Writing at the intersection of motherhood, feminism and my Latinidad

30 October 2009

Good riddance to Breast Cancer Awareness Month!

I hate it because it is all about the million pieces of junk we can buy that are pink.


The pink ribbon is everywhere. Ironically it is on things that just might cause breast cancer!

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.

Breast cancer is far too dangerous and serious of an enemy to be defeated by pink cleaning rags. From the earliest record of how a breast cancer patient feels to today's survivors who are saying "No thank you to the pink ribbon," it is clear that breast cancer can radicalize you.

It's easy for me to "Think Before I Pink" because I have issues with that uber-girly color. But even I had to do a double take when I saw that Dr. Susan Love has joined forces with Avon to launch Army of Women. Is this more pinkwashing? Or a real move to adjust the conversation from a cure for breast cancer to preventing it in the first place?

I honestly haven't a clue, but my first question is "What is in Avon cosmetics and could it give me cancer?"

9 comments:

Indeed we are trying to "go beyond the cure" to find the cause and prevention of the disease. I have been impressed that within my professional life we have gone from doing hysterectomies to having a vaccine for cancer of the cervix with no pink ribbons, walks or runs! Part of the reason is that there was no animal model. Too much research in breast cancer is done on rats and mice and doesn't translate to women. When I asked a researcher why that was he said it was because "women are too messy"! The Army of Women is an attempt to change the game to one where women are being studied, the cause of breast cancer is being investigated and prevention is the goal! It is was funded by a grant from Avon but is run totally by the Dr Susan Love Foundation. (www.armyofwomen.org)
Besides recruiting for other investigators' research we will be launching a long term longitudinal cohort study to look at environmental issues including cosmetic ingredients and their effects on breast cancer. The hope is that this will be a cooperative effort with the participants to get to the end of this disease.

I very, very rarely participate in things where you have to buy something for a donation to be made - the fine print always shows that the donation will be made regardless of your purchase. I still think the best boobie fundraiser is the boobiethon. :)

Some of us also bid good riddance to breast cancer awareness month because we feel that sometimes "breast cancer awareness" is at the expense of the awareness of other cancers.

When is the last time that all the clerks in the food store were wearing teal ribbon aprons and packing your groceries in teal ribbon bags? What the hell is a teal ribbon you say? It is the ribbon for ovarian cancer, which, proportionally, is a much worse killer than breast cancer, but which gets precious little "awareness."

As for pink washers, they are too many to mention, and Avon is certainly among them. Check out the ingredients of most cosmetics (most definitely including Avon) and you will see that many are strongly suspected carcinogens. Any comment on that, Susan Love?

Happy to comment....the key is that "many are strongly suspected carcinogens". All the data so far is in rats and petri dishes. We know that many carcinogens in rodents do not translate to people and vice versa. The goal is to find out whether they are carcinogens in women! If so I will be first in line to get rid of them. Women are much more complex than rodents with many competing influences which can mitigate or reduce risk. I do think that the only way we can figure these things out is to do the research. And so rather than just sitting on the sidelines making comments, I intend to find out!

Veronica,

Thank you so much for mentioning the work of Breast Cancer Action and our annual Think Before You Pink Campaign. It is so important to get the word out about pink ribbon marketing and we appreciate you helping us do so! For more information on cosmetics check out the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics website (http://www.safecosmetics.org/index.php) of which Breast Cancer Actions is a proud endorser. Also, you can check out Breast Cancer Action's stance on Avon products from the beginning here: http://bcaction.org/index.php?page=newsletter-84b. Hope this information helps and we hope you continue to help us challenge assumptions and inspire change.

Breast Cancer Action
bcaction.org
thinkbeforeyoupink.org

Another good place to check and see what is in your cosmetics is the Skin Deep database at www.cosmeticsdatabase.com. You can search your favorite brands and see what is in them. There is also a function that will tell you what cosmetics are better than yours. Love it!

I wrote an article a couple of years ago about pinkwashing. The research was an eye opening experience and has made me very wary about thinking I'm making a real contribution just because something I purchase has a pink ribbon on it.

What the Cluck? Tell KFC and Susan G. Komen for the Cure to stop pinkwashing!
With their "Buckets for the Cure" campaign, KFC and Susan G. Komen for the Cure are telling us to buy buckets of unhealthy food to cure a disease that kills women. When a company purports to care about breast cancer by promoting a pink ribboned product, but manufactures products that are linked to the disease, we call that pinkwashing. Make no mistake--every pink bucket purchase will do more to benefit KFC's bottom line than it will to cure breast cancer. Join us in telling KFC and Susan G. Komen for the Cure to rethink this pinkwashing partnership.

Breast Cancer Action
bcaction.org

Because you have shown interest before...

What the Cluck? Tell KFC and Susan G. Komen for the Cure to stop pinkwashing!
With their "Buckets for the Cure" campaign, KFC and Susan G. Komen for the Cure are telling us to buy buckets of unhealthy food to cure a disease that kills women. When a company purports to care about breast cancer by promoting a pink ribboned product, but manufactures products that are linked to the disease, we call that pinkwashing. Make no mistake--every pink bucket purchase will do more to benefit KFC's bottom line than it will to cure breast cancer. Join us in telling KFC and Susan G. Komen for the Cure to rethink this pinkwashing partnership.

Breast Cancer Action
bcaction.org