My first Pink’tober

If you haven’t noticed yet, October is breast cancer awareness month. It is a month full of tacky fundraisers in the name of breast cancer awareness. I cannot say that I really noticed pinktotober before, it had no meaning in my life. I believe March is cancer awareness month – the month when daffodils are sold as fundraisers for the Canadian Cancer society … or it is April … Somehow, these things never really mattered to me.

Now, I cannot help be aware of Pink-tober. It is perhaps the time when cause marketing is most visible – where companies partner with breast cancer charities to raise money for mutual benefit. Some are good, some are downright tacky. Diane Mapes over at Double Wammied wrote a great satire piece on what other cancers might look like if they were advertised the same way as breast cancer “What if people treated other cancers like they do breast cancer?” She helps to elucidate the issue of the over-sexualizing nature of to many breast cancer awareness campaigns.

Although I do see that a lot of money is raised for good charities during this month of October – I am still bothered by the advertising. The I keep seeing on TV is the 5-hour energy fundraiser for Living Beyond Breast Cancer (LBBC). I’ve attended an online webinar by LBBC on Chemo brain that I found was very useful – so I can see that they do some good work. But I was bothered by the video clip because they didn’t show anyone young. I found that the ad didn’t speak to me in any way. So, I would support LBBC, but not by buying a 5-hour energy drink — but then I wouldn’t have bought the drink anyways.

I was particularly incensed by the fracking company painting its ‘bits’ pink in a publicity stunt – ‘Doing Our Bit for the Cure‘. Who thought that was a good idea? I and many others in the blogosphere thought it was a spoof when we first read about it.  It is perhaps one of the more blantant examples of pinkwashing.

What many of the awareness campaigns are doing is mostly sexualizing breast cancer, and that sucks. Frankly, breast cancer sucks. Over the years I have had friends diagnosed with other types of cancer. They were told “if you are going to have cancer, this is a good one to have”. No one ever told me that, and rightly so. If you are going to have cancer, breast cancer wouldn’t be my first choice!

So, now I get the pleasure of living through October – having to be constantly reminded of the ugliness of breast cancer, and watching misguided ‘awareness’ campaigns that make it even harder for young women with breast cancer to have a positive self image. Here is another misguided campaign – I love boobies – it pretty much sends the message that those of us with breast cancer didn’t take care of ourselves – that we are now freaks because we no longer have boobies.

As someone living with breast cancer, one of my biggest fears is how this is going effect my self-image – what I feel about my body. I haven’t had surgery yet – one of the scariest parts of surgery is worrying about how I’m going to feel afterwards. Not the physical part, but the emotional and mental part. In part, I think this is because I haven’t yet internalized the “my breast are killing me” idea. I’m still dealing with the “chemo made me sick”, rather than the “cancer made me sick”.

So, although I’m in favour of fundraising to support various breast cancer charities – both those that support women living with and beyond breast cancer and those who are funding research, and I believe that there is such a thing as positive (win-win) cause marketing – I am annoyed by the partial messages – and the ad campaigns that are fine for healthy women, but make those of us living with breast cancer feel worse. There should be some kind of rule with this type of cause marketing … they should be talking to people living with the disease … awareness campaigns need to be more sensitive to the real struggles of the disease.

Please stop telling me how much you love your boobies … cause I ain’t gonna have mine for much longer!


  • Becky

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