Our Bodies, Our Blog

Raise a Stink! – Send a Letter Against Pinkwashing

By Rachel Walden |

Pinkwashing is the selling of potentially harmful or cancer-causing products through pink ribbon promotions, many of which were active in October, which is national breast cancer awareness month.

Breast Cancer Action is running their “Raise a Stink!” campaign in response to concerns about one particular product, the “Promise Me” perfume marketed by Komen. BCA raised concerns that some ingredients in the product could be potential carcinogens, and objected to the small amount of money donated for each bottle of perfume.

Komen released a statement saying that its ingredients meet industry standards and applicable FDA guidelines, but the organization apparently plans to reformulate the perfume next year.

Like what you’re reading? Our Bodies Ourselves needs your support to continue providing trusted health info!

Act Now

The FDA does not require cosmetic products to be tested and approved before they go on the market, and relies on voluntary industry disclosures of ingredients.

BCA also published a list of additional questions after reviewing Komen’s response, and is asking supporters to send a letter to Susan G. Komen for the Cure’s CEO, Chief Marketing Officer, and Vice President to request removal of the perfume from the market. BCA is also asking Komen to more carefully evaluate which products are marketed with pink ribbon promotions.

Exploring Pinkwashing: Questioning the Wisdom of Buying for a Cure

By Rachel Walden |

A new article in the journal Environmental Justice provides a compelling overview of a topic we have covered several times here – pinkwashing, or the pink-drenched efforts of corporations to be seen as doing something about breast cancer at the same time as their products or practices are possibly contributing to the disease. In Pastel Injustice: The Corporate Use of Pinkwashing for Profit, authors Amy Lubitow and Mia Davis provide an introduction to the concept of pinkwashing, talk about environmental factors in breast cancer, and explain the problem of having corporations generate public goodwill from pink-themed breast cancer campaigns. They argue: Funds raised from breast cancer walks and runs undoubtedly serve to further treatment and early detection of breast cancer (which saves more women’s lives). However, corporate entities marketing to cancer patients and their families develop brand loyalty, generate free advertising on the part of women who participate, and discourage questions about the role of chemicals used in consumer products in cancer incidence. Like what you’re reading? Our Bodies Ourselves needs your support to continue providing trusted health info!Act NowThe authors go on to call pinkwashing a form of social injustice, and decry the focus solely on cancer treatment rather … More

All Pinked Out in October? There’s a Cure for That! Join the Think Before You Pink Campaign

By Guest Contributor |

by Annie Sartor Policy and Campaigns Coordinator, Breast Cancer Action Why is the breast cancer epidemic still raging after 30 years of “awareness” and pink ribbon products? Like what you’re reading? Our Bodies Ourselves needs your support to continue providing trusted health info!Act NowEach year, corporations pack the shelves with pink ribbon products, surrounding us with “breast cancer awareness” messages. These products help to raise billions of dollars in the name of breast cancer, and yet more than 40,000 women in the United States still die of the disease every year. And many corporations sell pink ribbon products in the name of breast cancer that actually contain chemicals linked to an increased risk of the disease. At Breast Cancer Action, we call this blatant hypocrisy “pinkwashing.” For 12 years, Breast Cancer Action’s Think Before You Pink campaign has held corporations accountable for their toxic pink ribbon products. This year, it’s time to say we’ve had enough. Instead of targeting pinkwashers one at a time, it’s time to go straight to the source — the chemicals in these products that are making us sick in the first place. Do you have any idea how many toxic chemicals are in the average … More

Learn More About Inequities in Breast Cancer: Race and Place Matter

By Christine Cupaiuolo |

Breast Cancer Action is offering a free, one-hour webinar examining the racial and socio-economic factors that influence the health of individuals and communities. Titled “Inequities in Breast Cancer: Race and Place Matter,” the webinar will take place Tuesday, May 15, at 2 p.m. PDT/5 p.m. EST (register here) and again on Wednesday, May 16, at 11 a.m. PDT/2 p.m. EST (register here). “Inequities in breast cancer risk and outcomes vary among different racial and ethnic communities and are well documented,” writes Sahru Keiser, BCA program associate of education and mobilization. “In our efforts to address and end this disease, health activists, practitioners, and legislators must focus on the social and economic context in which the disease arises.” Like what you’re reading? Our Bodies Ourselves needs your support to continue providing trusted health info!Act NowKeiser is presenting the webinar with Irene Yen, associate professor of medicine and associate director of the Experiential Learning, Health & Society Pathway at University of California, San Francisco. Among the questions they’ll address: Why are white women more likely to develop breast cancer, yet African American, Latina and Samoan women are more likely to die from the disease? Why do women of color tend to develop more aggressive breast … More

