Think Before You Pink


I have very few pet peeves. Mainly, drivers that don't stop for pedestrians, especially in the rain; misspelled words or improper grammar on signs; and pink-washing.

What is pink-washing?

Any why is it a problem?

(It's not the unfortunate occurrence of washing a new article of clothing with your crisp whites. Though, this surely could go on my list of pet peeves.)

A pinkwasher is defined by Breast Cancer Action as "A company or organization that claims to care about breast cancer by promoting a pink ribbon product, but at the same time produces, manufactures and/or sells products that are linked to the disease." Pink-washing is the term for these sorts of actions. My favorite examples ("favorite" in that they are so blatantly awful): pink drill bits for hydraulic fracturing (aka fracking), pink accessories worn by players and staff of the NFL, and pink buckets of fried chicken from KFC. The other issue with pinkwashing is related to unsuspecting consumers and their donations: much of the time, the pink item in question actually produces very little, if any, demonstrable contribution to bona fide breast cancer research or funding. To this end, look at the following:

1. If you purchase a pinkified product, how much actually goes to the cause advertised? Does your purchase actually contribute?

2. Assuming your money goes somewhere, where does it go? What are you supporting?

Above all, the pink washing phenomenon really tends to minimize, genderize, and stigmatize what is a complex and personal challenge for those who are fighting and surviving. I can't tell you how many patients of mine have commented on how they don't like being bombarded with pink-ribbon-stuff. They are more than a ribbon, more than their breasts, and certainly more than the disease itself. They are moms and daughters and sisters and friends (and sometimes -don't forget- they are fathers and sons and brothers, too!) Now, this is not to say that those who embrace the pink ribbon symbol and "fly that flag" proudly are in the wrong. We should just make sure that the symbol we are using is symbolic of the right thing, and not a ploy on our fears, emotions, and a way to sell fried chicken and makeup.

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