Apparently, not everyone is happy with Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Laura over at Adventures of a Young Feminist and @meloukhia from this ain’t livin’ posted some interesting pieces here and here about Breast Cancer Awareness Month. (Seriously, go read them now. Then come back; I’ll wait.) They make some interesting points that – despite being well thought out, well written, and eye-opening – I have to respectfully question.
As you know, I am a staunch breast cancer awareness advocate. Just as a review, I’ve walked in 5 Avon Walks for Breast Cancer, walking 39.3 miles over two days and raising over $1800 which, along with funding research, also funds underprivileged women who cannot afford mammograms or treatments. This year, I’m gearing up for my 6th walk. I know that I’m doing a good thing, and I know that this walk these funds do amazing things for amazing people.
Yes, people. I know that breast cancer affects everyone, not just women. I walk for everyone. Just because I do it wearing pink does not mean I’m ignoring the men who are affected by the disease. The pink ribbon is a universal symbol for breast cancer awareness, and I think it’s OK – even helpful – for causes to have symbols (Do we have an issue with a red AIDS ribbon? Or the LGBTQ cause having a rainbow? Or any other symbols? If we do, I have never heard it.) Is the pink ribbon gendered? Yes. But, honestly, I’m not going to try to change the universal breast cancer symbol because it is pink.
I understand that many people feel that pink ribbon marketing is exploitative – that companies are profiting
from the pain of those who have been touched by breast cancer by putting pink ribbons on products in order to make a profit. I agree. Slapping a pink ribbon on something and promising a donation is not activism, and it is fast becoming a tool for companies to simply increase their profits. Other than the Red campaign, I haven’t seen much in the way of companies fighting for other causes. Why focus on making things pink for a cause? I don’t know. It probably has something to do with the stereotype that women spend lots of money on frivolous things and will do so even more if these things are pink.
I do think marketing products in this way is ridiculous. I don’t usually buy products that have pink ribbons on them unless I know the person selling them and I know they’re doing it because they’re raising money for a walk. But I have bought a lot of that stuff, and I think that’s OK. It’s for a good cause, and since I buy most of it while registering for the Avon Walk, I know where that money is going.
However, raising awareness is a touchy thing. Sometimes it takes shocking statements to grab people’s attention. I don’t think there is anything wrong with wearing a shirt that says “I <3 Boobs” or “Save the Ta-Tas.” We need to look at the intention behind such statements. My intent, personally, is to create awareness, raise money, and save the lives of people who have or who may have breast cancer. And, although I can’t speak for everyone else, I imagine that sentiment is shared by many people. I don’t think many people buy and wear a shirt that says “I <3 Boobs” because they really just love them and have no sense of the cause. I think most people, when wearing and saying such things, have the cause and the lives of people in mind, and that is why they do it. At least, I hope that’s true.
Now, I’m not so sure about these ads. (@TheUndomestic can testify: I messaged her about the first image making me uncomfortable as soon as I received it.) I told her the nature of these made me uncomfortable and, although they aren’t too far off from one of those t-shirts I wrote of earlier, there is a fine line here that I feel was crossed. These ads, unlike the t-shirts, don’t scream awareness to me, and probably don’t to you, either. It wasn’t until the end of the latter that I realized it was something to raise awareness, and even then I thought: “Well, that was a stretch.” These ads, I’m not OK with.
I think, when looking at products and images and ads, we all know when the intent to do good is genuine, and I don’t think it’s fair to write off people or their methods to raise awareness when that intent is there. I think, also, that when a product or an ad or an image is not genuine, we know that too, and when it comes to calling out those, I’m 100% with you.