This Canadian documentary just potentially received unbeatable pre-release publicity with this weeks ongoing Susan G. Komen foundation storm, but only if more of us note this perfect timing and help it get the piggyback ride. Pink Ribbons Inc., examining how a devastating disease became a shiny pink marketing dream, is released in North America this weekend, and I hope it makes it to Australia soon.
The film depicts an alarming disconnect between the overwhelming corporate and social success of the pink ribbon campaign and the fact that the filmmakers determined only 15 per cent of monies raised go to research prevention, and five per cent to research environmental causes of breast cancer.
Quebec director Lea Pool, an award-winning feature filmmaker, thinks the solidarity of women, forged through the women’s movement, is being exploited. “When I feel we are being hijacked in a way, co-opted by all the big business, this for me is unacceptable.
“I don’t say people should stop raising money,” she says in a phone interview from Toronto, shared with [producer Ravida] Din. “We have to be more careful how we do this.
The pinkification of cancer fundraising and pinkwashing globally diverts generous people’s donations away from the organisations doing most of the work towards organisations who are just better at marketing. Does this sound like the best use of donors’ money? Meanwhile the corporations get a huge PR boost for donating cents per sale when going pink generates megabuck boosts in their revenues.
And what about all the non-pinkified cancers? By dominating the cancer fundraising landscape, pink ribbons divert attention and thus donations (and the research/screening/treatment those donations provide) from other cancers which affect just as many people. Compassion fatigue sets in when potential donors feel that they’ve already “done their bit for cancer” with pink ribbon campaigns and hardly pay attention to other cancer fundraisers.
Those who donate their time and money for causes they believe in deserve better than having their generosity exploited by organisations and corporations who donate far less than their publicity would have you think. It’s not just Komen in the US who does this – they’ve been so successful that they’re copied all around the world.
The documentary, and much other work in this area, was inspired by Samantha King’s book, Pink Ribbons, Inc.: Breast Cancer and the Politics of Philanthropy.
In Pink Ribbons, Inc., Samantha King traces how breast cancer has been transformed from a stigmatized disease and individual tragedy to a market-driven industry of survivorship. In an unprecedented outpouring of philanthropy, corporations turn their formidable promotion machines on the curing of the disease while dwarfing public health prevention efforts and stifling the calls for investigation into why and how breast cancer affects such a vast number of people. Here, for the first time, King questions the effectiveness and legitimacy of privately funded efforts to stop the epidemic among American women. Pink Ribbons, Inc. grapples with issues of gender and race in breast cancer campaigns of businesses such as the National Football League; recounts the legislative history behind the breast cancer awareness postage stamp—the first stamp in American history to raise funds for use outside the U.S. Postal Service; and reveals the cultural impact of activity-based fund-raising, such as the Race for the Cure. Throughout, King probes the profound implications of consumer-oriented philanthropy on how patients experience breast cancer, the research of the biomedical community, and the political and medical institutions that the breast cancer movement seeks to change.
Hat tip to Bellesouth’s great post laying out Why you should have boycotted Komen before this week, which links to the even more informative Think Before You Pink campaign’s website.
from Think Before You Pink: Critical Questions to Ask Before You Buy Pink – I’ll just list the questions here with my own brief summary of why it matters, go there for a fuller background on the questions.
1. How much money from your purchase actually goes toward breast cancer? Is the amount clearly stated on the package?
(Is it what you consider a reasonable amount, or is it insultingly small?)
2. What is the maximum amount that will be donated?
(Has the corporation capped the donation, has that cap already been reached, thus will your purchase actually contribute to the cause?)
3. How are the funds being raised?
(Does the corporation send money on from your purchase directly? Or do you have to mail in proof of purchase? Is the corporation’s donation more than the cost of the stamps?)
4. To what breast cancer organization does the money go, and what types of programs does it support?
(Research? Screening? Treatment? Established and already well funded? New and innovative? Where exactly?)
5. What is the company doing to assure that its products are not actually contributing to the breast cancer epidemic?
(Many companies whose products have been linked to higher cancer rates invest heavily in the pink ribbon promotions. Should their cynicism be rewarded?)