Pink is inescapable this time of year.
Ribbons are handed out, sporting events hold specific games where athletes all wear special uniforms, entire buildings are lit up in bright hues, and many women dye sections of their hair. Generally, October feels like a month long stroll through the Barbie aisle at the local toy store.
Since the symbol of the pink ribbon was introduced in 1991, the wear pink for breast cancer movement has increased exponentially. In the mid 1980s, the American Cancer Society and Imperical Chemical Industries (a breast cancer drugs manufacturing company) created National Breast Cancer Awareness Month in order to promote education about breast cancer prevention and issues as well as raise funds for research. While these are both great things for cancer patients in general as well as women, corporate interests have hijacked the entire movement. We need responsible breast cancer research funding with women's well-being as the main focus, not corporate interests.
A good example of this is the NFL's wildly popular Pink October campaign. During the month of October the NFL has their players in pink, the field has pink lines, and tons of pink NFL fan gear is sold. Not a single dollar of the proceeds from the paraphernalia goes towards research. Instead all of this money goes towards the American Cancer Society to promote screenings and education for women in cities with an NFL franchise.
According to modern research conducted by the New England Journal of Medicine published in February 2014, regular mammograms and other screening programs do not substantially affect the mortality rate for women with the disease. Instead, extra screenings create over diagnosed tumors, which end up being treated for lots of extra cost to the patient and the public health system. By advocating for outdated treatment methods, large-scale corporate fundraisers like the NFL are pushing back the tide of progress.
Organizations like the NFL and other Fortune 500 Companies utilize National Breast Cancer Awareness Month in order to create a false sense of community engagement and charitable giving in order to disguise their massive profits and self-interested unchecked economic growth. Additionally, because the NFL has covered a majority of their fields and other player gear in pink they become exempted in the eyes of the public from contributing real meaningful funds that actively help women.
Called "Pinkwashing," this practice allows companies to disguise harmful behaviors and business models with a surface of charitable giving. The entire movement allows companies cover to hide unsavory activities, which sometimes are even known to cause cancer themselves.
Earlier this month, a prominent hydraulic fracking corporation announced their decision to donate $100,000 to the Susan G Komen Foundation as well as to distribute 1,000 pink drill bits for use around the world. This donation, while on the surface seems sizable enough to help, is just a drop in the bucket when compared to the amount of cancer causing chemicals leaked into the environment by the growing fracking industry.
Started in 1982, the Susan G Komen Foundation is the largest breast cancer charity in the United States. In the last 30 years, the organization raised over $1.5 billion towards research and education. However, in the last five years the percentage of donations going towards hard research for a cure has decreased. According to the annual financial reports issued by the non-profit, the company spends between 2 and 5 percent more on fundraising and administrative costs than on research and alarmingly less on treatment for those actually suffering from the disease. Instead, a majority of these funds are going towards education and other resources. Just like the American Cancer Society, a majority of these donations are going towards increasing mammograms and other educational programs that are not linked towards decreasing mortality rates.
The organization has taken a lot of public criticism in recent years for several different scandals. In 2011, the organization moved to pull funding from women's health services non-profit Planned Parenthood. While Planned Parenthood is an organization that performs abortions, a majority of the services they provide consist of well woman checkups, birth control mammograms, and other health services related to reproductive health. Additionally, the Komen organization pulled funding for embryonic stem cell research for suspected political reasons. Finally, the CEO of the organization Nancy Brinker was reported to have received a salary of just over a quarter million dollars in the 2011-2012 fiscal year.
As the number one charity involved with National Breast Cancer Awareness, Susan G Komen sets the tone for what this month should be about. Instead of raising money for efficient and proven ways to help women suffering from breast cancer this organization uses their billions of dollars raised to further political agendas and pay their leaders exorbitant amounts of money.
As Americans, we should demand better from one of the biggest nonprofits in America. It's time that we stop accepting tons of athletes wearing pink socks and funding for archaic treatment plans and prevention methods. Not just women, but everyone needs to push for more accountability in our philanthropic movements. A deadly disease should not be a bottom line booster for Fortune 500 companies. Instead, let's boost women's health and self image.
Pink is inescapable this time of year.