Breast cancer awareness isn’t enough

by Emily Alvarenga

October just ended, and along with the arrival of fall and tons of pumpkins, pink ribbons suddenly became ultra-conspicuous last month. That’s right, pink ribbons. October is National Breast Cancer Awareness month, which is why people get all decked out in pink, buying T-shirts, water bottles or anything else that has a pink ribbon stamped on it.

But what some don’t realize is that a lot of those T-shirts or bottles don’t help fund breast cancer research. Few companies that slap the pink ribbon on their merchandise donate a significant amount of their profits to the cause. There’s even a name for this growing problem: pinkwashing.

Pinkwashing has been a problem for years. Ever since National Breast Cancer Awareness Month began back in 1985, an increasing number of companies have jumped on the bandwagon to promote awareness while making a sneaky profit. Nowadays the problem is changing. Instead of consumers being blindsided and not realizing they aren’t really helping the cause by buying pink ribbon merchandise from the companies, they are very aware.

It has become quite apparent that most pink ribbon products don’t really go toward the cause, and many consumers were outraged when they found out about this, yet they continue to buy the products while disregarding the more challenging yet more substantial ways they could be helping.

“It’s called Breast Cancer Awareness month, not help people with breast cancer month for a reason,” a San Diego State student who wished to remain anonymous said.

She was carrying a water bottle adorned with a pink ribbon, but her words illustrated my point exactly. The problem used to be that everyone was unaware of  pinkwashing, but now they’ve decided that awareness is somehow enough, and they think their job is done.

The current problem is that few people seem willing to spend their time and effort to help a cause such as raising money for breast cancer research. The majority of passive activists seem to think that spreading awareness is enough, and they count on someone else actually doing the necessary work to help cure cancer patients. This problem, if it continues at the rate that it’s going, is going to be an even bigger problem than pinkwashing is. Breast cancer is already a type of cancer most people are aware of, but many are failing to see the negative consequences caused by their relative indifference.

Hospitality and tourism management freshman Shannon Mitten walked in the San Diego Making Strides event on Oct. 20 in Balboa Park.

“The race only took a couple hours and I walked the entire thing,” Mitten said while wearing a pink breast cancer bracelet.

That’s the kind of thinking we need. Go with a group of friends, sign up and walk. How hard can it be to give up a few hours of your day for a race that’s actually successful in helping to raise money for an important cause?  Please, don’t think that spreading awareness is enough; go out there and take action. You’re young. You’re in college, so why not use these years to make a difference in someone else’s life?

Students can’t be naive enough to think that buying a pink pair of socks or a bracelet is enough. We need to realize that we are obligated to give what we can and what we can do to help isn’t that difficult.

So as we reflect on October, give this some thought. Maybe next year you can sign up for the walk or find another way to help give those with breast cancer a fighting chance.

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