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Posts tagged ‘pink’

Pinkwash

June 27th, 2010

Lisa Dawson

I bet everybody’s done it: Made a purchase in part because some of the proceeds went to a particular cause. I’ll admit to some pink kitchen gadgets, running gear, two lovely champagne flutes, and one of my favorite watches. It’s certainly not hard to find brands who’ve affiliated themselves with the pink ribbon and, presumably, breast cancer causes.

The subject of pinkwashing, or the exploitation of consumers’ emotional ties to breast cancer to sell pink ribbon-themed products, has caught my attention a few times over the years. The most recent debates were triggered by the Kentucky Fried Chicken “Buckets for the Cure” program, which intended to raise millions of dollars for Susan G. Komen for the Cure through the sale of a pink bucket of chicken. I’m not a huge KFC fan, and didn’t pay much attention beyond thinking it was as a bit of an odd partnership. But then it initiated a couple of pretty passionate threads among my Facebook friends, and I found myself thinking about pinkwashing a bit more.

My take on pink ribbon marketing campaigns, this one in particular, is pretty simple:

  1. This company is choosing to make a not-insignificant donation to a highly regarded organization through the sale of their product.
  2. Their customers will be exposed to information on breast cancer.
  3. As consumers, we should make informed decisions on the products we choose to buy – the operative word being choose.

The agreement with KFC called for a $1M guaranteed donation to Komen. That equals $250K for breast cancer programs in 120 US affiliate communities, and $750K for national research and community programs. According to the company’s website near the end of the program, that amount had almost been quadrupled to $3.7M. That comes over $900K to the affiliates and $2.8M to research. That’s a lot of money.

Money aside, I think people overlook another aspect of the partnership. Information on breast cancer was available in 5,000 restaurants, in thousands of communities across the US. I live in a large metropolitan area, and I’m used to seeing pink ribbons and breast cancer messaging in department stores and shops year-round. We have one of the most effective Komen affiliates here, and are the home to one of the country’s foremost cancer research centers, the Hutch. It’s hard to be unaware of breast cancer in Seattle.

But the same can’t be said for Mount Vernon. Or Aberdeen. Komen is a large organization, but it only has 120 chapters in the entire country. It just doesn’t have the resources to distribute breast cancer literature in every community, in every state. I know how hard it is for the Puget Sound Affiliate to reach the women in its 16-county service area, even with with its dedicated staff and volunteers. They’ve got their work cut out for them in trying to reach such a large geographic region. So I think of the number of impressions the breast cancer awareness message got through that particular program, through 5,000 KFC locations. It’s a lot.

As a part of a large corporation (Yum! Brands, Inc.), KFC certainly has a responsiblity to their shareholders to be profitable. But they also have a stated goal to be a responsible corporate citizen. I really want to give them the benefit of the doubt and consider that the program wasn’t entirely self-serving. Maybe they really do want to help out a cause, even if they are purveyors of deep-fried fast food.

There are some who don’t agree. The breast cancer watchdog group Think Before You Pink devoted a page to the KFC/Komen debate and raised many good points, ones that I think apply to any purchasing decision consumers make. In a nutshell, you should know who you’re buying from, and know where your dollars are going.

Informed consumers know buying a pink bucket of chicken for $15 isn’t going to make as big a dent as donating $15 to a breast cancer organization. But if you’re a KFC customer who was inclined to buy a bucket of chicken during the program, maybe you thought about breast cancer when you made your purchase. And maybe, just maybe, some of the research grants funded by the pink bucket will get us a little closer to a cure for breast cancer.

Pink Loves Greenlake

May 17th, 2010

Lisa Dawson

Saturday morning was absolutely gorgeous – a perfect day for a walk around Greenlake. Some Komen volunteers came up with the great idea to do a little “Pink Loves Greenlake” Race for the Cure promotion by passing out brochures and breast cancer awareness items while walking the lake. I thought it was a great reason to get some much-needed exercise. Even better, my seven-year-old son decided to grab his scooter and come with me.

The gals from the Race committee brought hot pink t-shirts for us to wear and hand out, along with messenger bags to carry assorted breast cancer swag. My son has been at every Race since he was three months old, and wanted to be part of the crew. So he pulled one of the pink shirts over his baseball uniform, strapped his candy apple red helmet back on, pulled the messenger bag across his chest, and was ready to go!

He was so enthusiastic, and did such a great job at distributing information – talking to people as they walked by, asking them if they wanted a key chain or t-shirt for breast cancer awareness, then telling them the Race for the Cure is on June 6th at Memorial Stadium.  At one point he looked at me and said, “This is really fun!” I was having a blast with him, too.

We weren’t fundraising or taking registrations, we were just handing things out (funny how people assume you want something). My son quickly discovered using the word “free” when asking people if they want a key chain brings much better results. Over the course of an hour we gave out 100 embroidered pink ribbon stickers, 50 key chains, a dozen t-shirts, and countless brochures. We met two breast cancer survivors, several people who had already registered for the race, and some who promised they’d do so when they got home.

