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Think before you pink

We Cannot Shop Our Way Out of Breast Cancer

Do you ever wonder what new pink gizmo or pink gadget is coming down the pink pipeline next? Do you sometimes think you’ve seen it all or worse yet, know full well you haven’t? Do you cringe at the bizarreness of it all, or have you grown so accustomed to the pink shopping frenzy that is now part of October you hardly notice anymore, but instead just roll your eyes and wait for November?

I guess I do both. Sometimes I cringe. Sometimes I ignore.

No doubt about it, shopping and breast cancer awareness month have become inseparably intertwined and I’ve yet to figure out why this is okay with so many people.

Why is breast cancer the shopping disease anyway?

Why has no other disease been so literally tied up with ribbons and shopping?

I’m not much of a shopper. Generally, I just hit the malls when I want or need something for myself or someone else. I can’t remember the last time I went window shopping. And more and more these days I shop online. Maybe not being a shopping enthusiast is one more reason all the shopping nonsense that is associated with breast cancer awareness month annoys me and seems just plain bizarre at times.

I realize many women and men, too, do enjoy shopping and that’s great. Shopping is a way to reward yourself when you’ve reached a goal. Some people shop to cheer themselves up when they feel down. Others just happen to love looking for that perfect item for themselves or someone else. Quite a few it seems love sales, and I imagine there are a whole host of other reasons why people love to shop.

But one thing is for sure, we are never going to shop our way out of breast cancer.

Buying a pink-handled hammer, pink-colored trash can, pink bag of potato chips, pink mixing bowl set, or any other sort of pink paraphenalia is probably not going to do a whole lot to help prevent, better treat or cure breast cancer; nor will biting into that doughnut or pink ribbon shaped cookie with pink icing and pink sprinkles on top. It might very well help improve some business owner’s bottom line as well as his/her perceived image, but shopping our way out of breast cancer? That’s not gonna happen.

No matter how you feel about shopping, doesn’t “pink shopping” feel rather forced, insincere and therefore more than a bit unappealing anyway?

It does to me. And shopping for things that were never intended to be pink in the first place just seems weird and more than a bit forced. 

Besides how much pink stuff can the average person eat, drink, wear or use? 

I would never tell anyone not to buy something with a pink ribbon on it, but I would and do tell people all the time not to buy something just because it has a pink ribbon on it. Big difference.

No matter how you feel about October shopping of the non-Halloween variety, I think it’s safe to say, we cannot shop our way out of breast cancer.

I’ve shared the words of the late Barbara Brenner before and I’ll more than likely share them again because they are worthy of repetition:

If breast cancer could be cured by shopping, it would be cured by now.

Amen to that.

Do you ever buy pink or pink ribbon products, or do you refuse to?

Do you cringe or do you ignore and wait for November?

Why do you think breast cancer morphed into the shopping disease?

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We cannot shop our way out of breast cancer.
We’re never gonna shop our way out of breast cancer.


11 thoughts on “We Cannot Shop Our Way Out of Breast Cancer

    1. Rethink Street, I’m glad you don’t have the pink ribbon shopping frenzy to such a degree in the UK. Lucky you! Thanks for reading, understanding and commenting.

  1. Wonderful post, Nancy. The other day I was grocery shopping with Ari, and she wanted these cherry tomatoes; I grabbed them quickly and put them in the cart. Imagine my horror when we got home and I found a pink ribbon on the package! I know it was an accident, but tomatoes? c’mon. BTW, I love clothing shopping though I’m on a budget. Despite my love of things retail, I despise the pink-ribbon frenzy with which things are bought and sold. I feel different ways about Pinktober depending on my mood: ignoring the barrage of pink hoopla, outrage, or even numbness. I try to be calm mostly. Some years it works; others it doesn’t.

    1. Beth, Pink ribbons on cherry tomatoes… yeah, I wonder if anything was being donated for breast cancer anything. I think we all feel different ways about Pinktober depending on our moods. At any rate, another one is winding down. Thanks for reading and sharing.

  2. I have cringed during Pinktober for years and after my own diagnosis this past May, I dislike it even more. If something I want/need has a pink ribbon on it, the ribbon will not stop me from buying it. The pink ribbon also is not an incentive. I believe breast cancer has morphed into the shopping disease because it provides a sense of denial. It allows people to feel good and as if they are doing something proactive for a disease that affects a secondary sexual part of women, thus making it difficult to discuss without resorting to childlike terminology.

    1. Randee, I am sorry to hear about your recent diagnosis. I don’t blame you for disliking the pink ribbon even more now. I’m like you. If I want something that has a pink ribbon on it, I might buy it, but I definitely never buy something because it has a ribbon. I have learned to read the fine print. I always check to see how much money (if any) is going and to what cause (again, if any). Thanks for sharing your observations. Your points are good ones.

  3. When I worked retail in the 90s, donating at point of sale was presented as a great way to raise money while people already had their wallets open. From a business and non-profit POV it probably seemed like such a great idea, to make it easier for people to donate rather than having to “remember” to respond to say a mailing, to take special time out of the the day and go through the process of specifically donating to a cause. But while making it “easy” for everyone, everyone got lazy. Everyone assumes every item with a ribbon on it all this money is going to the “cause” and we are all benefiting–and that is not true. No one bothers to look beyond the purchase. So now we are left in a world in which everyone thinks all is going well, aren’t breast cancer patients so lucky, because, hey that ribbon is everywhere!

    1. CC, I think you’re exactly right. The pink ribbon has been so easy to use and ultimately misuse and now we are paying the price. Your last sentence says it all. Thank you for your thoughtful insights.

  4. I try to avoid the pink crap. If something I want has a pink ribbon or is pink, I might buy that. But I’m not going to buy something just because it has a pink ribbon. And I won’t do a thing that supports Komen, as they’re the ultimate pinkwashers.

    I’m going to guess that as breast cancer primarily affects women, organizations have appealed to their stereotypical enjoyment of shopping and merged the two.

    1. Danielle, I don’t know about you, but it seems like I’ve been seeing a little less of the pink stuff in stores. Then again, maybe I haven’t been shopping much this month. I agree with you about Komen. And yes, the stereotyping is to blame, but only partly. There’s plenty of blame to go around. Thanks for reading and sharing some thoughts.

  5. I stumbled on your post as I was researching info about loss of a parent, another or your posts. (BTW, I didn’t “lose” my father. He died.)

    At any rate, about shopping all the pink stuff that’s supposed to be for cancer: Yes, I refuse to purchase anything that’s “pink for cancer”. Why? Because very little if any of the proceeds go to the people who really need it—those with cancer. Nor do many ‘proceeds’ actually end up in the coffers of research.

    Yes, cancer has touched several in my family as well as some very very close friends. I wish all this crazy ‘shopping for cancer’ stuff would go away. I wish that we as a nation could explore more alternative medicines (instead of ‘traditional’ things such as chemo, radiation, surgery). I wish that the “working for a cure” could become “We’ve found a cure”…… Lots of wishes…..

    I’m much more apt to go to/donate to a private fundraiser for someone in our local community who needs help with bills incurred because of cancer (eg. paying medical bills, paying everyday bills such as electricity, car payments, etc.) than give to big marketing campaigns (eg. Komen) where we have little if any factual knowledge of how the funds are distributed and used.

    BTW, your post about the death of a parent in our own adulthood, really helped me. It’s been only a bit longer than a month since my father’s death. Thank you very much for that post.

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