A “Parade of Pink”

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Every October at BCA, our inboxes are flooded with pictures of bizarre- and often insulting- products that are “promoting breast cancer awareness”.  For instance, last year we found a pink taser and a Smith & Wesson gun with a pink handle.  Somehow, the manufacturers didn’t see anything odd about promoting a weapon that kills almost 5,000 women a year to keep the public aware of a disease that kills women. Hmm.

To counter pinkwashing, BCA is spreading our own kind of awareness- to let people know that pink ribbon marketing isn’t always helpful or harmless. It can give people the false impression that we can solve the breast cancer epidemic by purchasing more pink stuff. But fundraising is not enough:

  • There is a lack of transparency about how much money will be donated to breast cancer organizations (vs. profit for the product manufacturers) and how that money will be spent.
  • Despite millions of dollars raised to support research, little is being done to investigate the environmental causes of breast cancer and how social inequities- especially as related to race, ethnicity and class- determine how people are affected.
  • Pinkwashing companies profit from breast cancer awareness campaigns, while maintaining harmful practices. For instance, cosmetics companies often use pink ribbons on their products, deflecting attention from the toxic and sometimes carcinogenic ingredients they use.

We constantly hear from members who feel exploited by companies who use the breast cancer epidemic to market products, especially when those products are distasteful or harmful.

This month, we’ll be featuring the worst offenders- some ridiculous and some downright disgusting.  We welcome your commentary on each item and at the end of the month, we’ll be asking our readers to vote on the most offensive entry in our “Parade of Pink”.

First up: Clarisonic’s skin care brushes:


In this case, it’s not the item itself that’s the most galling- it’s the advertising.  The press release accompanying the product launch is titled Clarisonic Empowers Cancer Patients to Put Their Best Face Forward.  There’s nothing wrong with a person’s choice to use this device, but the implication that “putting ones best face forward” should be the utmost priority when dealing with breast cancer isn’t empowering at all.


  1. Posted October 5, 2010 at 2:10 pm | Permalink

    I see Clarisonic is partnering with the “Look Good…Feel Better” program. I might look good and feel better if I didn’t have breast cancer. Empowerment = Action. Shopping for pink products is not empowering nor does it result in meaningful action.

  2. Valerie
    Posted October 6, 2010 at 8:46 am | Permalink

    When I was going through chemo my face would turn gray periodically. I don’t know how this product would have me look beautiful. Beauty was not on my to do list then… Keeping myself healthy and not getting sick was top on the list. These companies should just donate without trying to sell their products without deception. Its just morally wrong!

  3. Posted October 6, 2010 at 1:39 pm | Permalink

    Ugh! How insulting! When I was in treatment for breast cancer, the zits on my face were the last thing on my mind. In fact, I have no idea what a “skin care brush” is for or why I would want one. I don’t wear make-up (TOXINS! No thanks!), and I wash my face with all-natural soap and that’s it, and I don’t need a brush for that.

    This reminds me of the day when I came across an ad in my oncologist’s office that was offering a free pair of sparkly jelly shoes to every woman with ovarian cancer. The program was called “Happy Feet,” or something like that. Not only did the shoes look so uncomfortable and not at ALL like something that would make my feet happy, but I couldn’t believe that these silly plastic shoes were actually being funded as gifts for cancer patients, instead of something truly useful like groceries, help with utility bills, gas cards, etc.

    Posted October 11, 2010 at 3:01 pm | Permalink

    Anything with the pink ribbon, I will not buy.It is appalling to me how naive women are who support the pink ribbon and there fradulant advertising.

  5. alex
    Posted October 15, 2010 at 2:52 pm | Permalink

    Pink ribbons & the branding of the color pink does not empower folks dealing with a breast cancer diagnosis/treatment/recovery/survival.
    I live in the Bay Area, have lost friends to breast cancer as well as have friends who are going through treatments for cancers.
    I am a survivor of a type of reproductive cancer that has the potential to recur anywhere in my body.
    I went in last week for my annual mammogram, and was confronted by pink overload. A table had been set up with pink ribbon freebies for exiting mammogram-ees. Pink & white disposable pens, pink disposable emory boards, pink candies.
    I imagine if I had been told by the radiologist that my mammo showed abnormalities, the last thing I’d want to see would be insipid pink ribbon festooned disposable crap.
    I can say that many breast cancer survivors feel co-opted by pinkified marketing schemes.
    A diagnosis of breast cancer (or any cancer) can make one feel panic, despair, terror, etc.
    Losing a breast or two, excision of lymph nodes, chemo etc does not make a girl feel pretty. I don’t want to imagine what using a Clairsonic skin care brush feels like.. applied to painful chemo induced facial eruptions.
    Cancer survivors do not need to be infantilized or branded by pink.
    We need real treatments & a cure. We want to hang around & see our kids grow up, live lives free of pain and fear, and not be seen cancer “patients”.
    Seriously, if folks want to “do something for the cure”, donate to BCA, Charlotte Maxwell Complementary Clinic, Quan Yin Healing Arts Center, Women’s Cancer Resource Center, or any real foundation that is either doing relevant research or providing support to cancer survivors.
    Offer to give a massage, prepare a meal, clean a toilet or otherwise spend time with someone diagnosed with cancer. Don’t buy pink in October, do something REAL.

2 Trackbacks

  1. […] 2. Carisonic’s “Put Your Best Face Forward“ […]

  2. […] groceries, clothing, and household items; in beauty products. One particular “Think Pink campaign” last year (since discontinued due to public pressure), even sold “breast cancer” […]

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