By the time we had to leave for his baseball game we were down to one t-shirt and a stack of brochures. He was determined to give away that last shirt before we left, and spotted two women walking toward us. He scooted up to them and asked if they’d like a free t-shirt for breast cancer awareness. One of the women asked me if I was a survivor. I told her I wasn’t, but my mom and grandmother were. She took the t-shirt and thanked him, then looked at me and said “I’m having a mastectomy on Monday. And now I have a pink shirt to wear.” We talked a bit more, then wished her the best of luck and watched as she and her companion continued their walk.

As we drove to his game, my son and I reflected on the number of people we connected with. He thought it was pretty special that we met some women who had had breast cancer like his Nonna, in particular the last woman who was about to have surgery. He asked a lot of questions about cancer treatment and research, and thought it was cool how Komen is trying to find a cure for breast cancer. He was happy that he got to do something to help. I was happy that I was able to share such a great experience with my son.

We’ll probably never meet her again, but I’m sending healing and strengthening thoughts to the woman who’s having her surgery today, from a little boy and his very proud mom.

My Favorite Color is Pink

May 13th, 2010

Lisa Dawson

My favorite color is pink – it has been since I was a little girl. This passion for pink has been documented over the years, including several school photos: my second grade shag haircut was complemented by a pink mix-and-match Garanimals outfit; fifth grade has me sporting a hot pink jumpsuit (very stylish for a ten-year-old in 1977).

One of my favorite things to do at that age was visit my grandparents’ house outside Seattle. My mother had two much-younger sisters, and it was always fun to explore the things they left behind when they moved out, looking for cool clothing or jewelry. I’ll never forget the time I pulled open a drawer and found a padded bra. This was not your typical bra: it was extremely padded, complete with a marble-like sphere in each cup, presumably to make it more natural looking. This discovery occurred around the time I was reading “Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret” by Judy Blume, so naturally I assumed it belonged to my 19-year-old aunt, K.

That memory faded until six years later, when I brought up my discovery during a conversation with my mother. It took her a moment to realize what I was talking about before she said “Lisa, that wasn’t K’s. That belonged to Grandma.” My grandmother had been diagnosed with breast cancer in 1962, and underwent a double radical mastectomy. I had found her prosthesis.

I was stunned, and then a little upset that this was the first I had heard about Grandma’s cancer. My mom told me that it was something they didn’t really talk about.

Information on breast cancer wasn’t widely available at that time (1983), but I began to pay attention when I came across anything related to the disease, especially if it mentioned family history. In 1995 I entered the second annual Komen Seattle Race for the Cure, a 5K run and walk that serves as both a fundraiser for breast cancer programs, and a way to honor those who’ve fought breast cancer. Participants wear signs on their back with the words “In memory of” or “In celebration of” their loved ones, and breast cancer survivors are given pink t-shirts and hats to wear during the event. I will never forget the wave of bittersweet emotion I felt as I witnessed the pink sea of a thousand survivors gathered together for the annual survivor photo.

I also became more diligent about doing self-exams, and in 1997 I found a lump. I had a scare in the past, so I wasn’t particularly concerned as I called my doctor to schedule a mammogram. The radiologist recommended an ultrasound, which resulted in a meeting with a breast surgeon. One week later I had surgery to remove two tumors. Thankfully, they were benign.

A couple of months later, an old friend who was involved with Komen asked if I’d like to join the committee that produced the Race for the Cure. Her timing couldn’t have been better! My involvement grew each year, and in 2000 I was asked to take on a larger role with the Foundation, joining the Board of Directors and chairing the Race.

That fall, one of my mother’s older sisters was diagnosed with breast cancer. The Race for the Cure the next summer was also a celebration of her successful treatment.

In November of 2002, my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer. At one of her early appointments, her oncologist said that our family is either experiencing some “freakish coincidence” or that we had a genetic tie to breast cancer. The reality of his comment hit me: My sisters and I were now in the highest risk group for breast cancer.

Mom’s radiation treatments wrapped up in February. I had to fight back tears as I watched her put on her pink survivor shirt at the 2003 Race that June.

My sisters, cousins and I are very aware of the likelihood one of us will be diagnosed with breast cancer at some point in our lives. In a way, we’re lucky: 80% of women who develop this terrible disease will have no family history. Breast cancer doesn’t discriminate by ethnicity, sexual orientation or social status – the top two risks are being female and growing older.

Pink is still my favorite color, but it carries much more meaning than it did when I found that padded bra thirty years ago. Now, it represents the cancer survival of my mom, aunt and grandmother, and far too many friends. It represents my commitment to Komen and to ensuring women have access to breast health information and care.

My pink tattoo represents my absolute belief that we can end breast cancer as a life threatening disease.

Introducing My Pink Ink

May 12th, 2010

Lisa Dawson

My Pink Ink is a place to share the impacts that breast cancer has had on the lives of so many, and to highlight some of the fantastic (and unique) things people are doing to fight this horrible disease.

The idea came to me last fall, when I was participating in the Seattle Breast Cancer 3-Day walk. Over the course of the three days, I noticed some beautiful pink ribbon tattoos. I happen to have one of my own, and wondered about the stories behind other people’s pink ink. I love social media, and immediately thought, “How cool would it be to create a place for people to share their tats?” I started taking pictures, created a Facebook group for Pink Ribbon Tattoos, and invited people to upload pictures of their pink ribbon tattoos. 

Some of the stories I’ll blog about come from that group, and some are from friends. I’d love to hear from you if you’re interested in sharing your story!