Of course, I’m not talking about our paper. This month, we’ve assembled some truly touching stories of local women who have overcome cancer and all of its excruciating side effects – and honor those who unfortunately lost the battle. It’s an excellent time for reflection and, speaking as a man who is very close with his mother and some of the other women in his life, it’s wonderful to have that opportunity.
What I don’t find wonderful is how it seems that every company from Nabisco to the NFL is plastering pink ribbons on everything while donating miniscule time, effort and money to causes that actually properly research cancer cures or support the efforts of low income women to secure screening and early detection services.
You can see this all over Facebook. Users young and old will routinely pass around memes and photos proudly declaring it’s “Save the Tatas” month and championing things like bra-less day and other silly things. It’s the silliness that I can’t help but concentrate on here.
There are certainly ways to have fun with a month focusing on breast cancer awareness, and I’m doing my best here to not sound like some kind of cancer awareness Scrooge, but far too many of us are perfectly content with sharing a Facebook meme or buying a latte with a pink ribbon on it or proudly cheering on athletes donning pink gloves and pads. But what are we actually doing for breast cancer awareness?
For companies like the NFL, not much apparently. In 2013, Business Insider had an article that showed that a shockingly small amount of money actually goes to the American Cancer Society. According to data, for every $100 in pink merchandise sold, $12.50 goes to the NFL with $11.25 going to ACS. The remaining money goes to the merchandise manufacturers and the company that sells it, often the NFL and individual teams.
On top of this, the same article also references a study by Charity Navigator and further explains that only 71.2 percent of money the ACS receives goes towards its programs. Last time I checked, the program expenses number now sits at 60.6 percent.
Compare this to the Breast Cancer Research Foundation which, according to Charity Navigator, spends 91.9 percent of its funds towards program expenses and its services.
It’s the crux of Breast Cancer Action’s Think Before You Pink Campaign, which coined the term “pinkwashing,” which involves companies using products to generate good buzz for their brands while making a minimal, almost non-existent, donation.
It’s not terribly surprising that American capitalism would breed a situation where, when confronted with an opportunity to make incredible financial strides and enhance public awareness about what is the most common cancer among women, no matter the race or ethnicity, too many companies would rather choose to harness people’s desire to do good and help people by, well, not actually doing anything substantial in the first place.
The information we have in this month isn’t just simply to inspire those who are fighting cancer, know someone who is fighting cancer, or may have lost someone to it, but it’s also to inform. We have articles talking about rarer types of cancer, how volunteer opportunities have grown at Memorial Hermann Northwest and stories of courage from some of the most inspirational women I’ve ever had the privilege of speaking with.
In our position, it simply isn’t good enough to slap a pink ribbon on our product and call it a day. Clearly, not all of corporate America agrees with this approach. Perhaps it might also speak to this country’s view of women and equality but I fear that might be a long digression in a completely opposite direction so I’ll avoid that for now.
For now, I think the best thing we can all do, particularly men, is show our support in any way possible. Simply listening and being there for others, whether simply by volunteering or spending time with a family member or even a stranger who is facing this terrible disease, could mean the difference between a dark day and a beautifully bright one. It would be better to embrace and help these women in our lives however they might need us, rather than embracing a pink latte cup or a ribbon on the back of a football.