Pink Ribbons, Inc. – A Closer Look at Breast Cancer Marketing

By Rachel Walden |

With all of the criticism of Komen’s defunding of Planned Parenthood last week, many people are starting to take a more critical look at the organization and its pink ribbon campaigns, asking how much good is really being done for women in breast cancer prevention, research, and treatment. The timing seems perfect, then, for showings of “Pink Ribbons, Inc.,” a documentary film directed by Léa Pool that takes on corporate pink ribbon campaigns, pinkwashing, and what really happens as a result of this cause-related marketing. Variety called the film “indignant and subversive,” saying it: Like what you’re reading? Our Bodies Ourselves needs your support to continue providing trusted health info!Act Nowresoundingly pops the shiny pink balloon of the breast cancer movement/industry, debunking the ‘comfortable lies’ and corporate double-talk that permeate the massive and thus-far-ineffectual campaign against a disease that claims nearly 60,000 lives each year in North America alone. Based on the trailer (below), I’m really looking forward to seeing it. The film premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival last fall, and will be shown in several U.S. cities over the coming weeks and months, including San Francisco, D.C., Madison, and Nashville. It also opened in Canadian theaters last … More

Komen’s Conflicts: Defunding Planned Parenthood Exposes the Politics of Breast Cancer’s Biggest Fundraiser

By Christine Cupaiuolo |

The fallout over the decision by Susan G. Komen for the Cure to stop giving grants to Planned Parenthood affiliates reflects a growing anger across the country over the intrusion of political ideology in matters concerning women’s health. It’s fair to say the well-funded foundation had not thought through, or vastly underestimated, the criticism it would receive for making a thinly veiled political decision to cut off funding for breast-screening exams for low-income women. And based on the level of disapproval it’s facing, it may be sometime before Komen can recover. In the meantime, its decision may well be remembered for activating people who, up until now, may not have given much thought to the right-wing influence on women’s health care. Like what you’re reading? Our Bodies Ourselves needs your support to continue providing trusted health info!Act NowIt’s surprisingly easy for people to separate politics from their own lives. While they might believe certain political decisions are not very smart, they are unlikely to speak up if it does not affect them. But the breast cancer community, comprised of women recently diagnosed, survivors, family members and advocates of more research funding, has long been portrayed as one big family — largely … More

Yes, it’s October, and Everything is Pink

By Rachel Walden |

This weekend, the New York Times ran a lengthy article on “The Pinking of America,” framed as a discussion of pink-themed marketing campaigns related to breast cancer awareness. In it, they describe the numerous pink products on sale, especially in October, which is Breast Cancer Awareness month, noting that these campaigns have “become a multibillion-dollar business, a marketing, merchandising and fund-raising opportunity that is almost unrivaled in scope.” NFL teams, tires, mascara, blenders, and many more products have gotten a pink makeover to raise money for screening and treatment research. As we’ve written here before, and as Breast Cancer Action’s Think Before You Pink campaign works to remind us, there are many criticisms of these pink campaigns, including the relatively small amounts actually being contributed through each pink purchase; pinkwashing – the selling of potentially harmful or cancer-causing products through pink ribbon promotions; the focus on mammograms and treatment rather than prevention; and the possibility that promoting aggressive early screening may lead to harm from unneeded treatments. Like what you’re reading? Our Bodies Ourselves needs your support to continue providing trusted health info!Act NowThe Times piece, however, gives relatively brief and shallow coverage to these criticisms, each one counterbalanced by … More

NPR Takes on Pink Ribbon Fatigue: Views from Komen, Breast Cancer Action

By Rachel Walden |

We’ve written multiple times about pink ribbon-type breast cancer awareness campaigns — with good reason. Concerns abound over whether the explosion of pink products for purchase promotes a false sense of doing something about breast cancer; whether the dollars collected by these pink campaigns are directed effectively; the gender stereotypes perpetuated by both the color focus and many of the product campaigns; and whether some of those pinked-out products may actually be harmful to women’s health. Noted author Barbara Ehrenreich explores the issue more thoroughly in this still incredibly relevant 2001 Harper’s piece, and discussions of “pinkwashing” can be readily found online. Like what you’re reading? Our Bodies Ourselves needs your support to continue providing trusted health info!Act NowNPR dove into the debate recently with two interviews: one with Barbara Brenner of Breast Cancer Action, which has raised the concerns above for some time, and the other with Katrina McGee of Susan G. Komen for the Cure, which signs off on the majority of those pink ribbon product campaigns. Brenner argues: “Awareness we have, the question is, what are we doing about it? And when companies can just slap a pink ribbon on any product, then we’re in trouble, because many of … More

The Explosion of Pink

By Rachel Walden |

It’s October, so the explosion of pink products at the grocery and other stores shouldn’t surprise us: it’s National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, the time of the year when we’re asked to eradicate breast cancer by buying pink-ribboned  products. Over the years, many women’s health activists have criticized the pink ribbon campaigns, protesting that these efforts do little to fund prevention, are less useful than direct donations, and promote a false sense of doing something to cure breast cancer. The New York Times Well Blog yesterday included a piece on “Pink Ribbon Fatigue,” which nicely summarizes some of the objections to the overwhelming pinkification of October and breast cancer campaigns. Breast Cancer Action, of course, has run a “Think Before You Pink” campaign for several years, encouraging consumers to ask how much their pink purchases actually contribute and whether any of those products may actually contribute to cancer risk. Like what you’re reading? Our Bodies Ourselves needs your support to continue providing trusted health info!Act NowNew to the conversation is a recently published book by Gayle Sulik, Pink Ribbon Blues: How Breast Cancer Culture Undermines Women’s Health. I haven’t read it yet, but Sulik is interviewed in the Times piece … More