Rethinking pink


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An examination the sexualization of breast cancer awareness campaigns as well as how pink is plastered all over products to fool consumers. Also gives tips on how to be a savvy consumer ninja and not fall for the bullshit. Presented November 14th, 2011 for a Speech class. I had my lecture notes separate but have added them in to their applicable slides. I don't remember if I needed a works cited page or not (I'm sure I did) but it looks like I didn't save it. I did note where I pulled statistics and interviews in the lecture notes, though, so it shouldn't be too hard to find anything with a quick google.

Protected under the CC Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License ( Do not copy any of this presentation or reuse any of it as your own work. This includes schoolwork. Do the research yourselves, kids, there's lots I wasn't able to include due to time restrictions and it will blow your mind.

I also OWN the pictures of the products in slides 9-16 as I took them myself. If you would like to use them, please contact me. So long as they are attributed to me and this powerpoint, I have no problem with their usage, but PLEASE let me know before you utilize them. I have made the powerpoint non-downloadable but I would be happy to send the images to you. Thanks!

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  • October, as we all know, was breast cancer awareness month. Chances are, unless you didn’t step into a store all month, you were bombarded with an awful lot of pink. You probably saw at least one tv or magazine advertisement about a breast cancer related cause and, especially as college students, one like “save the tatas”, “I heart boobies” or “save second base”. Today, we are going to look at how the marketing of breast cancer awareness may create harmful messages and confusion instead of empowerment and education, and what this means for you.We will first unpack the images of some breast cancer awareness campaigns, then look at some pink ribbon products and how much they contribute to the cause, and lastly discuss why this matters and we can do as mindful consumers and donors. First, let’s look at some images and advertisements and analyze the messages they are sending to us as well as breast cancer patients.Focusing on the sexualization of breast cancer in these ads, so I’m going to warn that many are border NSFW.
  • This woman at a pool party wowing everyone with her chest, was clearly healthy and not a breast cancer patient. We see: Lots of time spent on chest shots, and little of actual substance (ie: BC is the leading cause of cancer death for women 20-49). We learned that this ball would raise money for the rethink organization, and took place Oct 2nd.We don’t see: Anyone actually effected by breast cancer, what rethink does as an organization, a call to action (except the implied “check out the booby ball!”).
  • Text over a young woman’s chest, coupled with not showing her face. Telling her to self-examine her breasts because all the guys in her class have looked at them. Nothing about how it relates to her personal health.
  • First one puts information about the even directly over boobs. Coupled again with not showing a face. Nothing much about the cause itself. On the replacement one, at least there is a face and the text isn’t over her body, so it’s an improvement, but it’s still using hand bras to grab your attention.
  • Oh, and it’s not even an original image.
  • According to a study published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology, 37% of women diagnosed with breast cancer in 2006 had a mastectomy (surgery to remove one or both breasts).According to the National Cancer Institute, less than 1% of all breast carcinomas occur in men. It is extremely rare. However, an estimated 2,140 new cases of breast cancer diagnosed in men this year, and an estimated 450 men died from breast cancer this year (also taken from National Cancer Institute).
  • How are these campaigns supposed to make the third of breast cancer patients who had to LOSE the tatas to save their lives feel? How are these campaigns supposed to make the men who are suffering from breast cancer feel?Overemphasizing the breasts over the human is dangerously close to dehumanizing cancer patients. Creative, humorous campaigns are a fantastic idea, but there is nothing new or creative about using sex to sell, especially when these campaigns show an ideal (healthy woman with breasts) that many patients can’t relate to because they’ve had a mastectomy.Granted, the majority of products sold for the breast cancer non-profits aren’t specifically geared towards our generation and don’t emphasize the breasts, but more neutral symbols related to the cause, such as pink ribbon and the color pink itself.
  • The Breast Cancer Action Project (which is one of the only breast cancer organizations, if not THE only breast cancer organization, with no corporate sponsorship) has created the Think Before You Pink campaign, which aims to empower consumers while navigating the plethora of pink in stores.This is a list of critical questions they (Think Before You Pink) recommend asking before buying a pink product (condensed version is on the cards handed out).
  • I work for a large office supply chain, and on one of my lunch breaks this last week I decided to do a very small research project armed with these guidelines. We are looking for: organization name, percentage or $ amounts towards the cause, duration of campaign, and max or min contribution amounts, and what the cause will be doing with the money.Slide 1: Day-timer printable agenda sheets: Says organization and proceeds.
  • Slide 2: Blue Sky desk calendar: Only acknowledges that the company supports (nothing about proceeds).
  • Slide 3: Wite out has organization, duration of campaign, nothing about proceeds from the product itself, just what the company will be donating.
  • Slide 4 + 5: Says cause, duration of campaign, AND each product says the $ amount that goes towards to campaign.
  • Slide 4 + 5: Says cause, duration of campaign, AND each product says the $ amount that goes towards to campaign.
  • Slide 6: Pen only gives organization name (“a portion” can mean anything) and the thermos bottles only give percentage, but no organization name.
  • Slide 7: Since I work at said store, I know that unlike the rest of these products, this has the SAME barcode as the normal packaging for this paper. There is really no way for the company to know what packaging was purchased. Only the pink packaging says that 20% of manufacturer’s profit from the product will “fund research and awareness initiatives” (no organization name given). Since there isn’t a duration time given on the packing either, it’s very confusing.
  • Slide 8: These pens sponsor NOTHING AT ALL.
  • Now, this is all very interesting, but why should we care? We have a right to know what our money is going to, especially when it’s touted as helping breast cancer causes. It’s a slap in the face to us when companies play on emotions to sell us products, like the last pens, that do nothing to actually help.
  • These sexualized campaigns are also an insult to us. Amanda Blakely, one of the co-founders of the booby ball and also one of the creators of the first ad we watched, was interviewed by newsweek once the video went viral. In response to criticism to her advertisement, she told newsweek, “It’s inspiring dialogue and awareness, and I don’t think there’s anything demeaning about that. Yes, it’s a racy ad, but that’s what we had to do to get [young people] to pay attention.”
  • Those “Young people”? That is us. I am a young person, and I take offense to being told that my attention to important issues, like breast cancer, has to be caught by edgy advertising. She came out and said what these campaigns are insinuating: that our generation is incapable of paying attention or caring without something like sex, that we can’t talk about serious life and death matters like cancer, and so it has to be cutesy’d up with hearts and pet names for breasts for it to become an approachable issue.I don’t want that to be the case, do you?
  • We have examined at the advertisements of a few breast cancer awareness campaigns and analyzed pink ribbon products. We discussed why this matters. Since, we, as consumers, wield power with our pocketbooks, we MUST to be critical thinkers.I encourage you to prioritize, even though advertisers think that you can’t or won’t. Care because of the big-picture issue, which would be saving lives, no matter what it is made out to be to get your attention.  Look at advertisements for charities through critical eyes.  Lastly, I challenge you to get in the habit of asking the questions that are on these cards before purchasing ANYTHING that claims to help a charity organization. They address pink products specifically but the same basic rules apply—complete transparency is best. The other side lists two sites that objectively rate organizations so you can research what you are supporting while on the go. Then, by the time breast cancer awareness month rolls around next year and the town is painted pink, you’ll be a savvy consumer ninja, taking on the world one impactful purchase at a time.(cards featured the following questions:1. Where is the money going?What organization will get the money? The charity name should be disclosed.2. How much money actually goes toward breast cancer programs and services? Look for amount of a sale going to the charity, duration of marketing campaigns and, if applicable, the maximum or minimum contribution amount. 3. What types of programs are being supported? Programs supporting “breast cancer awareness” ignore the fact that we are already aware that cancer is a problem and that we need to act in order to end the epidemic.They also had QC codes that linked to and BBB’s to verify legitimacy of non-profit organizations)
  • Rethinking pink

