Monday, October 8, 2012

October is "Pink-Washing" Month

The following blog post may offend you, make you second guess yourself and actions, or maybe even make your stomach turn. And, honestly, I am okay with that. Before you start reading the rest of this post, make a commitment to read the whole post even if it makes you uneasy.

October seems to be the Blogisphere's favorite month. It is that welcomed time of year that marks the transition from the hot, endless days of summer to the cool, crisp evenings. Popsicles and BBQs are replaced with warm treats and tailgating. And probably less noticeable, tons of your favorite products, characters, food blog recipes, craft blog projects and even sports uniforms are being replaced with pinker versions of their normal counterparts.

That's right, October has been deemed Breast Cancer Awareness month or Pinktober. For me, I cannot go anywhere in town without seeing at least one campaign slogan with a supposed new way to "support the cause" or a product that claims to donate. I am willing to bet that the same could be said for you too! It is only a matter of time before I start seeing the annual awkwardly sexual Facebook status games that are meant to raise awareness. It started with women simply posting the color of their bra on social networking sites and the next year it was followed by the "Where I Like It?" game. Neither of which I would call great activism, but the Susan G. Komen Foundation seems to think these are genius ideas.

But I wonder, has Andrea Rader, spokesperson for Susan G. Komen, or the women and men posting these asinine articles ever stopped to think about what they are supporting and participating in? When you play these games have you ever wondered the color of the bra worn by the woman that just had a double mastectomy? Wanna take a guess at where the man that has found a lump on his previously "perfect" pecs likes his purse? Oh wait! Bras aren't needed by women that had no other options but to remove their breasts. And the 400 men that die every year from breast cancer could not care less about your purses and the color pink. When you post that your bra is Red or that you "like it on your passenger seat", do you take that moment to consider what you can do to actually produce results or provide your Facebook friends with any information on how to act on their newly acquired "awareness"?

"Cancer is not pretty. It's not pink. And it's definitely not flirty. It's a deadly, bloody, nasty disease, and it's killing me." 
- Susan Niebur

Photo taken from Susan's Blog Toddler Planet.
Earlier this year, the world lost an amazing scientist, educator, blogger and mother: Susan Niebur. After beating it four times, Inflammatory Breast Cancer and Metastatic Breast Cancer won and took Susan's life on February 6, 2012. For five years Susan lived with and battled with this rare and aggressive form of breast cancer that doesn't even present with the "typical" breast lump. She endured countless radiation treatments and even more chemotherapy. Susan fought this disease long and hard and chronicled her journey with an honesty even more rare!

As a blogger and an educator, Susan used her talents to spread knowledge about the disease she was fighting, not just raising aimless awareness. Within the first few hours after being directed to her reply on those Facebook games, I had learned there is more than one type of breast cancer, and that the type that Susan was fighting was fast growing, not resistant to normal breast cancer drugs, and almost never shows any palpable mass. In fact, I learned more about breast cancer in an afternoon of reading Toddler Planet than I had in any collegiate level course. As a woman that has had mammary cysts since childhood, the idea of monthly self examines not being enough scared me.

It was one of the best afternoons "wasted" browsing the internet. The knowledge that I gained sparked by Susan's willingness to openly share and earnestly speak up is invaluable. As such, I feel like it is my duty to honor Susan's work and thank her by sharing her story (this post is just a glimpse) and giving people something to think about. To help people ACT instead of simply being aware. I think we are all aware of the seriousness of all cancers especially breast cancer since BRCA 1 and 2 genes were discovered nearly 20 years ago in 1994! And National Breast Cancer Awareness Month was established in 1985!

Susan is one of hundreds of survivors that feel similarly about "Pink-Washing". If you want to help, think about doing something that will really make a difference. In this economy, no one can afford to just be throwing money away and sometimes these products and campaigns donate such a little percentage that they actually profit off of the pink and you might as well flush a handful of cash down the toilet. So before you decide to post "where you like it" or buy a $25 shirt, take the time to really act. Take the time to research where your money is going. Think about who and/or what those funds are supporting.

STOP thinking "Awareness" and START ACTING. Start with yourself. Touch your breasts. Examine yourselves! Schedule a mammogram, especially if you are over 40 or earlier if there is history of this disease in your family. Speak up. If you notice something weird about your body tell someone! Last but not least, donate! Whether it be your time or money, give something worthwhile to cancer research. Participate in studies in the area, online surveys, Relay for Life and monetary donations, but be smart about it! Don't know where to start check out links throughout this post or this article on Smart Ways to Support Breast Cancer Awareness the Right Way.

Thank you for taking the time to read this post. I apologize if this post has offended you. I apologize if it has made you want to unfollow me. However, I will not say I am sorry. But before you hit "unfollow" let this post sit with you and consider taking a different approach to Octobers in the future.

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