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  • Writer's pictureChrisCutler

Let's Talk This Pink Stuff

"It’s not enough to just put a pink ribbon on your uniform or wear pink socks..." ~ Unknown

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and pink clothes and ribbons abound. October or not, though, if you see a pink ribbon, you will most likely associate it with breast cancer. Do you know why?

The Beginnings

You probably know that the ribbons are not exclusive to breast cancer awareness. In fact, wearing ribbons of different colors to support some cause didn't even start with breast cancer patients or organizations. From what I read, the ribbon-thing started when the wife of one of the hostages in Iran (1979) put yellow ribbons around the trees in her yard as a signal to bring her husband home. Some 10-11 years later, AIDS activists turned the ribbon red and wore it to the Tony Awards to bring awareness to the AIDS crisis.

From its inception in 1982, the Susan G. Komen Foundation has used pink as its color. In 1991, the organization gave pink ribbons to the breast cancer survivors and others who took part in the Komen New York City Race for the Cure. The following year, Self Magazine's then-editor Alexandra Penny worked with cosmetics giants to put pink ribbons in stores in New York City. The gimmick, meant to push Self's 1992 October Breast Cancer Awareness Month issue over the top, caught on, and the rest is, as they say, history.

I Like Pink

My friend Sally, another breast cancer survivor, told me last year that she's not wild about the pink ribbon thing. I don't remember her exact words, but her thought was that the pink bit was too commercialized and that the color did not define the disease, research, treatment, etc. I like the pink ribbon and pink stuff idea because, quite frankly, I like pink. If the breast cancer awareness color were marigold, I might not be as apt to wear the color for two reasons. First, I don't particularly like the color. More importantly, though, that orangey-yellow and my skin color do not look good together.

That said, I agree that the pink ribbon stuff is too commercialized. When the National Breast Cancer Awareness Month (NBCAM) began in 1985, its purpose was to promote mammograms to help find tumors early. Some 35+ years later, the mammogram push is still there, but I find that the month ends up being more about the fact that it's Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Think about it. At the beginning of the month, you'll see stories about doing the breast self-exam and about getting a mammogram. After the first week or so, you'll see stories about how this team or that honored breast cancer survivors during the pre-game or half-time festivities. The stories will dwindle as the month goes on, and on November 1, life goes back to its technicolor normal.


I really have nothing against National Breast Cancer Awareness Month or pink ribbons or pink anything to symbolize the fight against breast cancer. I have nothing against awareness or any color ribbon or color to symbolize the fight against any caner. The problem I have is the commercialization of the awareness campaigns. How much of what I pay for that pink ribbon shirt is going toward cancer research or education or mammograms for the uninsured? How much is going for the salary of a CEO or VP or secretary of a foundation? How much does a business donate for each sale it makes on breast cancer merchandise? Let's look at a few.

• For each sale of Bobby Brown's limited-edition Powerful Pinks Luxe Matte Lip Color Duo ($50), the company will donate 50 percent to the Breast Cancer Research Foundation.

• Ralph Lauren will donate 25 percent of sales of any of their Pink Pony collection to the company's own Pink Pony Fund. For each sale of their pink hoody, they donate 100 percent of sales.

• Every October, Brighton jewelry debuts its Power of Pink bracelets and donates anywhere from $6-10 per sale to "local and national charities." This year's jewelry ranges in price from $26-78. Over the 19 years Brighton has had its Power of Pink program, it has donated seven million dollars to charities.

• Vionic Shoes has introduced three ribbon-embellished limited edition styles in honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month. In lieu of a per-purchase donation, Vionic will donate $75,000 from the sale of the three to the Breast Cancer Research Foundation. The shoes range in price from $65-80/per pair.

• Clinique will donate $10 (out of $45) for each purchase of its Great Skin, Great Cause limited edition lotion to the Breast Cancer Research Foundation. The donation period runs through June 2022.

• ghd (good hair day) has donated more than $20 million to breast cancer charities internationally over the past 16 years. In 2021, they are donating $10 of each purchase of its pink limited edition flat iron to Keep a Breast Foundation. Retail is $259 per iron.

Bottom Line...

I won't spend my money on pink (or any other color) awareness merchandise if the bulk of the proceeds doesn't go to research, prevention, treatment. It's easy to check out a company's donation percentage by googling it. I noticed that one website has a warning that some of the breast cancer awareness merchandise is being sold by companies that do not donate any amount to any cause.

Donate to a reputable organization that uses the bulk of its money for research, education, and treatment. Research before you give; a reputable foundation will not mind if you do your homework. The National Breast Cancer Foundation lists these seven organizations as the top breast cancer foundations in the US: The American Cancer Society,, Breast Cancer Research Foundation, Living Beyond Breast Cancer, National Breast Cancer Foundation, Susan G. Komen Foundation, Young Survivor Coalition.

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