It all began in 1991 when the Susan G. Komen for the Cure foundation distributed pink ribbons at a race for breast cancer survivors. Steadily over the years, the power of pink escalated, becoming the official color of a breast cancer awareness movement.
Today, everything from packaged ravioli to a pair of Manolo Blahnik shoes seems to be sporting a bit of October blush for Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Komen is still recovering from the backlash following its decision to pull — and then reinstate — funding to Planned Parenthood. Last year, Etsy sold twee items with pink ribbons that offer no support for research. This year, the NFL puts a big pink ribbon in the middle of a nationally televised field, but it's hard to know how much it’s actually giving to support research.
It would be a shame to not support that cause because it has become too confusing. Here are some tips to ensure that your contribution will count:
Don’t automatically trust pink. The sale of pink merchandise in October is an easy target for cynical merchandisers. The emotional perks of supporting the cause won’t be as strong if you are not certain your purchase is actually helping, so turn over the labels, do some Googling, make a call and find out what you’re supporting.
Decide what you want to support, and who becomes easier. Supporting regular checkups and supporting research are not the same thing. Journalist and author Peggy Orenstein realized this when she dug into the efficacy of frequent mammograms. If you feel similarly, look for outlets that focus specifically on research. Whether you favor Komen’s emphasis on early detection or something else, being informed and aware is a better act of support than wearing a pink shirt.
Check the labels for a specific charity. To feel confident that proceeds will find their way to a legitimate end, look for products that name a specific charity.
Just donate directly. The easiest way to cut the hassle out is to just make a donation directly to an organization like Breast Cancer Research Foundation (BCRF), National Breast Cancer Foundation or BreastCancerFund.org. Or, you can text a donation to the American Cancer Society.
Do you think that companies are profiteering from the use of pink? Tell us about it in comments or in a blog post.