Over the last few days, I’ve seen a lot of discussion on both Twitter & Facebook about “pinkwashing.”  Unfamiliar as to what pinkwashing is?  Here’s a definition from UrbanDictionary.com:

Pinkwashing: The act of using breast cancer to guilt consumers into buying a product which, if it had not been for the advent of aiding the cure for cancer, they would not have bought.

Most people know that October is breast cancer awareness month. Susan G. Komen and other breast cancer organizations have done a stellar job marketing October as the breast cancer support month.  In fact, they did such a fab marketing job that it’s backfired in recent years.

There are many companies and organizations out there that take advantage.  Every where you look there’s a “a portion of this sale goes towards the support of breast cancer awareness.”  Some shadier companies don’t donate at all.  Others don’t donate what they’ve promised and end up making a nice profit because they’ve played on the good nature of the consumer who thinks he or she is doing something good by buying said product.

No doubt about it, that sucks.

In response, a lot of people are now poo-pooing the act of “wearing pink.”  I saw several people on Facebook this week using the actual word “protest” when it comes to wearing pink and the month of October.

They say, if you’re going to support – donate directly.  Don’t wear pink, don’t buy something claiming to donate towards the cause.  Be proactive and send in a check and be done with it.

I get that.  I get that it’s terrible that many individuals and organizations have turned something that at it’s inception was meant to be a means of raising awareness and helping to fight for a cure.

But I believe there’s a lot of moral apathy in this country.  Many people who want to make a difference but the reality is, they just don’t.  So if they can know that they are donating a couple of dollars with a purchase, what’s the harm?  And beyond that – what about all of the women who see pink the month of October and it helps encourage them to get their annual breast exam, to do self-exams and to get mammograms after age 40?  Because the Wear Pink in October movement is so strong?

I take the bad with the good.  I buy and wear pink in October.  I got myself a pink hair extension that I’ll be sporting the entire month of October. (The manager at my local hair salon bought the extensions at her own cost and she’s taking no money even for her purchase – 100% of the money made will go to Susan G. Komen.)

Maybe my $15 pink hair extension will make a difference.  Maybe my wearing pink will help encourage someone to go get an exam.  Maybe it’ll won’t help anyone. But in my opinion, it does more than folding my arms and wearing no pink in “protest.”  That helps no one.


  1. Here is my issue with Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Last month was Childhood Cancer Awareness month but I didn’t see a lot of yellow clothing or in people’s hair accessories.

    My parents both died of cancer, not breast cancer and every October is a reminder that they didnt’ get the “right” cancer. They’re cancer’s don’t get a month, let alone a t-shirt or appliance to raise awareness. Over 230,000 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer a year, an less than 40,000 will lose that battle. My mother died from Acute myeloid leukemia which will effect less than 45,000 people in a year, the difference is that almost 50% of those people will die and that is only 1 form of leukemia, there are many other types.

    My issue s that we’re not talking about cancer awareness, but only one form of cancer. And let’s face it, the money would be better spend sending the money directly to the organization not buying a pink blender. My issue is that while African American women are less likely to by diagnosed with breast cancer, they’re more likely to die when they are….

    I think we can all agree that cancer is a horrible disease that affects to many families across the world, I think we should include all cancers in the fight to find a cure, not just one.

    • Jess – I agree that we should be raising awareness for other forms of cancer too. For sure. The marketing has been so great for breast cancer/pink movement that other forms of cancer don’t get as much attention. That needs to be righted for sure.

      But my beef is with the people who I feel are doing more harm than good by putting down wearing pink in October. I don’t think taking a negative stance towards pink and support of breast cancer is going to mean more support for other forms of cancer.

  2. Ridunculous comment above. Unless people are being malicious, leave them alone, and let them raise awareness for a cause. As for the suggestion that people with other forms of cancer are jealous of those with breast cancer, I’d be willing to bet they’ve got more important things on their mind (like getting well).
    My husband has a dislike for the month of October because he says that Pharmacist Appreciation Month is always upstaged by breast cancer awareness. Like I always tell him, “Oh honey, I’m so sorry about those awful women and their obnoxious disease. Someone really should put them in their place.”

    • Lori, I’m sorr you feel like my comment is ridunculous. I didn’t mean to suggest that people with other forms of cancer are jealous, the appliances, t-shirts, etc increase awareness. It upsets me that people focus on the pink & nothing else. Also, I’ve had the same conversation with a friend whose 4 year old child had cancer. It is dishearting and sad that the other forms of cancer take a back seat to the pink movement.

      I lost my parents years ago when I was 27 and I am the oldest child. My parents didn’t see my brother graduate from college or get his first job. They don’t see my sister moving up in her career and they’ll never see them get married or meet their children. In the past few years I ‘ve spent hours cleaning out their home, selling it, paying doctor & hospital bills & setting thier estate in the probate court. I’m very aware of the hurt cancer has done to my family personally.

  3. I agree with every comment above but understand/agree with Jess’s comments most. So much emphasis is on breast cancer. And of course that sure is NOT a bad thing. But People: PLEASE:: listen up:: ALL cancer is the enemy. period. If there could exist a GENERAL cancer fund for all funds to be evenly distrubuted fo ALL cancer research , wouldn’t that be a good thing?. I say yes. Let us eradicate all the C’s!

  4. I think the term pinkwashing actually means that products sold to support breast cancer awareness contain elements that are linked to cancer, like selling hot dogs, KFC, cars or perfumes for the cure. I don’t think it’s merely buying pink products that would otherwise have not been bought.

    There’s a big difference there.

  5. I personally have a problem with the pink in October. I have Metastatic Breast Cancer that has gone to the brain. Everybody keeps saying it’s for awareness and early detection, those are great, (even though I think they’ve got the awareness part down) but that’s not what we really need anymore. 40.000 people are expected to die from breast cancer in 2011 and they all will have died from Metastatic breast cancer, because there really isn’t much money going into research for late stage cancer, Also, there are people who are having to sell there homes in order to pay for treatment, none of the money being raised is paying for treatments and surgeries, and if you’re unlucky enough to have no insurance or a lesser insurance, then you need to find a way to pay for it all yourself. So, until these pink products start putting money into the research or actually helping individuals with what they really need, I will not support a company who sells pink in October. Just a personal opinion from someone who has Mets breast cancer.

  6. Joey Fortman says

    Wow! I love your point. I for one get a loudly annoyed when I see the whole ‘pink thing’ overdone-but I never thought about protesting it! That’s just awful!

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