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Pinkwashing: What is it?

Written by Emily Wegenke, MSW Intern

Cancer has become so pervasive within our lives that it is not uncommon for someone to have a personal connection to the disease. This has led many of us to know October as Breast Cancer Awareness Month. A month where everything around us turns pink in support of those living with cancer. For some, this is a triggering month as they continue to grieve loved ones who died too soon because of this vicious disease. For others, it’s continuing to process the emotional and physical impact of the invasive rounds of chemotherapy, radiation, or surgeries. This month has become lost in the pink spewed by marketing campaigns to lure shoppers into their stores. Overlooking the many scars those living with breast cancer carry with them every day.

Pinkwashing is a term used to describe a company that implements campaign slogans and pink ribbons into their marketing for the month without donating to the cause or creating products that in turn cause breast cancer (More, 2019; Think Before You Pink, 2002). The billions of dollars that are used for marketing this month could directly support breast cancer by donating the money to research labs, nonprofits or cancer centers that specialize in breast cancer (More, 2019). Ensuring that those who are diagnosed see the benefits of the donations. 

The breast cancer community doesn’t need to see businesses lined with pink ribbons. They need to see improvements in their care. There needs to be change in better access to healthcare to ensure individuals with hereditary mutations have access to preventive measures. They need to have a quality team of oncologists overlooking their care. They need to be prepared to address roadblocks because the healing process is not linear. 

This isn’t to say that all people diagnosed with breast cancer hate pink. It’s a reminder to really listen to those living with cancer. Ask them what pink means to them. Do your research on companies during the month to see how much of their actual profit is being donated to breast cancer research. It’s up to us to create a society in which thrivers can heal from their diagnosis.

Check out Everyday Health or Breast Cancer Action for more about Pinkwashing or head to this link for a video on how to do a self-breast exam.