Re-Think the Pink

bk1Our B.K. passed away last October from a resurgence of what started out as breast cancer. She originally wrote this three years ago because she felt very strongly that our priorities around breast cancer awareness and research were way off. It’s as good now as it was then, and as it is October once again, we’re rerunning it in honor of our Melanie Baldwin.

October . . . ARRRRGGGHHH!!!!

I am not a big fan of October.  In fact, I dread it for months ahead of time.  Oh, there are lots of really good things about October: cooler weather, changing leaves, hay rides, pumpkin patch visits, Fall Festivals, Halloween, and even my husband’s birthday is in October.  We have a lot of fun things going on in my family during October.  But the month as a whole has really been ruined for me.  It’s been ruined by that menacing, irritating, life-stealing disease called breast cancer.  Well, sort of.  It’s actually been ruined by that menacing, irritating, annoying phenomenon called Pinkwashing.

I am sure most of you Thinkers can relate.  I’ve seen your posts on Facebook; you have the exact same feelings that I do, only yours are mostly directed at a little thing they like to call, “Light It Up Blue.”  Oh, yes.  It’s something cutesy that “non-profits” and big organizations like to do in order to make it look like they give a big care about about big problems.  “Autism is on the rise!  We care!  We put some blue light bulbs in all of our buildings! See?  See?  We want you to be aware of autism.  Woo hoo!  Aren’t we awesome?”  And, in the meantime, what is really and truly being done to stop more kids from falling victim to autism?  Nothing.  Nada.  Zilch.  Ugh.  “Light It Up Blue” is an attempt by Autism Speaks and its supporters to make people think that action is being taken and work is being done to try to help our kids.  It’s a smokescreen.  It’s P.R.  It’s not real.

Pinkwashing is the exact same thing — but change the cause to breast cancer — and it is practiced on a much larger scale.  During October, it seems that everything turns to pink.  Everything that you can think of to buy, from baseball caps, to jewelry, to cell phone cases, to ink pens, almost everything can apparently turn pink for the month of October.  The plastic grocery bags at your local grocer turn pink.  The labels on your favorite processed foods turn pink.  The employees at your favorite stores wear pink shirts. Pink balloons are flying everywhere.  Even Buckingham Palace is turning pink. All these things are happening in the name of breast cancer “awareness.”


This phenomenon really takes advantage of people’s emotions, especially women.  Almost every woman these days is related to, or knows someone, who has gone through breast cancer.  It’s gone from being a taboo topic in the 1970s to being a topic that we hear about constantly at the present time.  The numbers of women diagnosed with breast cancer have increased dramatically.  Every woman is afraid of it.  Every woman wants to avoid it.  Every survivor hopes and prays for a cure.

Et tu, Spongebob?

My first October after my breast cancer was in 2010, two years ago.  When the month began, I remember seeing a big poster and some pink buttons about spreading breast cancer “awareness.”  “Oh, awesome!” I thought.  I was just starting radiation therapy at the time.  I wanted people to know what I was going through.  I wanted people to care. Yay for the pink!  People will remember! People will care!  Yay for October!  Well, by the time October was halfway over, I was over it.  I “got” it.  And I was angry.  October had turned breast cancer into one big party.  Pink cakes!  Pink party decorations!   Pink celebrations, oh my!  My struggle had been turned into some weird, freakish sort of “celebration.”  All of those cakes, streamers, and balloons made October seem like we were throwing breast cancer one big party.

Even more disturbing was the realization that breast cancer is an enterprise.  I realized that “breast cancer awareness” is merely one giant opportunity to merchandize.  It’s profitable.  Just because you buy a pink baseball cap, doesn’t necessarily mean that the proceeds go to any sort of breast cancer charity.  Or, the company selling it can take a small percentage of the proceeds and donate it to a charity, and pocket a substantial profit for themselves.  Just like our healthcare system itself, it is a business.  Only in this business, there are a lot more people that can profit off of an illness than the healthcare industry.  The list of businesses that can potentially profit off of breast cancer is limitless.  No one owns the pink ribbon; therefore, anyone can use it and there is no regulating it.  So, if you own, say, a dry cleaners, you can put a couple of pink ribbons on your door and pink hats on your employees, and POW! You look like you support breast cancer awareness/research/charities.  And you don’t even have to actually give any money to breast cancer.  Amazing, huh?

Now, I know that not everyone who has been through breast cancer feels the same way I do.  I know many survivors and loving family members who love to wear pink. They probably love October. That’s okay.  I love them for it.  It is truly an honest and sincere attempt on their parts to “do something.” I completely get that. I know that most of them probably don’t know that it’s a big scam.  I think that, because of our long journey with autism, I see things through different eyes than most people.  I don’t think I’m more cynical, but I do think I am more skeptical.  I can’t help it.  I know now that many things in life are usually not as they appear. To find truth, you usually have to do a little digging.  I’m thankful for that knowledge and wisdom, although I think it makes me a bit of a freak to “normal” people. I just feel like with this wisdom comes the responsibility to pass it on.

