Shopping for a Cure? Why We Should “Re-Think Pink.” A guest post from the Women’s Center at UMBC Blog, by Madison Miller.

This was originally posted on the Women’s Center at UMBC Blog. This October look for WILL’s “Think Before You Pink” campaign and our co-sponsored film series with the Women’s Center at UMBC of Pink Ribbons, Inc.

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After opening up my inbox to an email from a restaurant promoting the sale of bagels in the shape of breast cancer ribbons, I quickly realized that it’s that time of the year again. If you step foot into any grocery store or shopping mall over the next few weeks, you’ll most likely notice an abundance of pink ribbons plastered on a variety of commercial products that boast companies’ support of Breast Cancer Awareness Month. The month of October has become a commercial holiday for these corporations who claim that the sale of their “pinkwashed” products will help find a cure.

But are they doing more harm than good?

It seems that this month of awareness has turned breast cancer into a passive, pink celebration of sisterhood and strength, shying away from the undeniable truth that it’s a terrible and deadly epidemic that still lacks a cure after thirty years of “awareness.” Not to mention the fact that any company can slap a pink ribbon on their products, despite the fact that their proceeds may not even directly benefit the search for a cure. In fact some companies claim to donate a proportion of their proceeds from each and every product sold to research, yet in reality, they fail to inform consumers that they simply discontinue their donations once their maximum cap has been met.

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Even if these companies consistently donate to research, their contributions are small and divided amongst many organizations. Are we really making a difference by supporting their products? Meanwhile, other companies use a pink ribbon to promote healthy lifestyle choices even though the very products supporting cancer ribbons are shown to contain carcinogens that may raise the risk of developing cancer. You don’t have look long at Susan G. Komen’s previous partnerships with KFC and Mike’s Hard Lemonade to question their dedication to actually finding a cure. It’s almost as if some companies are taking advantage the breast cancer epidemic to increase their profit and improve their corporate image.

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However, I don’t believe that all hope is lost for Breast Cancer Awareness month. The solution? Instead of placing your trust in commercial pink ribbon programs, donate directly to local organizations that fund innovative research and prevention methods. It is time for us to become informed consumers and move our focus away from awareness and instead use our resources to fuel effective methods of breast cancer research.

Here are some donation options:

  • Donate to your local Planned Parenthood, an organization that provides breast cancer screenings, exams, and mammograms.
  • The John Fetting Fund for Breast Cancer Prevention at John’s Hopkins.
  • The Marlene and Stewart Greenebaum Cancer Center, ranked #11 out of 900 cancer centers in the nation by U.S. News & World Report’s 2012 Best Hospitals Survey.
  • Breast Cancer Action: Founded in 1990 by a group of breast cancer survivors who approach the disease as both a social justice issue and a public health concern. They pressure local governments to put more funding towards research and challenge consumers to ask critical questions about the validity of commercial pink ribbon promotions. For more information, visit: http://thinkbeforeyoupink.org/.
  • Push government officials to fund breast cancer research and new treatment options by supporting the National Breast Cancer Coalition (NBCC)

Interested in learning more about this issue? Join WILL and the Women’s Center October 7-9th to catch a viewing of the documentary Pink Ribbons Inc. Viewing times can be found on the Women’s Center myUMBC group and the WILL facebook event.

What Is WILL? Thoughts from WILL Co-Leaders

Women Involved In Learning and Leadership is constantly being defined and redefined by our members. Instead of offering a generic description of WILL, here are some personal thoughts from WILL co-leaders on the purpose and impact of the organization.

Susie:  For me, WILL is about making the change we want to see. It’s feminist activism. We spend so much time learning about the problems with the world. And WILL is an opportunity to start to try and make some changes. This semester, I’m organizing a panel discussion about the Prison Industrial Complex because I think people should learn about it. Anyone who joins has the opportunity to organize what they want to see happen. We are constantly working to seek change and to educate our peers. What could be any cooler than that?

Cassandra:  Being a part of WILL is as much about the experience as it is about the result. I have had the amazing opportunity to be a member, project manager and co-leader of this organization, and it has changed the way I think about the world and how I think about myself as a leader. I learned both through the process of event and campaign planning, but more important, I learned from my fellow WILL members whose insight and perspective on the world has been invaluable to me. Even now, 3 years later, I feel that WILL is continuing to teach me things, and I am all too happy to learn.

Ashley:  I went to my first WILL meeting because a professor of mine encouraged me to. I didn’t think I’d like it. I didn’t think I’d have time to do any of the projects I’d heard they were doing. At my very first meeting, I met a group of people who really cared about what this campus, their community and their world was like and how they could affect change. I was sold by their passion and commitment to join. In the semester I got to know other WILL members, I became more and more involved in the projects on campus and more excited about my own ideas for change. I enjoyed this activism so much that this year I’m a co-leader, helping to create and lead the projects we’re working on. I feel like I’ve found a voice and I can actually be involved in a community that makes a difference. What I love most about WILL is that it’s entirely member run. We get out of it what we put into it. With the collaboration of all these creative minds and the commitment of feminist hearts, together we discuss the changes we want to see, make plans for that change, and then turn the plan into action. It’s an incredibly powerful and gratifying way to give to my community and campus.

Narges: For me being part of WILL is about learning, it’s about opportunity ,growth. It is about being an effective and educated leader . Since I have joined WILL I have learned so much about myself and issues that are happening around me . WILL gives everyone that is part of it the opportunity of making change and being part of a learning experience. WILL is a safe place for its members to practice activism and feminist activism; to practice and be an effective and successful leader. WILL members are always ready to teach and learn from each other, and that is one of the reasons why WILL is an amazing and effective organization

Kelly:  WILL is about three things to me, feminism, activism, and friends. This is my third semester as a co-leader of WILL and as each semester goes by, I’m more impressed and inspired by the drive and passion of my fellow co-leaders and members.  We are a unique group, lacking a traditional hierarchical structure and instead forming a coalition of co-leaders and project managers which grants us the autonomy to be a truly member driven group. Through planning events for WILL, I’ve discovered what I like doing best and strengthened my belief that we can not only live in a better world, but be a part of the action to change it.  I have made friends that I expect to keep for the rest of my life and found people who understand my soul.  To me, WILL is the heart of my experience at UMBC.