Judging by the ribbons and official decrees, October has a lot of wardrobe changes for one month. It’s Domestic Violence Awareness Month. It’s the end of Hispanic Heritage Month. What’s that? Who would know with all the pink-washing going on? You’d think Breast Cancer Awareness Month was it’s own national holiday, what with all the products, clothes, and credit cards.
The whole world has gone pink! But why?
Don’t get me wrong, cancer sucks. I hate cancer. I have lost loved ones to the disease in various forms. And I have loved ones who are breast cancer survivors. I get that we want to stop it. Fuck cancer! As far as that goes, I’m on board.
But what I don’t get is pink vacuums, pink toilet paper (are we wiping our asses for awareness?), pink juice, pink household cleaner, pink… Need I go on? Not only are the bevy of “charitable” products awash with pink, they run a bit sexist, too. Whole families are devastated by cancer. Where’s the pink power drill? Pink coveralls? Pink lawnmower? No? Major sports franchises, like the NFL and the National Finals Rodeo, have embraced pink tie-ins. But let’s face it, pink ribbons are still a girl thing. (Because only women clean the house, eat cookies and wipe their asses.)
But calling all this pink washing sexist is like saying Glenn Beck is crazy. We already know that. We oblige it or grit our teeth through October because “it’s for a good cause.” I question how much money gets to charity — and more importantly helping breast cancer patients and researchers. The more insidious part of the pink washing game is that it blots out other very important causes and messages. It is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. But DV isn’t sexy and most of all, it isn’t marketable. How much of this is part of the blame-the-victim nature of our society? We blame DV survivors for being in that situation. And, worst of all, our society sits complacent on that issue because we don’t want to face and change root causes of abusive behavior. So, I guess the purple ribbons for DV can suck it.
And so can the people who have other cancers (breast cancer does not have the highest rates of all cancers), heart disease (which kills more women), HIV/AIDS…and so on. Why? Because not only are those causes less sexy, they also carry more stigma. Let’s face it, there’s a smugness surrounding breast cancer. It’s the socially acceptable cancer. It’s an innocent accident, unlike, say, lung cancer or even heart disease (and especially AIDS). No. Those other diseases are the fault of some bad habit, behavior or action. Those are your fault, like domestic violence. You should have known better.
I’m not saying we should burn all the pink ribbons or stop supporting breast cancer research. It’s a worthy cause. But at the same time, we need to stop shunning other diseases that merit research and education. And we should never get so caught up in pink goodie bags that we forget about families living with violence. After all, that may be the worst disease of all.