There is a mild but increasing concern against celebrating Pink October – marked as the breast cancer awareness month since 1999 -, as more and more women find it not only contradicting but also harmful and for some, even, painful.
Pink ribbons have been around for over 30 decades now and while awareness around the illness is confirmed to have increased dramatically so did the number of patients who are diagnosed with breast cancer each year. That is why numerous new and old grassroots projects are requesting for more actions over a simple illness-awareness movement that often leads to extra profit generation for businesses.
Many argues that the pink ribbon movement is simply not what is needed for women, and ‘Pinkwashing’ became a frequently used term that reaffirms the concerns around the ‘awareness’ month. This is because many of the corporations that stick a pink ribbon sign on their products are sold with ‘buying this will help breast cancer patients’ are actually the ones who are responsible for its causes. Think Before You Pink, the project that started in 2002 is expressing growing concerns about the pink ribbon products and asks for more transparency and accountability from the companies who take part in the breast awareness campaign.
But, as many breasts health advocates argue, the deeper problem lies in the fact that women are more aware of the illness itself, yet, when asked, they can’t rank their possible risk-level properly. They might wear the ribbon throughout October and feel that they can check breast cancer out from their to-do list while they would skip visiting their gynaecologists. Thus, the biggest criticism towards the breast cancer month is that buying a ribbon, or donating a little money via commercial products will not help to fight the illness if women would skip going to yearly check-ups, remain resistant to change their lifestyles, and don’t get access to scientifically backed data on prevention.
And at last, women, who have undergone or currently undergoing treatment find October the most stressful month of the year. Their anxiety grows as the month approaches and hearing the slogans like “save second base” is not only reminding them of their illness but also distressing for those who may no longer have breasts. They feel that breast cancer is not a snapshot of their lives, and their illness should not be commercialized. Fighting breast cancer is a journey and the conversation around breast cancer awareness needs to shift and instead of selling ribbons, women need to receive genuine information on the prevention, the illness itself, and its possible cures.