The Pink Stink

4 years ago
I’m about to give up supporting and advocating for breast cancer.

Seriously – how can I; one educational and awareness advocate compete with the likes of big business? How does my voice compare to the voices of Enbridge, Proctor and Gamble, and Fabutan?

Are we that desperate for a cure that we are willing to align ourselves with companies that are linked to breast cancer, just for a couple of bucks? Do we have our heads stuck in the sand thinking these companies care about breast cancer survivors or breast cancer education?

Is it sick to think we are naïve enough to believe that by buying hundreds if not thousands of bottles of Pantene during the month of October, we will systematically rid the world of a disease that will kill approximately 5,200 women in Canada this year? Personally I’m so sick of the colour pink I want to throw water balloons at anyone I see sporting the colour in “honour” of Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

If you’ve made it this far in the blog, you probably hate me – personally, I don’t care. I’m tired of corporations, and small businesses alike riding on the coat tails of breast cancer survivors. I’ve spent countless hours in my life, fighting for education and awareness – talking to thousands of youth for a cause I truly believe in, only to be usurped by companies with better marketing teams, and a need to make a stink for pink.

As this month turns into a sea of the wretched colour, my thoughts turn to the collaboration of businesses and charities - and if they are really doing “what’s right” in the fight against breast cancer.


There are many companies so determined to show that they “care," and with charities and non-profits so eager to compete for donation dollars, charitable exposure, or the dream of finding a cure - do they fail to see how they align themselves, or take the time to really look at the proposed “pink product” and see if it has the proper environmental, and ethical standards to be used in fundraising campaigns? Right now, everyone from your local grocer to large corporations are selling items and donating partial or full profits to either research or awareness, but what if the products Canadian charities are aligning themselves with actually do more harm than good? What if the ingredients or the company’s practices can actually contribute to the development of (breast) cancer itself?

For example:

Your local grocer

“Buy a cupcake or cookie from our bakery, 10% of each sale will be donated to.......”

It’s a great idea in theory, however – the cupcakes, and cookies emblazoned with pink ribbons and frosting are filled with refined sugars, harmful food colourings, and bleached white flour. All these ingredients are filled with chemicals that are linked to breast cancer.

Bottled water companies

“Buy a case of our water, and $2.00 of every sale will be donated to.........”

Water is life right? For sure, but not when it comes in a plastic bottle that leaks Bisphenol A (BPA), which, since December 2010 has been declared a toxic substance in Canada.


“For every Johnson and Johnson product purchased we will donate 20% to.......”

Johnson and Johnson products contain toxic chemicals (like formaldehyde) in their Aveeno, Neutrogena, ROC, Clean & Clear, Purpose and Johnson’s Baby Shampoo – Only recently did the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics win a ruling causing Johnson & Johnson to phase out all harmful containments by the end of 2015. Many of the ingredients in Johnson & Johnson (as well as many other brands), contain toxic chemicals that can be linked to breast cancer.

There are always hundreds of major retailers ready to step up and fight this disease, with only one problem. The compounds or ingredients in the very products they sell are often being investigated for cancer-causing (carcinogenic) potential – meaning, they may just be contributing the very disease they are trying to “cure”. Is this a vicious circle, or clever market consumption and branding?

Sadly, businesses are not alone in the misguided direction of cause marketing, as it’s not an uncommon sight to see prolific Breast Cancer charities aligning themselves with perfume, automobile, energy drinks, and oil companies.

The amount of breast cancer charities jumping on the “Breast Cancer Branding Bandwagon” is staggering. Some charitable organizations can be scrutinized about how funds are raised, where the funds raised are going, and if their administrative practices are ethical.

At a silent auction with proceeds going to breast cancer, I once saw items such as tanning sessions, a Texas Mickey of rye, motor oil, and Avon Gifts baskets up for auction – were these generously donated? Yes. Are these proper items for this charitable auction? No.

Splash a pink ribbon on anything and people will think its philanthropy.

Breast cancer is NOT pretty…It’s not light, and fluffy – It’s scary. It turns people immortal. No matter your age, race, or economic bracket, breast cancer can pick on you and change your life forever. And no matter how many “I love Boobies!” bracelets that are sold, or how many people “Run for a Cure” or how many donations dollars are raised during the Cashmere fashion show, it’s not going to change that fact.

Trust me I know – I was once a pawn in the non-profit game – it was my disgust (amongst other things) that finally led to me running for the hills rather than support a charity that felt a fashion line would cure breast cancer.

So what am I asking? I’m asking you to re-Think PINK. Know where your dollars are going, know where your products are coming from, listen for the ethical story, and if you feel it’s the right move then jump in – or send cash, and be a silent supporter. Take your plastic tiaras and angel wings (all made from materials linked to breast cancer) – and go on a girls night; get wasted, and have fun – don’t flap around thinking you’re changing the world and finding a cure.
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