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The Darker Side of Pink
August 12, 2010
A friend posted this on her Facebook page, and I can't say I was entirely surprised. Susan G. Komen, the organization that has, for better or worse, become the face of breast cancer charities, is using funds that could be going to research for a legal battle. What is this battle about? The phrase "for a Cure"….and even the color pink. The Komen foundation sees any cancer event "for the Cure" as encroaching on its turf, and sees pink as its signature color… So much so that the foundation actually warns other charities about it, according to a Wall Street Journal article. Komen's counsel is even quoted as saying, "We see it as responsible stewardship of our donor's funds." WHAT? If I donated to Komen, I'm not interested in – and I think many people would agree – who owns a trite saying. That's not what brings a research breakthrough, or funds mammograms.
When it comes down to it, a colored ribbon is just that – a meaningless piece of fabric, no matter what color it is. (And just for the record, the original breast cancer ribbons were a grassroots project started by Charlotte Haley, and they were PEACH. Estee Lauder and SELF magazine wanted to join her, and she refused because she didn't want it to be commercialized… so they chose pink ribbons). Finding new treatments and research discoveries for breast cancer isn't about who owns what color or whose slogan is catchiest. Cancer is cancer is cancer. Organizations spout platitudes about coming together "for a cure" (to use Komen's phrasing), but is this what it comes down to – proprietary rights? Is winning a legal battle a better use of funds than funding a promising grant or donating to a needy clinic? Is creating tension and acrimony among fellow nonprofit groups working toward the same goal worth it, if you win the rights to a phrase or color? Komen seems to think so.
Maybe I'm naïve. Maybe I'm wrong. But working and volunteering in the cancer world has shown me that it's an uphill battle, and no one can make much progress alone – we're stronger together than apart. It saddens me that Komen doesn't seem to agree.
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