Fuck Off, Pinktober

This is my first breast cancer awareness month as someone with cancer, but already I hate it. I mean, I REALLY fucking hate it. It brings out all the cancersplainers, and Jesus, the marketing.

When I was pregnant with The Boy, I obsessed over which baby things to buy. Which car seat was best? Which crib? Which stroller? Which baby bottles? I felt like if I chose wrong, everyone would think I was a bad mom. And conversely, if I got it right, everyone would know I was an awesome mom. Which was crap, of course, but marketing is powerful stuff.

It feels the same with all this pink stuff in October. As if you have to buy shit with pink ribbons on it so you can prove you are a good person who is supporting cancer patients like me. Or even more absurdly, post pink ribbons on Facebook and Twitter to “raise awareness.”

Look, if you are my friend, I know you care. I know it because you brought us dinner when I had chemo, or offered to take the kids on a play date, or made me a quilt, or sent me a note saying you were thinking of me. You don’t have to get with the pink marketing to prove you hate cancer. I already know you do.

Besides, barely any of the money you spend on pink crap is going to the research to cure my cancer. The little bit that actually flows to real cancer charities is often spent on education and awareness programs. And of the few dollars going to research, only a tiny fraction goes to metastatic research. I mean, thanks for the hundredth of a cent from that $3 bottle of water you bought and all…but if you want to buy a $1 bottle without a pink ribbon instead, I won’t be offended.

And posting that pink ribbon to your Facebook page? Yeah, that does nothing. Seriously, is there anyone left on the planet who isn’t aware of breast cancer? Like, seriously, we need a whole month of pink ribbons and inspirational Facebook posts to make us go “oh wow, I had no idea you could get cancer in your breast until I saw that pink ribbon in my news feed”? Seriously?

Also, and maybe this makes me kind of a traitor to the breast cancer world, but I don’t see why breast cancer needs its own marketing separate from other cancers. Like, I have tumors on my bones too. Cancer is cancer. As Reverend Al Sharpton said, “The most insane thing for sick people to do is to lay up in the hospital debating about who’s the sickest. We all need to unite and get well together.” When we single out one type of cancer for special treatment, it divides our community, instead of helping us all get well together.

I could go on, but this blogger really said it better than I could have. Go read her words, and then feel free to change your profile picture back from that pink ribbon to a picture of your kids covered in finger paint. Because THAT picture will really make this cancer patient smile.

10 thoughts on “Fuck Off, Pinktober

  1. YES! The best way to help a cancer patient is to offer to DO THINGS for them! Not posting a ribbon on your fb page. When my son was battling leukemia, the nicest thing anyone did for me, was when my work put out a bucket for donations then brought them directly to me to help cover bills. (I had to take a year of unpaid medical leave and I was a single mom). They also offered to do my grocery shopping and bring me things because his immune system wouldn’t let us leave the house very often. And they babysat my new baby (I was 37 weeks pregnant when he was diagnosed) so that I could take him to chemo appts that literally lasted the entire day. THOSE are the ways to help the people bravely battling cancers of ALL kinds.

    Keep fighting. And writing. <3
    Drama Queen’s Momma recently posted…5 Suggestions to make supermarkets less sucky by Lynn of The Nomad Mom DiaryMy Profile

  2. This was such a moving post and I’m really trying to understand your feelings. I can’t tell you how to feel about cancer any more than I can tell someone how to feel about being gay, or handicapped, or losing a child. I do the things you suggest—share meals, and visits, and special gifts.

    But sometimes I also want to connect to people I’ve loved and so I pick up the water or the shirt with the pink ribbon logo. Sometimes I support people walking or running or collecting for a cause because I have memories of beloved faces who bore that label. Maybe there are cynical people who are just trying to make money on the problems of others, but I honestly don’t believe that’s what motivates the ones who pay a little bit more for that bottle of water. I’m sure that realistically they know as well as I do that this won’t change the world but that’s not really the reason. For me, it’s because I’m looking for connections to the friend who cried when I visited her in the hospital because she didn’t want some other woman raising her children. Or the cousin who lost her husband to the drunk driver. Or the colleague who was leaving her dream job to have more time to care for her handicapped son. I can’t fix them but I can try for connections, even if it’s only a bit of pink ribbon.
    Barb Taub recently posted…Sometimes fear is the only sensible responseMy Profile

    1. I’ve thought about you comment a lot over the last several days, and I think my response is going to sound really bitchy. And I’m really sorry for that, because clearly you are someone with a good heart full of love. And yet, now I am going to totally pee in your cornflakes: pinktober isn’t about you. It isn’t about making you feel better, and it sure as shit isn’t about making me well. It’s about separating you from your hard earned money. That’s what it’s about. That it makes you feel better to buy a t-shirt is not worth the total distraction from actually finding research, or the commodification of my disease.

      This is not to say that all causes that have runs or walks or sell t-shirts are wastes of money, or distractions, or commodify a disease. I personally organize a March for Babies team every year and raise a couple grand for them, because the March of Dimes funds research and actually useful education campaigns that really do make a difference in preventing infant deaths. But this pink stuff? It doesn’t do that. Instead, it is literally making people with breast cancer feel worse, and taking good people’s energy away from the research that may someday find us a cure. Is that what your loved one would want? I doubt it.

      So, don’t be suckered in by a marketing logo’s appeal to your warm heart–use your head too.

  3. NAILED. IT!!

    Anytime I need to explain this to someone, I’m just going to send them to this post.

    What I think started out as a good thing has been bastardized. The Komen foundation is now a big bucks generator for political and personal advancement–not for research and awareness. There are few things that set me off like taking advantage of other people’s problems for your own gain … and that’s what’s happening with the whole pink washing. The Komen foundation did it and tons of businesses followed suit. They’re capitalizing on cancer. It makes me sick.
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  4. Who do we give to? Komen is awful but I’d like to know–MD Anderson? I like St. Judes–you know the $ goes there but what about Breast Cancer Research? Wish Dr. Love would tell us.. I remember a few years ago all the celebrities were doing PSAs for Cancer Awareness and my dsil said, “That is so stupid, who is not aware of cancer?”

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