How to Avoid ‘Pinkwashing’ this Pinktober


As October begins, the start of fall is officially upon us. Soon Halloween decorations will be up around town, the leaves will fall, and the temperatures will dip. However, for my family and millions of others around the country, the month of October has taken a new meaning.

Founded in 1985 by the American Cancer Society, Breast Cancer Awareness Month, or BCAM for short, takes place annually in October. While the month is always known for the colors of fall, the month has also become synonymous with the color pink, with many affectionately (or in other cases, disdainfully) nicknaming BCAM as Pinktober.

During October, the push for the cure becomes a topic of regular discussion; there’s fundraising and awareness around every corner. However, for some survivors and their families, the month of October becomes a nagging reminder of the horrors of breast cancer.

Each year, as September ends and we turn the page on our calendars, the U.S. goes pink. It seems that, overnight, grocery stores replace all of their eggs to sell ones with pink cancer ribbons printed on them. Item after item in the aisles comes with pink ribbons; gum, yogurt, soup, water bottles, and seemingly every item under the sun. This ‘pinkwashing’ of items has become a topic of discussion and division for those affected by breast cancer.

 Pinkwashing is when a company or organization claims to care about breast cancer by promoting a pink product and raising money for cancer charities. This pinkwashing creates a divisive issue for those who have been affected by breast cancer, leading some to loathe Pinktober, while others enjoy the awareness and comradery that comes with it.

In my family, October is a month we want to hibernate for. My mom and I practically run through the grocery store to get out and avoid the pink, which is a nagging reminder of the battle my mom fought eight years ago. Every other month of the year, we can almost forget her cancer battle in our everyday lives; but when October rolls around, it’s blatantly in our faces everywhere we look. I walk into the grocery store for milk and walk out having been reminded of a horrible disease, and reminded of my mom’s long, painful battle. 

It’s important to realize that the same companies who are ‘pinkwashing’ their products may not be actively pushing for the cure. There are many companies out there who advertise donating a higher amount to breast cancer research than they actually donate. Other companies may be advertising the pink ribbon while their products contain harmful ingredients and potential carcinogens, as noted by Breast Cancer Action.

Now, I’m not saying by any means that charity is horrible; I’m saying the opposite. Before you donate this month, make sure you know what your money is going towards; is it for research? Programs for survivors? Medical costs? Understanding where your money is going is a great first step towards avoiding pinkwashing during October.

There are many other ways you can make a lasting impression for breast cancer research that don’t have to involve ‘pinkwashing’. Buying eggs with the pink ribbon stamp on them may raise awareness, but there is so much more to be done every month of the year. Research, fundraising, and awareness for all types of cancer should not be limited to just one month.

Breast cancer does not stop on November 1st – and neither should you.