to breast cancer prevention. Interestingly, when Self magazine approached Charlotte with an offer to take her campaign national, she refused because the magazine was too commercial. The editor-in-chief of Self worked with Evelyn Lauder to develop the pink ribbon campaign, borrowing the pink color idea from the pink visors the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation would hand out at Race for the Cure events. And so now we have pink everything. But to borrow a line from The League, when Jenny’s daughter was forcing her to buy a pink ribbon, “I’m aware. You’re aware. Nobody is not aware of breast cancer.”
In fact, we might be too aware. Read this recent article written for the NY Times by Peggy Orenstein (author of Cinderella Ate My Daughter) that raises questions about early mammograms. And as far as funding, check out this post and infographic reporting the disproportionate amount of (low) funding for Alzheimers and heart disease compared to the (high) number of Americans affected by these diseases – and compare it to the cancer funding.
Later this week, Baker Hughes Inc., an oil and fracking company, will hand the Susan G. Komen Foundation a check for $100,000, in addition to distributing pink drill bits worldwide. Which caused an uproar because the process of fracking puts carcinogens in the ground and environment. On October 15th, The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, the Breast Cancer Fund and other similarly-minded people had a #RethinkthePink Twitter party, sharing messages reminding followers of the connection between various chemicals and cancer, as well as messages critiquing companies that use carcinogenic chemicals and sell pink products or otherwise contribute to cancer fundraising. Check out the hashtag and see for yourself (and follow those organizations for more info).
I originally wanted to point out a handful of companies that sell pink products that could actually cause you cancer – but seeing as far more knowledgeable people have already done so, I thought I’d just highlight some interesting information and pick on the Lauders again. From The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics:
“[T]he Estee Lauder brands Bumble & Bumble, Aveda and Clinique contain chemicals that are likely to be contaminated with the carcinogens 1,4-dioxane or formaldehyde; Bobbi Brown Blush contains silica and titanium dioxide (which poses a risk of cancer from inhalation); and several Estee-owned brands still use parabens, which can act like estrogen in the body. Higher estrogen exposures throughout a woman’s life can increase her risk of breast cancer, according to the latest scientific evidence. . . .
We know that Estee Lauder can make safer cosmetic products because their Origins and Aveda brands have already phased out some hazardous ingredients. Yet Estee Lauder lobbied against legislation in California that requires cosmetics companies to notify the state when they use chemicals linked to cancer and birth defects – while simultaneously launching Pink Ribbon campaigns to “raise awareness” about breast cancer.”
Blech. This disgusts me because I have fond memories of my aunt – the one who didn’t die at age 42 from breast cancer, when I was only 12 years old – taking me to the Estee Lauder counter and buying makeup for me. I think it’s time we start holding these companies and fundraising giants (I’m looking at you, Susan G. Komen) accountable by refusing to spend our money on their products or make our contributions through their organizations – even if you really like pink.