Friday, October 2, 2009

October -- You know what that means

So, it's October. We are in the middle of the Great Festival in our town, in which we spell October with a "k".

But more importantly, it's breast cancer awareness month. And, in honor of that (and my mother), I was busily planning another giveaway.

Then I read this. It seems that while I was buying every pink thing at the grocery, walking in the Race for the Cure and writing checks to Komen, I've been unintentionally ticking off a lot of people. Like this popular blogger, Jeanne, the Assertive Cancer Patient. (If you scroll down on her current page, there's my beloved pink mixer. Ouch.)

And then there is the book, Pink Ribbons, Inc., by Samantha King which explains the big business of corporate philanthropy -- is slapping a pink ribbon on your product altruistic or simply capitalistic?


I am such a freaking Pollyanna that I swear, I have never once considered that corporations like New Balance, Mars, Campbell's and BMW would use the pink ribbon to garner my sympathy dollars, and those of millions of women like me who see the ribbon and think, "Oh, aren't they sweet?"

As Jeanne says, "it's all about selling the soup."

The Breast Cancer Action group has a campaign called "Think Before You Pink." Pretty good advice that I needed to hear. So, I am paying closer attention to those products graced with the pink ribbon. I am researching what percentage of the profits from those items go to research and awareness. But I have to buy toilet paper anyway, so why shouldn't I buy Quilted Northern? Their company has given over $500,000 to Komen. Through Cook for the Cure, KitchenAid has given over $7 million. Try as I may, I just can't feel bad about that.

As a side note, there is the Yoplait problem. It is hard to believe, but until this August, Yoplait (with their little pink lids I have been washing and saving for years) was using milk from cows treated with artificial bovine growth hormone (rBGH) which has been connected to several different cancers and is banned in most countries. The Breast Cancer Action group took Yoplait (a General Mills company) to task through grassroots efforts of letter writing and e-mailing, convincing them that using rBGH milk for their yogurt and pumping it into little pink packages was hypocrisy. Many thanks to the BCA.

Then, rBGH leads to the Eli Lilly problem. Lilly is the only manufacturer of rBGH; sales of the synthetic hormone were $985 million last year. But they also manufacture cancer and cancer-preventative drugs (to the tune of $2.5 billion last year). The BCA calls this "Pinkwashing." I call it "crazy s**t that makes my head almost explode", especially when I consider that Lilly employs over 13,000 in Indiana, donates generously to the arts and community improvement, and has provided 4-year, full-ride scholarships to kids we love.

Crap. I just wanted to give away a few little pink things.

So yes, you know what I did. Even though I am late to the party, I joined the BCA and sent them a donation. And, I am going to keep my eyes and heart open and be more careful with my pink ribbon dollars.

But I'm not going to stop wearing the pink ribbon, and I hope women like Jeanne can forgive me. If I were to meet her, or any woman for whom the pink ribbon has become a marketing symbol instead of a sign of hope and for whom October is a month of pink dread, I would take it off. But for me, the pink ribbon is a reminder -- a reminder of my mother, my grandmother, and all the women I know who have battled breast cancer. It's a reminder to me to do my self-exam, get a mammogram every year and stay current on the research and advances. It's a reminder to remind my friends to do the same. It's a reminder that although great things have been accomplished, breast cancer is still a killer.

And I like pink. Jeanne says it is the color of "girly, sexist expectations". To me, it's the color of newborn piglets, ripening strawberries and baby feet. Sunrise skies out the back window, Our Lady of Guadalupe roses out the front. The color of the sweetness of life.

So, am I giving something away? Probably. But all this pink thinking has zapped my creative crafty energy. Stay tuned.


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