Welcome to Pinktober where every dime you spend will go towards breast cancer research. Yeah! Huzzah! Excitement!
Except maybe it doesn’t.
You guys know that I love you all. And when you email me, as some of you have, and tell me that you’re doing X Y or Z for my behalf I am honored and flattered and humbled and showered in love and feeling ALL THE FEELINGS!
So that’s why I want YOU to put your money into something that will actually help women like me. Not all charities are build the same. So let’s take a look at some of the problem ones and some of the good ones, okay? That way we can make informed decisions.
I love YSC. The Young Survivors Collation is specifically for women under the age of 40 who were diagnosed with breast cancer. After my diagnosis I leaned on them a lot. It mattered that I had women that I could talk to – share stories with – share fear and laughter with. Supporting YSC is a great thing. No it doesn’t go towards physical health or research but it goes toward MENTAL health which is super important.
That said…..and I’m doing this in full disclosure. Revlon is sponsoring this fundraiser and according to the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep site, Revlon doesn’t have the best track record in terms of making products that don’t contribute to diseases. They are low for cancer but higher for immunotoxology. So this is your call.
2. Susan G. Komen
Ugh. Where do I start. Susan G. Komen has had its share of bad press – bullying other charities and for partnering with unhealthy business. Businesses like KFC (who serve hormone infused deep-fried animal protein which I promise you was not on the list of things my oncologist suggested I eat) and Baker Hughes (a leading drill bit company for fracking materials. Yes, fracking. The process that “injects possible and known carcinogens, including benzene, formaldehyde, and sulfuric acid, into the ground and surrounding environment.”)
But Ally, you say, business is business. Isn’t it more important that the money I donate to Susan G. Komen goes towards research? Yes. It is. Unfortunately 80% of the money they raise goes toward advocacy – towards spreading their message (what they call program expenses). So basically they raise money to keep talking about breast cancer. Last time I checked, with a 1 in 8 diagnosis statistics, women are pretty much well aware that breast cancer exists. What they weren’t getting was a cure – the thing Komen claimed to be working towards (though less than 5% of donations go towards research.) The thing they sued to have naming rights for.
3. Avon Walk to End Breast Cancer
Back in 2001, when my mother was diagnosed, my sisters and I did this walk. It felt good. I had hoped I was making a difference. I was wrong. Amy Lubitow and Mia Davis summed it up nicely here:
One of the most poignant instances of pinkwashing is the cosmetics giant Avon. The company launched the ‘‘Kiss Goodbye to Breast Cancer’’ campaign in 2001 with a fundraising lipstick in six shades (Courageous Spirit, Crusade Pink, Faithful Heart, Inspirational Life, Strength, and Triumph). Those lipsticks may have contained ingredients that disrupt hormone functions (which is in turn linked to breast cancer). The use of hormone disruptors is not uncommon in the cosmetics industry, and is not currently prohibited by U.S. law. Avon is one of the most recognizable corporate entities participating in the breast cancer awareness industry and according to the Massachusetts Breast Cancer Coalition (MBCC), more than 250 of Avon’s products listed in a database assessing the health risks of cosmetic products are listed in the ‘‘highest concern’’ category due to the presence of hormone disruptors, neurotoxins, and possible carcinogens. Avon and many other companies fall back on the claim that ‘‘it’s just a little bit’’ of carcinogen or hormone disruptor in a given product, despite the fact that we are all exposed to more than one product and to thousands of chemicals daily, and that low doses of these chemicals are very concerning.
Just a little bit of carcinogen? Great. Cause I got just a little bit of cancer.
Pinkwashing is very real. It’s what Barbara Ehrenreich referred to as “bright-siding” – our culture’s obsession with positivity even during hardships. It’s the warrior attitude. And it’s pushed on cancer patients nonstop.
Story: When I was first seeing oncologists one in particular really pushed for me to get ACT (a very aggressive form of chemotherapy whose side effects include heart toxicity and leukemia). Lobular cancer, unlike ductal, doesn’t respond as well to chemotherapy. When I challenged this doctor he said “You’re young. You can take it.” (here’s the poem I wrote about it). Basically he was saying, “You’re a warrior now Ally. Act like it”
I reject that.
I know that it is absolutely terrifying to sit next to a loved one who has been plagued with this terrible disease. I have done it with my own family. I have watched the havoc it has cause for my husband. But knee jerk donations to events that only perpetuate more events helps no one.
Pink ribbons don’t do shit. And Pinkwashing just wipes out whatever conversation we could be having about disease causation and treatment. It stops us from really learning how to end this. Buying a ribbon or a pink t-shirt or walking around Manhattan isn’t going to save the next person.
But research and science can.
I’m not saying don’t donate. I’m just saying donate towards something that IS searching for a cure though immunotheraphy (therapy that drive the body to recognize that cancer is there and problematic) and towards metastatic cancer. Only 5% of funding dollars goes towards trying to cure metastatic cancer. But it is the direct cause of 90% of all cancer deaths. You know what that means? If your cancer spreads from it’s primary location – like from the breast to the ribs – there’s nothing to be done other than management. Very few people live longer than 5 years with metastatic cancer.
There is so much work to be done – work that IS being done – and work that needs to be funded. So please instead of collecting ribbons, just give to science. Point being just don’t buy things full of cancer causing agents cause they’ve got a ribbon on it. They’re just looking for your money.
And finally if you want to know where I’m donating, it’s here. I think they have a real chance: The Breast Cancer Deadline.
2020 is our year. I know it.
I love you all. Have a wonderful beautiful October.
Peace love and starbursts