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It’s that time of the year again: Kentucky Fried Chicken rolls out their “Buckets for the Cure,” Tic Tacs are pink grapefruit flavored and NFL players dawn pink gloves, towels and shoes. Pink ribbon products are everywhere during October, which is nationally recognized as Breast Cancer Awareness month – but are we actually supporting the fight against breast cancer by purchasing them?
Even the CU Bookstore is getting in on the trend. Last week, shirts with the iconic pink ribbon and “GO, FIGHT, WIN BUFFS” were for sale, alongside pink and black ‘Breast Cancer Awareness’ spirit beads, CU branded pink ribbon temporary tattoos and ‘Ralphie Breast Cancer Snapbacks.’ I’m not one to pass on cute CU gear, especially for a cause, so I decided to pick up a shirt.
“The proceeds from this go to charity, right?” I asked the cashier, who was wearing a pink ribbon on her collar.
Neither the cashier nor her co-workers had any idea. After a couple minutes, a random employee reassured me that anything sold with the iconic symbol was required to donate proceeds to breast cancer charities like Susan G. Komen.
I made a few calls, and a week later, got a definitive answer. According to Madison, an upper-managerial staff member at the bookstore, none of the money they make goes into cancer research or breast cancer related activities, not even on the ribboned products.
The University Book Store is not alone in using Breast Cancer Awareness month to their benefit. Even when companies do donate some of their profits to charity and research, the companies are still looking at gigantic profits. Look at the NFL. Their Go Pink campaign has fans buying overpriced gear like $80 hoodies, when only 10 percent of the proceeds go to any foundation. $8 from the profits are donated, sure, but the rest goes right into their pockets.
A pink ribbon means nothing, except that the company is maximizing on the deadly disease for profit. The symbol has widely come to represent corporate greed, marketing strategy and exploitation of the women it’s supposed to be supporting. Commercializing their battle against breast cancer with merchandise has trivialized the issue.
Though we say we know how severe breast cancer can be, it’s often marketed in a very light-hearted way. For instance, the ‘Save the Ta-Ta’s’ campaign was created “as a way to fight breast cancer using laughter and fun.”
In reality, there’s no degree of cheerfulness that can help. The campaign diminishes the struggles of people who’ve experienced the disease, who have suffered from harsh treatments or even died from it. It’s an injustice to their friends and family who underwent extreme heartbreak and mourning.
Now if the goal of these products was simply to raise awareness to the existence of breast cancer, it would be a done deal. I think we all know it exists, but do we all know what the symptoms look like or where and when to get mammograms? I’m not sure the American public knows that it can affect women of any age. It can even happen to men.
If you would like to do something to help, resist the urge to pick up any pink ribbon merchandise. Instead, donate directly to charities like National Breast Cancer Foundation, or Planned Parenthood, who are dedicated to helping those affected by breast cancer and providing life-saving services to those who need them.