the pinkwashing of parliament: we need less pink and more green

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month and our government wants us to remember that by turning on pink lights on Parliament Hill, through the Estée Lauder Companies' Breast Cancer Awareness Global Illuminations Initiative.

So please buy cosmetic products that are laden with toxins, sold in packaging made of future landfill, and perpetuate the harmful myth that the signs of aging are shameful and must be concealed. Because if you do, a corporation that profits from this deception will donate a tiny portion of their profits to cancer research! Hurrah! What more could we want to fight cancer?

Pinkwashing has become positively ubiquitous, and we're all supposed to cheer that more companies are showing "corporate responsibility". If you criticize this massive corporate shell game, even progressive people will defend it, because it's better that they donate than not, right?

Just don't peek behind the pink curtain. Are these corporations actually responsible? Does the manufacture of their products harm the environment? (Hint: are they produced in countries where there are environmental standards, and are those standards enforced?) Are their employees well compensated and have job security? (Hint: why is it so much cheaper to manufacture in Asia?) Do the companies practice unnecessary testing on animals? Do the products themselves contain carcinogens?

Chances are you don't know the answers to these questions. Unless we do our own research, we know nothing of most companies' supposed responsibility. But they're sticking pink ribbons on their packaging. What more do you need?

Hey, I got an idea. If you want to donate to cancer research, don't buy a tube full of unpronounceable chemicals. If you want to donate to cancer research, donate to cancer research.

Mainstream media is awash with exhortations to reduce our risk of cancer - always full of qualifiers like "somewhat reduce," "possibly prevent" and "some cancers" - but rarely asks why cancer has become so incredibly common. Getting more exercise, wearing sunscreen and not smoking are healthy choices, but the focus remains on individual attempts to avoid disease - rather than collective attempts to reduce the skyrocketing cancer rates overall. It's like we're insisting on wearing seat belts while allowing cars to be sold without brakes.

In this sense, pinkwashing becomes just another advertising sleight-of-hand to divert attention from the questions we should be asking. Dr. J at "your heart's on the left" writes:
When it comes to prevention, the dominant medical model is highly selective in what carcinogens it chooses to blame. The continual rise in lung cancer is blamed solely on the dissemination of [tobacco], but cigarettes are not the only chemical to enter existence over the last century. According to the Canadian Auto Workers Prevent Cancer Campaign:

"The International Agency for the Research of Cancer has identified 24 substances that cause lung cancer in humans. Twenty-three were determined by the excess mortality of workers who were exposed to these substances. The 24th, of course, is tobacco. Why do we hear so much about the dangers of tobacco but so little about the other 23 lung carcinogens? The reason is that tobacco is claimed to be a 'lifestyle' choice, so industry and the medical profession can blame the victims. The other 23 known causes of lung cancer are related to industry. They can be prevented and removed from our workplaces and our environment."

Dr. J's post calls out the gargantuan hypocrisy of a government blathering about cancer "communication" while stonewalling all criticism of the carcinogenic stew that is the tar sands. For more from this perspective, please read "Cancer awareness: stop the tar sands, good green jobs for all".

I wrote about my loathing of the deceptive link between advertising and charitable donations in a popular wmtc post called "you can't find inner peace in a bottle (of iced tea)" (see second half of post).

For more on pinkwashing, see Think Before You Pink:
Think Before You Pink, a project of Breast Cancer Action, launched in 2002 in response to the growing concern about the overwhelming number of pink ribbon products and promotions on the market. The campaign calls for more transparency and accountability by companies that take part in breast cancer fundraising, and encourages consumers to ask critical questions about pink ribbon promotions.

Don't just consume. Ask.

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