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Why Is Breast Cancer the Shopping Disease Anyway?

Why is breast cancer the shopping disease anyway?

Every October I’m more baffled by the sheer amount of stuff being marketed and sold in the name of breast cancer awareness. If you can eat it, drink it, play with it, wear it, hammer with it, bake with it, travel in it or even put your trash in it; there’s probably a pick version of whatever it is available and waiting for your purchase at one of your friendly local retailers.

Just when you think you’ve seen everything, you see some new gizmo or product adorned in pink, and you realize no, there’s more where that came from. The crap just keeps on coming!

Somewhere along the line, breast cancer morphed into the shopping disease. 

How the heck did this happen anyway and are we not all perhaps a bit responsible?

After all, if breast cancer and the infamous pink ribbon were not such effective marketing tools, we wouldn’t be dealing with all this pink shopping fallout now would we?

Breast cancer sells. Pink ribbons sell.

Yes, breast cancer is the shopping disease, and I don’t like this.

Why not?

I don’t like the idea of corporations profiting from a deadly disease. I don’t like that people who buy all this stuff are often being misled as to how much is being spent on breast cancer research or for that matter, anything to do with breast cancer. I don’t like how this now annual gigantic feel-good shopping campaign seems to get extended well before/past October. I don’t like a deadly disease being prettied up and over-simplified.

And I don’t know about you, but I find all this shopping being done in the name of breast cancer awareness to be sexist in the first place. Women, breast cancer, shopping… why do they have to go together?

Why has no other disease been exploited like this?

Why aren’t we shopping “to support prostate (insert any other kind) cancer awareness”?

To grab a copy of my FREE ebook, Pink Is Just a Color, Ribbons Are Just Ribbons: A collection of writings about Pinktober shenanigans, Click Here.

I think the short answer is because it’s been easy to zero in on breasts breast cancer.

It’s been easy for corporations to slap on ribbons and sell stuff under the guise of breast cancer awareness. It’s been easy for the seriousness of this disease to be glossed over and wrapped up in pink. It’s been easy because people want to jump onto the emotional band wagon. After all, most of us know someone affected by breast cancer. Many of us have a grandmother, mother, daughter, sister, aunt, cousin, co-worker or friend affected by this disease. We all want to feel as if we’re doing something — anything.

And so, we sometimes do what’s easiest. We buy pink stuff or stuff adorned with pink ribbons thinking it’s a win-win for all.

Perhaps we have all been a bit vulnerable and fearful as well. Perhaps we have all been taken advantage of more than a bit.

Partly because of this vulnerability and fear, breast cancer became a marketing gold mine for corporations big and small.

We allowed this to happen.

If we allowed this to happen, we can also undo it too can we not?

Sure, breast cancer sells. Pink ribbons sell.

But what if they didn’t?

What if we didn’t buy all that stuff without first reading the fine print about where the donated dollars go (if anywhere)?

What if we demanded transparency from corporations and companies big and small, so we could actually tell what products are worthy to purchase (donation dollar-wise) and which ones are not?

What if we all put a little more thought into our pink purchases? 

What if we simply donated directly to causes we care about instead (like research)?

I’m not saying stop buying stuff with pink ribbons on it. This probably isn’t even possible anyway. I am saying, don’t buy something just because it has a pink ribbon on it.

Digging deeper and being a more informed shopper takes more time. Doing these things isn’t as easy.

But in the long run, doing them anyway just might make a difference and actually end up accomplishing more to prevent, treat and maybe some day cure this disease.

After all, easy isn’t always better.

As the late Barbara Brenner once said:

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

Amen to that.

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Has any of this crap cured breast cancer image via The Accidental Amazon and used with permission.

Why do you think breast cancer is the shopping disease and how do you feel about it?

Can this be undone?

Why is breast cancer the shopping disease anyway? #breastcancerawareness #breastcancer #pinkribbon #pinktober


Monday 30th of May 2016

The money is meant to further research. but smart people and otganisations use this to try and show that they care yet its profit that they are making. good article i sure will share with my group


Thursday 12th of May 2016

I understand the Think before you (fill in ribbon color) campaign. I also know seeing all that pink reminds me to get my yearly mammo. What is tied to Oct for me is that. My mom had BC and my sister is a recent survivor. Sure, govt should do more but they don’t. This empowers women in local ways to support a worthy cause and each other. Is it all a bit much? Yes. What are the alternatives? In an imperfect world, it raises awareness. And no, I do not buy all things pink. Frankly, turning American consumerism into fundraising makes as much sense as anything in a world where things that matter are chronically underfunded.


Thursday 12th of May 2016

Joseph, Thank you for sharing your perspectives. Won't be long til October is here again...


Thursday 25th of June 2015

Breast cancer awareness is a big business with more corporations and companies eagerly hopping onto the pink bandwagon. It is a bout making profit.


Thursday 21st of May 2015

i love the fact that they have customized breast cancer and branded it in a oink way to create more awareness. my problem is if the cash raised during this campaign help to combat cancer or help the survivors in any way.


Wednesday 20th of May 2015

The only relations from these products its only that pink is the official girly color, other than that IT IS CRAP. Well lets hope this attitude will change as time goes and lets educate others. Good job Nancy.


Wednesday 20th of May 2015

Festus, It's always important to be a well-informed consumer, but when the pink ribbon is involved, it becomes even more necessary.

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