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The Toronto Star's Article About the "Pinkwashing" of the Breast Cancer Movement

Friday, October 13, 2006
Last week, The Toronto Star published a gutsy article by Samantha King, an associate professor of physical and health education and women's studies at Queen's University in Kingston and the author of Pink Ribbons, Inc. a book that challenges what she calls "the commercialization of the breast cancer movement."

"Businesses looking to sell more products to female consumers have been quick to latch onto changing attitudes towards breast cancer, and the pink ribbon industry that has emerged as a result is deeply dependent upon a positive image of the disease," says King. "The effect of breast cancer marketing campaigns is to erase from public consciousness the fact that incidence rates remain stubbornly high and newly diagnosed women face essentially the same options -- surgery, radiation, chemotherapy -- that they did 40 years ago."

According to King, breast cancer marketing programs often raise relatively small amounts of money for breast cancer research. King describes a yogurt manufacturer's fundraising campaign in the article. What sounds like a fabulous opportunity for consumers to help raise money for a great cause (10 cents from each container will be donated to a particular breast cancer charity) doesn't sound like such a great deal with you start reading all the fine print. The yogurt manufacturer caps its donation at $80,000, no matter now many containers of yogurt are sold -- even if some of the containers that exceed the pre-determined donation cutoff mark are purchased by well-meaning consumers who believe that they are doing their bit to fight breast cancer.

That's why King is encouraging consumers to donate their dollars directly to the breast cancer research organizations whose work they support rather than filtering those dollars through companies involved in breast cancer marketing. That way, people who want to support breast cancer research can be sure that -- dollar for dollar -- their donations are being used for research purposes.

A number of readers have written in to air their opinions on the piece, as you might expect. The comments have been overwhelmingly supportive. As one breast cancer survivor put it, "Finally, someone has written an article that we who are breast cancer survivors can agree with. We are worn out by all the pink rip-offs trying to 'help' us when all they [the marketers] are doing is filling their coffers."

| posted by Ann D @ 11:16 PM