Pink Washing


Full disclosure:  I formerly worked for the American Cancer Society and one of my responsibilities was the Making Strides Against Breast Cancer event. Because of this, I probably have more pink in my wardrobe than what is socially acceptable for anyone over the age of 12. Most of my pinks, though, came from ACS.  I always felt rather secure in knowing which breast cancer group I was supporting because I worked there. I never thought much about all the pink merchandise in the stores.

Recently, I’ve been reading a lot about “pink washing” (Oh, how I love made up phrases! One of my greatest aspirations is to coin one of my own).  “Pink washing” is pretty much slapping a pink ribbon on something, marketing it during the month of October and allowing consumers to think they are supporting breast cancer in one way, shape or form.  In actuality, just because something is pink — or even has THE pink ribbon on it — doesn’t mean that it’s supporting a cause.  It’s the ultimate buyer beware!  “Think before You Pink” is a program by Breast Cancer Action and, basically, it is raising consumer awareness about cause marketing.  You can read all about their work here.

I’m NOT saying “don’t buy pink.”  Many pinks support  real groups doing wonderful work. Just do your research. But seeing all the articles about “pink washing” made me think that a backlash is on the horizon, and it made me a little sad.  It reminded me of the meteoric rise and subsequent loathing of the ALS ice bucket challenge.  Like a lot of other people, I grew tired of the “look at me” aspect of the whole ice bucket craze. But you can’t deny the results: reportedly $100 million was raised to combat this devastating disease. Annoying? Maybe. But this is very real money that will be put toward getting results.

So, if you must buy pink, make sure the charity is clearly identified.  Better yet, instead of buying another sweatshirt, take that money and make a donation directly to a breast cancer related group right in your community.  Dress in whatever color you want. Just don’t become a pink hater, because every penny that can go toward finding a cure or supporting a woman with breast cancer matters.

Making Strides Against Breast Cancer (find a walk near you or donate to your local walk)

Gilda’s Club (provides support  to women with any type of cancer)

Breast Cancer Research Foundation

Jean Maisano