Breast cancer. We all know at least one person affected by it, often many more. And while breast cancer rates are increasing and  billions of dollars have been raised by the Susan G Komen Foundation and other mega- and mini-charities, the treatment hasn’t changed much over the decades; it’s still as Dr. Susan Love says,

slash, burn and poison

Pink Ribbons, Inc., in theaters now, explores the fluffy, pink, feel-good phenomenon of breast cancer marketing and culture,  how it is being exported as part of globalization, and used as political propaganda — the pinkwashing — not only of companies, but also the United States. Our guests are producer Ravida Din; health care advocate Barbara Brenner, the former executive director of Breast Cancer Action; and Dr. Samantha King, author of the book Pink Ribbons, Inc., Breast Cancer and Politics of Philanthropy.

Breast cancer is the poster child for cause marketing, with pink products ranging from guns and gasoline, cars and shoes, to recombinant bovine growth hormone (rBGH) laced dairy goods and Kentucky Fried Chicken – not to mention cosmetics which are made with hormone disrupting phthalates that actually contribute to breast and other cancers.

Along with following the money, Pink Ribbons, Inc. explores the culture of breast cancer which defines women as “warriors” and “survivors,” making it seem that women who die from breast cancer just didn’t try hard enough.  Women with stage-four breast cancer are marginalized by support groups which are designed for the recently diagnosed.

Pinkwashing pays off for the corporations who pin themselves with the pink ribbon –the National Football League, faced with a series of crises pinkwashed their players. And to gain licenses for their products abroad, a number of companies used their breast cancer donations and campaigns as a way to show how they ‘give back’ to the community. Cynically, as America’s image in the Middle East was declining, breast cancer warriors, including Laura Bush, brought these countries breast cancer awareness campaigns. Oh and along with exporting the pink ribbon, the United States exported older, out-dated mammogram machines which emit high levels of radiation.

Despite the billions raised, only a small percentage goes towards prevention, and the majority of medical models are based on middle class white women, while environmental causes are virtually ignored within the BrCa industry.

Pink Ribbons, Inc. is a must see documentary that exposes how our best intentions are corrupted, our emotions manipulated and a

tyranny of cheerfulness

imposed through pink teddy bears and the normalization of breast cancer. It also inspires us to learn where the money from pink ribbon marketing goes and to direct our funds towards groups that meet our goals, be they towards prevention, discovering the causes, helping to offset the costs for those who cannot afford treatment, or making environmental changes, rather than donating blindly.