what does october mean to me?

By Louise Sukle
Editor & Publisher
Woman Newspapers

Fall is the time of year when those of us living in North America are treated to a natural display rich in golds, coppers and crimsons. Then along comes October, and unless you’re living under a rock, you are inundated by a peculiar array of items in pretty pink packages all in the name of raising awareness of breast cancer. Yes, it’s Pink Month everyone!

In the nearly three decades since my mother’s breast cancer diagnoses, pinkwashing has grown more pervasive - featured on everything from garbage trucks to NFL merchandise (ironic considering the NFL has, shall I say, a problematic history with women.) 

A pink-tipped drill bit to raise awareness for breast cancer? Baker Hughes, who’s business includes hydraulic fracking, partnered with the Susan G. Komen Foundation to do their “bit for the cure.” No, seriously.

A pink-tipped drill bit to raise awareness for breast cancer? Baker Hughes, who’s business includes hydraulic fracking, partnered with the Susan G. Komen Foundation to do their “bit for the cure.” No, seriously.

Some members of the pink movement wear it proudly, giving thanks for both raising awareness and money. 

Others hate pinkification with a passion for using cause-marketing to trick you into buying meaningless trinkets.  

I know many of the people who purchase these pink awareness products have either battled breast cancer or know someone who has. It’s their way of saying the cause is important to them. It can be gratifying and empowering to join together with others who underwent the same struggle, to do something, collectively, to make a difference. And that’s great. 

I also realize there is an over-awareness issue that needs to be addressed, such as how easily we can be manipulated by our cancer-related fears, and how those emotions can be packaged, marketed and sold, sometimes by the very people who claim to support us.

It’s no secret that there are many who think it’s enough to just slap on a pink ribbon and pat themselves on the back. I want everyone reading this to please think before you pink - every single time. I beg of you to put your heart and hard-earned dollars to good use. Unfortunately, we can’t always be sure every company claiming to do honorable things is actually making good on their promises. 

Presently, there are no regulations in place governing how companies can advertise or market their contributions (or lack thereof) to legitimate cancer causes. This means that when something has a label declaring “a portion of proceeds go to breast cancer research,” the amount could be less than a penny or already fixed which means your purchase has no effect on the total amount donated by the company. 

Of course, not everyone in the breast cancer movement agrees that commercial benefit is bad. According to the National Cancer Institute, the overall breast cancer death rate has dropped steadily over the past 20 years, leading many to credit the success of the awareness campaign.

But in all this national pink passion, women must remember that while working to help the greater good is a wonderful thing, they also need to remain aware and vigilant on a personal level. Change bad health habits, scrutinize ingredients in the products you use, support only the causes truly worthy of your time and money, and go ahead, girl – wear pink and wear it proud if you want, even if it may have become more of a fashion statement than originally intended.

This October and every month thereafter, we are united with a purpose: To be informed, to be proactive and do our part to “be aware.”