What heart patients can learn from Pinktober pinkwashing

by Carolyn Thomas  @HeartSisters

October (also known as Pinktober in corporate brand marketing circles) is the annual holy month of breast cancer awareness-raising, a month of feel-good retail branding opportunities, bathed in a pretty cloud of pinkwashing, a campaign once described by author Barbara Ehrenreich (a breast cancer patient herself) as the cult of pink kitsch”.  You’ve seen these marketing campaign ads:

“For every _______ (insert name of the company’s special pink product, e.g. a pink-labeled can of Campbell’s soup or a pink-handled Smith & Wesson handgun) that you purchase this month, we’ll make a donation to help raise breast cancer awareness!”

As the late Barbara Brenner reminded us: If breast cancer could be cured by shopping, it would be cured by now.” Continue reading “What heart patients can learn from Pinktober pinkwashing”

Survivorship bias: when we focus only on success

by Carolyn Thomas  ♥  @HeartSisters

We were sitting around with friends and family recently over some very nice red wine when our friend Noel asked a question about my weekly Toastmasters meetings, and specifically about whether I thought there are some people who simply never learn to feel comfortable speaking in public even after Toastmasters training. After a moment’s contemplation, I replied to Noel:

“I can’t really say – because those who actually feel too uncomfortable probably just stop attending after a while. But the ones who stay seem pretty happy!”

It turns out that what I was describing is essentially what’s known as survivorship bias.*  

Continue reading “Survivorship bias: when we focus only on success”

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”

A heart film to watch before the “Pink Season” gets here

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? (See also: Think Before You Pink for some important questions* to ask about that pink ribbon).

From my perspective as a 37+ year veteran in the public relations field, I have to say that the breast cancer folks 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 than all forms of cancer combined.  Yet heart patients and those who care for us seem to be oddly content sitting quietly on the back burner of that massive pink stovetop.

So in the interests of offering some balance here amidst a torrent of pinkwashing, I invite you to watch this 3-minute film called “Just a Little Heart Attack” from the American Heart Association.  Continue reading “A heart film to watch before the “Pink Season” gets here”

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””