Wednesday, October 18, 2006

not enough to think pink

Pink is not my new favourite colour (unless it's hot pink, then maybe we can talk).

I will never, ever buy a pastel pink sweater with pink ribbons on the buttons just because "a portion of the proceeds" goes to breast cancer research.

Lots of good writing has appeared in the blogging world on this subject in the last couple of weeks. You can read lots more about this on BlogHer, my new favourite thing (in particular, you should check out posts by Suzanne Reisman (Breast Cancer is Sexy, or Pink Ribbons, Advertising, Class and Race) and Liz Thompson (The Bad Business of Buying for a Good Cause).

I resent large corporations benefiting from breast cancer and find the small donations made by some to be tantamount to fraud.

But I knew there was more to my extreme annoyance than this (and the fact that very many breast cancer baubles are hideously ugly).

And then I had a conversation that had nothing to do with breast cancer.

I was in my local fair trade coffee shop the other day buying beans. I ordered Brazilian, their very darkest roast and was informed that it would not be available for several months. "Do you want to know why, asked the clerk?"

She told me that Wal-Mart decided they wanted to start a fair trade line of coffee and had bought out all the beans from the co-op in Brazil. Shortly after they had cancelled these plans, leaving the co-op farmers to reach out again to their smaller distributors.

That Wal-Mart wants in is a testament to the power of the fair trade consumer. But that this low-wage, anti-union, sweat shop-supporting behemoth should hop on the fair trade bandwagon is beyond hypocritical.

And that, I realized, is what bugs me about breast cancer product promotions. Too often the products sold are full of carcinogens or are made under conditions that are highly toxic to the environment. I don't want any part of that.

Let's make our donations directly to organizations that are working to prevent, treat and cure breast cancer.

I'm off to a lymphedema workshop at Breast Cancer Action, one of those great organizations. I'll make a donation while I'm there.


amanda said...

AMEN! I second your opinion whole-heartedly. It's high time that businesses who are capitalizing on breast cancer are called out for it.

Anonymous said...

Hear, hear! Multinationals like Wal-Mart probably spell "co-op" as "co-opt."

Anonymous said...

Hi Laurie!

Thanks so much for linking to my article "buying pink" and leaving a comment on my piece on Wal-mart "shopping in the aisles of good vs. evil" - your thoughts are very important to me and I'm hoping that (with posts like yours) corporations start "getting it," as well!


Liz Thompson
BlogHer - C.E. Fashion and Shopping

Anonymous said...

Hi, Laurie:

I really enjoyed your post about the merchandizing of the "think pink" phenomenon. You make some truly excellent points.

There are a few things that no one mentions when advising people to give money directly to the breast cancer organization(s) of their choice, as opposed to buying pink baubles from companies that donate a portion of the price to breast cancer organizations.

What is rarely mentioned is the agenda or agendas of these fundraising organizations – and their agendas vary widely.

For instance, Breast Cancer Action, your favorite organization, concentrates in looking for CAUSES of breast cancer, especially environmental causes. Makes sense to me.

But how about the Susan G. Komen Foundation? From what I can see, this one may well have some troubling ties that many of us should want to know about before donating money to them.

For instance, an article by Mary Ann Swissler, “The Marketing of Breast Cancer,” reveals that the Komen Foundation “helped block a meaningful Patients Bill of Rights for the women it has purported to serve since the group began in 1982,” and that Nancy Brinker, the foundation’s founder, is irrevocably tied to conservatism and to George Bush, in particular. One or both of these points might well bother some of those who donate to Breast Cancer through this organization.

On my website,, I have posted several articles that take a more skeptical look at both the Cancer and Pharmaceutical Establishments. Among them:

The Mary Ann Swissler article, cited above.

“The Chemo Concession,” the subtitle of which is “Cancer Docs Profit from Chemotherapy Drugs.”

And “Breast Cancer and the Hype Over Herceptin.”

I urge your site visitors to find these articles by going to the links on the left side of my site, and looking under both “CANCER” and “PHARMACEUTICAL COMPANIES.”

I hope your site visitors find these articles to be of interest.

Julia Schopick