Every October we see it – the color pink, everywhere, reminding us that it’s Breast Cancer Awareness month. Pink cement trucks, pink taxicabs, pink T-shirts, even pink toilet paper.
But some advocates are critical of what they see as the “pinkwashing” of breast cancer during Breast Cancer Awareness month. What is “pinkwashing”? Similar in meaning to the word “whitewashing,” “pinkwashing” is defined by organizations like Breast Cancer Action as when companies that are actually contributing to the occurrence of breast cancer through their poor environmental practices seek to clean up their image, or “pinkwash” it, by visibly supporting Breast Cancer Awareness month. The group calls for stronger government regulation of industry to safeguard the public health, criticizing corporate fundraising campaigns like “Pinktober” as misguided attempts to “shop our way out” of a problem.
Another person who has been speaking out about “pinkwashing” is Xeni Jardin, co-founder of popular blog BoingBoing and a cancer patient since 2011. Jardin urged her followers on Twitter to post pictures of products by companies guilty of “pinkwashing” and tell stories of their experiences. The response from her followers was huge.
An NFB documentary called Pink Ribbons, Inc. also explores the “pink” campaigns, investigating where the money raised goes and whether or not it is helping cancer patients.
The Centers for Disease Control report than breast cancer is still one of the main causes of cancer-related deaths in women worldwide.