If you have a loved one suffering from breast cancer, there are many things that you can do to help them.  Call and check on them.  Make dinner for their family.  Pray for them. Offer to help with their housework.  Offer to accompany them to treatment.  Give them a gift certificate for a mani/pedi, or even a massage.  If you want to give money, consider giving it to to someone who is going through breast cancer, to help pay for the things that insurance or the pink organizations don’t pay for. Or just BE THERE for them. Listen to them.  Tell them you support them. Show them that you are aware and that you care by your actions, not by some dumb ribbon.

If you REALLY want to buy something pink, do some research before you spend your money.   This website , Think Before You Pink, has some great guidelines on what to do before you buy pink. You can also request a toolkit from them on how to change the conversation of breast cancer.  And before you do any fundraising, or walking, or jumping jacks for breast cancer, do some research on the organization that you are actually raising money for.   If you are fundraising with the goal of finding a “cure” (that is a WHOLE OTHER blog in itself, know what I mean?), find out what percentage of the money that they take in actually goes to that goal.  Find out where the money goes. This website has great information about how the Susan G. Komen organization spends their money.

So, before you plunk down your hard-earned cash on what seems like a good cause, think before you buy pink.


~ B.K.

For more blogs by B.K., please click here.

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16 Responses to Re-Think the Pink

  1. Ann Black Rutan says:

    Thank you for saying what so many of us thought were alone in thinking. As I pulled up in front of the Huntsman Clinic in SLC, Utah with my father, so he could see a surgeon for the pancreatic cancer, I took one look at the beautiful green glass building sprouting straight up out of the rocky hillside, and instantly thought of the elaborate casinos in Las Vegas. Instantly, the thought occurred to me they don’t build those expensive accommodations if the gambler wins–they can only afford it if the “house” wins the majority of the time. A short eight months later, after radiation, chemo, multiple agonizingly painful surgeries and tens of thousands of dollars of out-of-pocket prescription medications (and all of the lovely side effects), the medical community had vacuumed out every last penny from his pockets, so they sent him home on Hospice. It was the first humane thing they did for him, as at least Hospice focused on the care and well-being of my father. He lasted nine days at home, surrounded by family, and away from the noises, stress, and smells of the hospitals. Cancer didn’t kill my Dad–greedy businesses drained his life savings, then threw him away like the disposable hospital garbage.

    • ProfessorTMR says:

      Oh, Ann, I feel for you. My father died back in 1987. They found cancer in his lungs but it was in both lungs evenly and that usually happens after cancer metastasizes from somewhere else. They searched everywhere and all the tests were negative. They said that meant that it was likely to be his pancreas. At that time the only person we knew who’d had pancreatic cancer had died within weeks. My father was facing a lot of painful treatment that probably would only slow down his death. We knew he wasn’t interested, but he agreed to go to Sloan Kettering for a second opinion. He came home on Friday for a Monday appointment at Sloan Kettering. He died that Saturday. It wasn’t suicide, but I honestly think that as far as he was concerned he died on his own terms because he didn’t want his last days to happen just like that. I’m so sorry you and the rest of your family, especially your father, had to go through that.

  2. Couldn'tAgreeMore says:

    This article really speaks to me. My family has been touched many times over by cancer, but I will not donate to cancer research.
    Billions of dollars are being spent every year on “finding a cure” but what is being done to prevent it? What if this money was spent to bring awareness to what food additives, GMOs, and toxins are doing to our bodies? Or financial support for organic farmers, etc.? That would be a much better use of this supposed “research” money.
    We already know what the contributing factors are to developing cancer. Genetics we can’t do anything about, but we can control what we put into our mouths and how we clean the house, and so on. I am not a fan of band-aid solutions.

  3. CP says:

    Well said. I’m tired of the looks when I don’t donate. The Pink Plumber makes me ill when I hear the adds and see the sickening pink trucks on the road! I love the suggestion to do something for the individual -applies to all going through difficult circumstances .

  4. Rebecca Lee says:

    I agree 100%. Though I did get a very nice shawl as a prize for having breast cancer. I refer to the whole rigamarole as “the breast cancer franchise.”
    Oh samsara! Oh Babylon!

  5. Pingback: Cleanwashing Part 1- Say No To Pinkwashing

  6. Danielle says:

    Hello B.K!
    What a fantastic post- I love your attitude and points & have referenced your advice in an article that I just wrote on my directory blog 🙂

    Thank you!

  7. Felisha says:

    Another great one – I <3 THINKERS!!!

  8. Happy says:

    I agree. Everytime I see these kinds of events, all I can think is…THEY DON’T WANT A CURE…Not really. If they wanted a cure they’d be supporting those Doctors that have found things that help. They’d be educating people in how to implement these things. But no, I see none of that. They are most definitely NOT looking for a ‘cure’.

  9. MJ says:

    Thank you so much for sharing. Great article – I look forward to passing it on to others.

  10. Christina says:

    Very well said!

  11. mountainmama says:

    You are the bravest woman I know and I am so proud of you. XOXO

  12. Blaze says:

    Susan G, Autism Speaks, American Cancer/Diabetes/Alz/etc. are never going to cure anything. Because then their big major businesses will be OUT of business. Disease keeps people employed. And rich.

    • B.K. says:

      Exactly! Just think of how many hospitals and clinics would have to shut down, and how many doctors would be out of business if they actually found a cure. How much money the pharmaceutical companies would lose. There is no money in making people well, there is only money in keeping people sick.

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