Turns out the first woman to devise a breast cancer ribbon for grassroots movement building was right not to sell out, as this Washington Post column details.
Soon after she introduced her creation to the world, big business came calling — specifically, representatives of Conde Nast’s Self magazine and international cosmetics company Estee Lauder, who wanted to make Haley’s ribbon the official symbol of the disease. Haley, concerned about the commercialization of her creation, turned them down. Undeterred, Self and Estee Lauder consulted their attorneys, changed the ribbon’s color to pure pink — all-female focus groups said it was the most nonthreatening, reassuring and feminine color — and went on their merry way.
It’s like a double-edged sword really. On one hand you want the support that can be generated for your cause, but you hate to see it become some sort of normalized and desensitized thing. We’ve seen the same thing happen with environmentalism and it’s really painful to watch.
The two most important paragraphs in this piece that best explains what the critics of “pinkwashing” and their stance is as follows:
What critics such Ehrenreich and breast cancer activist Barbara A. Brenner chafe at, however, is the evolution of much of breast cancer activism from a scientifically curious and explicitly feminist grass-roots movement with an interest in causes and prevention to the highly marketed, watered-down and corporatized iteration of today, focused mainly on treatments and “cures.” They also question where most of the money raised is going.
“We are not doing enough with looking at the disease origins,” Din says. “Why do we get cancer in the first place? The fact is that most of the money raised focuses on awareness and lifestyle changes and not on primary prevention.”
In truth, many of the corporations now involved in this multi-million dollar campaign; who put pink ribbons on their products, may be involved in producing items that create cancer in the first place. Imagine if a bottled water company put a pink ribbon on a bottle with BPA in it?