October is a month filled with many different things isn’t it? Halloween comes to mind first but let’s not forget it is also Stoptober for those trying to quit smoking and is the designated Breast Cancer Awareness month. Pinktober… yes not a very clever name, is supposed to be a month in which efforts are made to raise awareness about those diagnosed with breast cancer, though there are some issues I have with the whole thing. I never take too kindly to campaigns solely based in raising awareness, chances are we’re aware of what they’re campaigning about (except maybe things like the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge raising awareness of Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, something I’m sure wasn’t much in the public mind beforehand). So what’s wrong with Pinktober if you ask me? Well, where to begin?
The Pink Ribbon movement was originally a feminist ordeal to get the discussion of breast cancer out in the open because whilst breast cancer has been around for a long time, it hasn’t always been an acceptable subject of conversation. Ridiculous to think of it like that now but once upon a time, a time so recent that your parents or grandparents might remember it, you had to keep hush-hush if you had it, talking about your breasts in any context was vulgar, even if it was to tell people you have a life-changing affliction that affected said breasts. However, what started as a noble goal to make a taboo subject something the world had to pay attention to is now more of a money-making scam laden with sexism, commercialism and a small-minded attitude of focus upon breasts over cancer or indeed, the victims they’re supposed to be helping out. In fact, there’s even a term for this corruption, pink-washing.
Pink-washing, in this instance, refers to the sleazy efforts of corporations trying to cash in on a charity by slapping said charity’s label on a product they sell and assuring us a percentage of their profits goes to the charity they claim to represent. The pink ribbon is the most exploited of these symbols, having been stuck on even things such as beer bottles. Whilst many companies are happy to just give some spare change away and think themselves in the right, this easy way out fails to educate anyone on anything and some of these percentages and donations are so minimal they can’t be doing it for anything beyond good publicity. Of course, if you point this out to people that buying all the ribbons in the world doesn’t promote any awareness whatsoever and that pink shirts and pink pop bottles aren’t the answer, you get called out as a monster, strange though it seems. A campaign to discuss a serious health condition and the knock-on effect it has on the lives of those with it has been reduced to a garish pink mess of boob jokes and self-righteous parties. If you buy pink, you’re helping right? Well, no, you know no better so you’re not more aware and when these pink ribbons can be found attached to products that can CAUSE CANCER, it’s a real kick in the shins for those fighting for the cause. After all, you don’t see Oxfam branded caviar or British Heart Foundation branded cigarettes.
The media has dumbed down something as complex as the development of cancer into a popular viral branding scheme, dressed it up in pink and made it into a sexist mess? How is it sexist you ask? Free the ta-tas. Yeah, a breast cancer awareness campaign focused solely on breasts, on how wonderful and amazing boobs are. Forget the woman behind them, she’s dying, so what? Nah, save those perky pink orbs! A woman is more than a pair of breasts! Let’s not forget that men can get breast cancer, do we free his ta-tas too? I’m all for funny and interesting ways to get people to care but efforts lately have been warped into focusing on a sole part of a woman’s anatomy and forgetting about the men in the same boat, the women being oggled and the families who have to adapt or possibly even grieve. A study by Bright Pink showed two thirds of women they interviewed would do more to change their lifestyle if it prevented breast cancer but only about half of those women knew where to start making those changes. The Pink Ribbon stuff has been around for as long as I can remember but I’ll admit to a limited knowledge of breast cancer and I’ll bet most of you reading couldn’t outline how to get checked, how to prevent it happening and what happens if you do get breast cancer. One in eight women will get breast cancer in their lifetime but only 10% of women know what to do to correctly estimate their risk of developing it… put simply, we know what breast cancer is, we as a society just know jack shit about it.
There is a certain kind of ignorance that surrounds this cause, a kind that I’m sure will have some who read this thinking I just don’t care and I’m calling this entire thing a worthless con, I’m not. However, when you reject the people your cause represents and turn a noble cause into a capitalist nightmare to feel like you’re the patron saint of all things good and righteous just because you wear a ribbon and attend a cake sale, you fall out of touch with the spirit of charity and you overlook the importance of your cause. I understand it’s difficult to get actual factual information circling in the public psyche but it is not impossible and sadly painting the town pink and calling it an effort to raise awareness isn’t the way to do it. We’re all aware, who really hasn’t heard of breast cancer these days? The people are AWARE of it, now it’s time to educate them on the reality of it, on the people it changes and what needs to be done. As it stands, this campaign has become something ignorant, something corrupt and dare I say it for the irony… something rather cancerous.