A heart film to watch before “Pinktober” arrives

by Carolyn Thomas  @HeartSisters

We’re approaching the Pink season, my heart sisters. It’s that time of year when breast cancer awareness campaigns and their accompanying corporate marketing shills rev into high gear. Last Pinktober, we saw pink buckets of Kentucky Fried Chicken, pink-handled Tasers, and (yes, seriously) pink Smith & Wesson handguns, each somehow helping us to be more aware of breast cancer.

What could possibly top what breast cancer survivor and author Barbara Ehrenreich calls this “cult of pink kitsch” again this year?

From my perspective as a 30+ year veteran in the public relations field, I have to say that my friends working in breast cancer fundraising have done a fabulous job in raising awareness of their cause. So fabulous, in fact, that they have erroneously convinced women that breast cancer is our biggest health threat.

It is not, of course.  This year, heart disease will kill six times more women than breast cancer will.  In fact, heart disease kills more women each year than all forms of cancer combined.  Continue reading “A heart film to watch before “Pinktober” arrives”

What women with heart disease can learn from “pinkwashing”

by Carolyn Thomas  @HeartSisters

In this month of all months, in Pinktober, in the holy month of All Things Pink out there, author and cancer patient Mary Elizabeth Williams dared to post a brave if not downright shocking perspective in Salon called The Smug Morality of Breast Cancer Month.

She included this jibe at a pink ribbon campaign that she describes as an increasingly pervasive branding opportunity”:

“Perhaps it’s time to consider what this glut of pink says about our attitudes about the meritocracy of disease, and the ways in which we dispense compassion.

“This year lung cancer will kill triple the number of people that breast cancer does. Ovarian, cervical and prostate cancer will kill about 20,000 more individuals than breast cancer. And alcoholism, addiction and depression will this year continue to kill not just via the overt channels of overdose and suicide, but in their brutal toll on overall health.”

And let’s not forget to add to Mary Elizabeth’s deadly list heart disease, the #1 killer of women.  It was only after my own heart attack that I learned heart disease kills six times more women than breast cancer does each year, kills more women than all forms of cancer combined, and kills more women than men.  But targeting any disease as a “branding opportunity” is not about being anti-pink.  Instead, as Mary Elizabeth Williams warns us:

“We run the risk of ennobling those with certain sicknesses while stigmatizing others.”

Continue reading “What women with heart disease can learn from “pinkwashing””