You probably know that October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month (BCAM). Whether it’s because you’ve noticed the nationwide proliferation of pink, or because you’ve been affected by the disease first-hand and this month serves as a bitter(sweet?) reminder, there’s no question that the campaigns that accompany it are pretty in your face.
I am a breast cancer survivor. And BCAM is undoubtedly an important way to raise funds towards researching its cause and developing new treatments that could eventually eradicate the disease. But lately it seems that the commercialization of BCAM over the past few years has begun to turn the pink ribbon from a symbol of hope into a gimmick that trivializes what it stands for.
It’s extremely difficult for me to sit here and say where companies capitalizing on the “trendiness” of BCAM should draw the line: Herceptin, the drug that essentially saved my life, was only approved by the FDA in 2006, and would never have been discovered if it weren’t for the millions of dollars donated towards breast cancer research every year.
But would I like to go shopping in Soho without seeing a pink placard on every store’s window, or a display table full of beribboned trinkets reminding me of the disease? Absolutely. While it’s wonderful that young women are being educated about their breast health–girls today are diagnosed as early as their early twenties-–isn’t it also a little insensitive to those affected by the illness to saturate the market with mass-produced pink merchandise? Not only is the philanthropic integrity of each individual product questionable, but all of the fluff surrounding the cause almost reduces its importance.
If you’re going to shop to support BCAM, make sure that the goods you choose are backed by a highly regarded foundation–the CFDA’s Fashion Targets Breast Cancer, for instance–that will donate most, if not all, of the products’ profits. Also, try to do your homework about breast cancer charities: You want your money to go to an organization that spends a very high percentage of its funds on its projects and research, like the Breast Cancer Research Foundation or Susan G. Komen for the Cure.
BCAM means different things to different people, but I’m confident that I’m not alone in thinking that the marketing madness surrounding it is overkill. While I feel a bit guilty saying this, I’m seeing red over all of this pink. It brings me back to an indescribably traumatic experience that I would rather not relive. On the other hand, I might not even be here if it weren’t for research grants and donations. I could go on for days about this internal conflict, but instead I’ll just day this: If you’re going to contribute, be mindful, and realize that not all pink products are created equal. Please make sure that your money ends up in the right hands.