Earlier this week, I rewarded my successful (so far, poo poo poo) battle against Breast Cancer with a trip to one of my favorite stores, Target. I had forgotten that it was October. For many people, October is associated not with the lovely colors of fall–those beautiful deep oranges, flaming reds, or shimmering gold–but with the color pink. Pink has been adopted by some breast cancer organizations as the color of the disease, and October has been designated ‘Breast Cancer Awareness Month.” While I do not object to raising awareness for Breast Cancer, I do object to the ‘pinking’ of the month.
Why? As a someone who had breast cancer, I find the idea of Pinktoberfest offensive. But why? And what does that have to do with Target? Here’s why: as I walked into the store, I was IMMEDIATELY inundated with reminders that it was Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Walking through the $1 zone, an area that is usually one of my favorites, I immediately felt a little vomit rising into my mouth that I had to swallow back. There, next to the stickers for good little children and freezer packs to keep one’s lunch cold, was an alter for Pinktoberfest! Pink (not the performer, she rocks!) was having a party in the $1 zone. Gift bags reading, “Fight Like a Girl,” were on sale for a buck, along with pink oven mitts, along with pink freezer packs, pink socks, and along with other forms of pink paraphenalia. I immediately left the $1 zone and focused on my appointed goal–treating myself to something I consider fun–shopping!
However, like a bad sushi roll, the idea of the $1 Zone kept bothering me. Here’s why: Pink flip flops did NOT cure my cancer. Pink ribbons on my shirt did NOT save me from the disease, and the “fight like a girl” gift bags in the $1 zone did not offer ANY protection for my hooters, nor did they save any of my sisters with stronger, more virulent forms of breast cancer. No, Pinktoberfest has done nothing for me personally but make me feel as if I’d been cheated in some way. Like if I had just bought the RIGHT pink hat with the RIGHT pink scarf with the RIGHT pink Coach bag, Breast Cancer would have avoided me completely!
I’m sure I’m not the only young woman who has had this response to Pinktoberfest. The bad news is that Breast Cancer happens in more months than just October. Any month that has a vowel in it can be the month a woman is hit by The Guys in the White Van. Breast Cancer doesn’t care if you wear pink flip flops, a pink hat or carry a bag that says, “fight like a girl.” Why else does it bother me? Because well-meaning folks donate hard-earned money buying these items because they think it will offer some type of protection against the disease. Others feel that the money they donate will do some good. Some important question to ask when purchasing that pink beach towel is “where is the money going? How much of the funds collected actually provide mammograms for low-income women, like some products claim to do? How are the monies collected getting to the population they claim to protect?
This Pinktober, I will NOT be going to Pinktoberfest. In fact, I will avoid wearing pink (but not listening to Pink). Another reason? I’m not a walking advertisement for any of the organizations claiming to raise money for mammograms for low income women. Does that mean I’m against raising funds to help women in need? Absolutely not! Heaven forbid! However, like only buying eggs from the farmer that cared for the chickens that produced them, I will keep my support local. I will continue being a vocal face of Breast Cancer and help women in need, but in a way in which I will know the agency I’m assisting. I will donate money to agencies I’ve researched, making sure the hard-earned money I share really IS helping the Milk Melons they claim to help, not funneling funds to big offices and salaries in agencies that do more to promote themselves than actually paying for mammograms. Above all, I will remind anyone with breasts to be vigilant in protecting their sweater puppets. I will, however, do it wearing purple, or blue, or any color other than pink. Because Pink should be listened to, not used as a cheap, fear-mongering attempt to sell useless paper gift bags with pithy sayings.