I continue to be amazed by the comments that have been left on National No Bra Day and Breast Cancer Awareness Month — Or — Put that Can of Soup Down and Put Your Bra Back On and some of my other posts in the past few days. While I am absolutely astonished by how many people from around the world have visited the blog in the past few days alone (over 100,000 people yesterday alone!), what I am most in awe of is the fact that so many people have left such supportive comments or emails. While I have yet to respond to the comments (with the exception of a few on the first day), I have been reading each and every comment and email. That little “your comment is awaiting moderation” blurb you saw if you left a comment means that I have the opportunity to read your comment before it appears on the blog. Reading through your messages has been an incredibly powerful experience. I am barely keeping up, so if you don’t see your comment yet, this is why. But I am grateful that I’m having trouble with keeping pace! What a wonderful “problem to have!!!
I am both honored and touched that you have chosen to share your thoughts and feelings with me and I am so appreciative of the outpouring of kindness, well wishes, prayers, and gratitude for the post and the blog. And I have been deeply moved by your stories. So many people have been touched by cancer in some way and have felt some connection with me. And I can tell you that after reading your comments and stories, I feel a connection to you and I am truly grateful.
While the vast majority of the comments have been extremely supportive, a few have been less than. In the interest of being transparent, I am approving ALL comments, including the 99.999% that are supportive and the 0.001% that are less than. And I feel the need to respond in some way to the 0.001%. I know this may go over as well as a gift-wrapped pair of socks on Christmas morning, and I am normally not a confrontational person at all, but I feel compelled to respond. I’ll begin with clarifying that my message is NOT that people who wear pink ribbons are bad! I know this an easy way for people to feel connected and a visible way to show that you support a cause and that there are a rainbow of ribbons out there. In fact, I often wear a pink ribbon that was given to me from an organization that gave the money from the purchase to cancer research. One of my messages — and I believe what so many people have been saying in their comments here — is that pink has become a marketing tool that some companies have used to prey on and profit from well-meaning people who are trying to help. As one commenter whose close friend was an advertising manager for a multinational corporation said, this practice has been referred to as “the marketing of a disease.” I know that not ALL companies/organizations are profiting from breast cancer (or using the disease as a way to improve their image), but it is certainly enough for it to be a problem.
And, yes, I do believe that breast cancer has been glamorized and cutesied up by all of the pink. I will stand by that. From the people I have polled — with and without breast cancer — it has become clear to me that when many people think of breast cancer, they envision smiling women covered in pink having a great time on a walk for the cause.
But as most women and men (and their caregivers/loved ones) who have faced this disease will tell you, there is nothing pink about this cancer — or any cancer for that matter. And these images of pink actually detract from the fact that this is a horrible, often disfiguring disease with harsh treatments and brutal side effects. The awareness mission has been accomplished — we are aware that breast cancer exists. But we still don’t have a real understanding of what causes it and why one woman will develop it and another won’t. Or why one woman will die from it and another won’t. And with these awareness campaigns we have largely ignored metastatic disease. And we have ignored the women (and men) who are suffering or the women who are dying or who have died. Fine, have the pink, but also incorporate the reality.
In my opinion, we need to get away from the message that early detection is the best prevention and focus our efforts on making PREVENTION the best prevention. And all of this pinkwashing is making that damn near impossible. You see some of these companies marketing pink products “for awareness” and “for the cause” or putting pink ribbons on their labels once a year, but then some of their products — like plastic water bottles — are made of materials that have been linked to cancer or they sell products filled with nitrates or foods packaged in BPA-lined cans. And there are so many examples of this, but I would prefer not to name names.
I need to be clear that I don’t believe that all pink is bad. And that I do not believe that people who wear pink are bad! I know you have wonderful intentions and want to help. But I do believe that if companies and organizations are going to pink brand their product (for breast cancer), then they have a responsibility to use that “pink” and their pink profits responsibly and not as a marketing tool to sell more product or to improve their image. And that we, as consumers, have a responsibility to read the fine print and be aware of where our money (and how much of it!) is ultimately going when we buy pink products or support a cause. It is unfortunate that this is necessary when we really just want to help, but the simple fact is that it is necessary if we want to make a difference….
It is my hope that if enough of us do this and if enough of us reject the packaged pink image of what breast cancer is and recognize it for what it really is, we might just be able to make a dent in the number of people suffering and dying from this and other cancers.
Thank you all so very much for reading, for commenting, and for sharing your important stories…