    1. 1. Rethinking pinkUsing the example of breast cancer campaigns to examine why charity causes shouldn’t be exempt from critical thinking
    2. 2.  8M4-uVMVideo for a Canadian campaign for2009’s “booby ball”
    3. 3. Canadian Cancer Society poster from 2002. ”Learn how to self-examineyour breasts.”
    4. 4. Defy Clothing’s flyer(above) was critiqued forsexualizing breast canceron (popular online feminist magazine). They then edited their blog post tofeature the image on the right, which isn’t much better…
    5. 5. …and it isn’t even original.September 1993 issue of Rolling Stone magazine
    6. 6.  37% of women diagnosed with breast cancer in 2006 had a mastectomy (surgery to remove one or both breasts). Less than 1% of all breast carcinomas occur in men. Estimated 2,140 new cases of breast cancer were diagnosed in men this year, and an estimated 450 men died from breast cancer this year.
    7. 7. How are these campaignssupposed to make them feel?
    8. 8. 1. How much money from your purchase actually goes toward breast cancer? Is the amount clearly stated on the package?2. What is the maximum amount that will be donated?3. How are the funds being raised?4. To what breast cancer organization does the money go, and what types of programs does it support?Critical questions to ask beforebuying pink
    9. 9. It’s not only insulting to patients, it’sinsulting to US  Using breast cancer awareness to selfishly gain access to your cash and trust while doing minimal to nothing to help the cause is disrespectful to you as a consumer.
    10. 10.  “It’s inspiring dialogue and awareness, and I don’t think there’s anything demeaning about that. Yes, it’s a racy ad, but that’s what we had to do to get [young people] to pay attention.”-Booby Ball Founder on the “Savethe Boobs” ad.
    11. 11. Again, we should be insulted. By boiling a cause down to just “boobs” to make consumers pay attention and want to talk about it insinuates that you are incapable of paying attention or caring without the sex.
    12. 12. What we need to do:• Care because there are lives at stake.• Have a critical mind when it comes toALL advertising—just because it’s charitydoesn’t mean that the ends justify themeans.• Make your purchases impactful by takingto the time to read packaging and see whatexactly you will be contributing to (and ifyou’re contributing at all!)• BE A SMART CONSUMER!