Modern Lady v. “Pinktober”

Last week on Infomania, Erin Gibson took a critical look at the corporate-sponsored pink-ribbon madness of Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

Gibson, who is clearly all for awareness and research funding, is nonetheless skeptical of companies that slap a pink ribbon on their products for the month of October, and of people who buy those products and consider their part done. “These products are magic!” Gibson says, “They make consumers and corporations feel like they’re actually doing something good, even if they’re not sure what that is!”

Like Gibson, I see the need to raise awareness of breast cancer and money for research. I have a breast cancer survivor in my family, and I know that some of these corporations and some of their customers are genuinely committed to promoting prevention and funding a cure. But I agree with Gibson that Breast Cancer Awareness Month, or Pinktober, as she calls it, has been somewhat hijacked by companies more interested in boosting their corporate social responsibility bona fides than in raising awareness or finding a cure. It’s also a convenient way for consumers to feel like they’re doing something about breast cancer without having to expend real effort or change their behavior in any way. If there is any behavioral change, it’s that people might buy more stuff. But for this one month, it’s not really shopping. It’s not consumerism. It is charity. Because the stuff has a pink ribbon on it!

Bottom line: awareness and early detection save lives, and funding research is crucial. But buying eggs with pink ribbona stamped on them doesn’t make us better or more aware than if we bought unstamped eggs. And while some portion of the profits will go to a breast cancer charity, and that is great, we shouldn’t imagine for a moment that because we buy those eggs, our contribution to this important cause is complete until next October rolls around.

As Gibson says, you could go out and buy a whole bunch of pink-washed products this month, and be pleased that 5% of the profits are going to a breast cancer charity. Or you could send that money directly to a breast cancer charity.

New York, NY

Chloe Angyal is a journalist and scholar of popular culture from Sydney, Australia. She joined the Feministing team in 2009. Her writing about politics and popular culture has been published in The Atlantic, The Guardian, New York magazine, Reuters, The LA Times and many other outlets in the US, Australia, UK, and France. She makes regular appearances on radio and television in the US and Australia. She has an AB in Sociology from Princeton University and a PhD in Arts and Media from the University of New South Wales. Her academic work focuses on Hollywood romantic comedies; her doctoral thesis was about how the genre depicts gender, sex, and power, and grew out of a series she wrote for Feministing, the Feministing Rom Com Review. Chloe is a Senior Facilitator at The OpEd Project and a Senior Advisor to The Harry Potter Alliance. You can read more of her writing at

Chloe Angyal is a journalist and scholar of popular culture from Sydney, Australia.

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