Tuesday, October 07, 2008

In case you live in a hole...

...I'm here to inform you that October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

Which means that it's also a good time to point out some of the...ummm...problems with all this "awareness." Awareness itself is not a problem, of course. It's the hyperconsumerism that seems to accompany this awareness that has become a problem. It's the consumerism disguised as activism disguised as progress.

And what does this have to do with sport? Well there is a sport angle. So many teams and events unproblematically sponsor breast cancer "activism" through a variety of means. Teams wear pink jerseys or sneakers or laces. Proceeds of various items or tickets go to "research" (on what exactly, a cure, drugs, other treatment is never revealed). Then there are the events that survivors and supporters participate in: runs, walks, triathlons, etc. The events sponsored by companies like Avon (which refuses to reveal the potential cancer-causing effects of its own products and their production) spend an inordinate amount of money on advertising and prizes, swag, and generally staging the event. We should question whether it might just be better to donate that lump sum directly to the cause.

Samantha King, a sport studies scholar, wrote a book that came out a couple of years ago that analyzes a lot of these events as well as some of the discourse around breast cancer activism. I probably have mentioned this before but in honor of all the awareness going on this month, I re-recommend, Pink Ribbons, Inc.

I am all for awareness. I am all for programs that involve getting more women to self-examine and get mammograms. And it's as good a month as any to get one (hint hint, BB). But please don't go out and buy the pink oven mitts and matching tea towels or the pink toaster oven. Or even the pink lemonade that they are selling on Northwest flights this month for $2--seriously. If you want to help the cause donate directly. Check out the organizations, what the money goes to, and just write a check.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for this. I lost my mother to breast cancer, so it's an important cause to me, but the lack of transparency about much of this fundraising bothers me. Plus, why must it be PINK! Sigh.

Diane said...

"Breast cancer awareness" is now an industry unto itself because you can always get Americans to buy the poster. Or the tote bag. Or the cell phone.

In addition to not always being clear about where the money is going, many of the beneficiaries of these profits continue to rely on painful and cruel animal testing; I will not give a cent to them. There are cancer organizations that have abandoned this practice and should be supported by people who aren't into torture and confinement.

ken said...

Sorry about your mother SoC. I have a big problem with the pink as well.
So it appears you are in my neck of the woods. If you send me an email, I would love to get together some time.

Rebecca said...

Late to the party, but the rack of pink kitchen crap at K-Mart came to mind as soon as I saw this entry. The commercialism makes me sick. For that matter, so does the pink. I understand that it's the chosen color for this particular movement, but it's so sickening in its assumptions and stereotypes.