Think Before You Pink

I’m going to try not to get too rant-y here. It’s hard. This is probably my biggest rant-y trigger of all of the rant-y triggers I have in my life.

Here is the short version: a lot of pink stuff is sold under the guise of raising money for breast cancer research when it does not and of those that do raise money for breast cancer the marketing surrounding the sales is often very misleading.

Think Before You Pink is a national campaign of Breast Cancer Action to raise public awareness about pink marketing. BCA is radical. They ask questions a lot of people don’t dare ask. They demand that companies are held accountable for the bad things they are doing. They start campaigns to change bad practices.

I know their approach isn’t for everyone, but I love what they are doing. Whenever I get pissed off about some injustice in the business of breast cancer (and, yes, there is a business side, sadly), BCA is always already on the job.

I was in our local JoAnn’s the other day buying supplies for someone’s Halloween costume ($60-bleeping-dollars worth of supplies) and I came across an end cap display of pink products: pink scissors, pink cutting mats, pink “notions.” Some of it carried the distinctive pink ribbon that some people think means “raises money for breast cancer causes.” So, I started reading labels.

I have unanswered questions about this product:

It’s a sewing basket. It has pink ribbons all over it and little supportive phrases all over it: Fight. Believe. Love. It’s sweet. If I liked the color pink and wasn’t partial to my “random grocery sack collection” sewing basket, I might buy it.

I couldn’t find anything on the tag that said whether the company producing the product is donating money to any cause anywhere. (It’s manufactured by Dritz.) Yet, this basket sat in a display with other products that do donate a portion of their proceeds (but how much?) to breast cancer.

There were other items on the shelf that didn’t have information about whether they were raising money or just cashing in on the color pink during the month of October (and even using the pink ribbon to sell their stuff.) We’ll save the conversation of “how much are the ones donating who are benefiting from pink ribbon marketing?” for another day.

I would like to say this is an isolated incident, but it’s not. I guarantee you I can walk into any store that has a display of pink items and find a few that have no clear indication that they are donating to any cause. And with further probing, I generally turn up nothing.

This makes me want to say really mean things and take those damn pink scissors to that damn pink sewing box.

Think Before You Pink does a better job of discussing all of the nuances of this issue. They have people on staff who don’t have emotional meltdowns in the notions aisles of fabric stores with little girls following them saying, “Mommy, why are you taking pictures of that stuff?”

But here’s what I want to you to know:

1. If you buy pink ribbon stuff, I will still totally be your friend.

2. I am not entirely opposed to pink ribbon marketing. I think there is a responsible way to do it and an irresponsible way. I feel very strongly that companies should not have unlimited abilities to generate “pink ribbon” sales when they partner with a breast cancer organization. I also feel that the relationships need to make sense. (More on that last thought in the days to come.)

3. Manufacturer’s should have to clearly state on their labels how much they are donating and to what cause. It should also be clearly stated when there is a cap involved.

4. Most “deals” are that the business will donate up to $X by X date, regardless of how many of a product are sold. I feel very strongly their websites should display exactly where they are in that process (“your purchases have raised $X toward this organization. We’ll cap it at $X by X date.”) Furthermore, I think they should have very short grace period – one month or less – to get the pink labeled stuff off the shelves after they reach their sales cap. (Or, perhaps, if it only takes 10 sales to reach the cap, then they only get to produce 10 pink labeled products to begin with.) They don’t get to keep cashing in on breast cancer when they are no longer donating.

5. When a business gives a flat donation in exchange for using the pink ribbon on their product, it needs to be clearly stated on the label that the purchase of the product has no impact on the amount of the donation.

6. Writing a check to your favorite breast cancer organization (or any non-profit) is the single best way to make a difference – even if it’s just $5, $10 or $20. Millions and millions of dollars have been raised with $20 donations.

7. Stay tuned and I’ll give you some good ideas to whom you should write those checks in the coming days!

Just so you know
I’m trying to post something informative about breast cancer every day during the month of October, which is breast cancer awareness month. Medical facts, information about causes I think are important, friends I want you to know and pink products I like. (Yes, there are a few.)

If you are a friend of mine on Facebook (and I actually do keep it to people I know/have known or survivor friends), you’ll see status updates with more facts in them, too. Same for Twitter (and you are all welcome to follow me there).

If you are reading this on Facebook, be sure to stop by my blog at to see pictures and get links. You can also subscribe to the blog and get posts delivered straight to your e-mail.

Author: rosie

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