Last year I wrote about my suspicion of breast cancer after I found a small node during a self-exam. Even though the results of my first mammogram came back normal, breast cancer is something that has been in my mind since I was a girl. At age 12, I spent my summer vacation nursing my Grandmother who had had a radical mastectomy. The images of the vast mutilation wound and the color of her skin after the radiotherapy sessions, remain vivid in my memory.
Breast cancer is the most common cancer among all women regardless of ethnicity, and the most common cause of death for Hispanic women. As a Hispanic woman with a family history of breast cancer, I am aware of my odds and keep them present, because every day I look at my husband and my son and I can’t imagine not seeing them again.
As the popularity of the pink ribbon increased in the 90’s when it was established as the symbol of the fight for the cure for breast cancer, so did the number of fund raising organizations which have generated billions of dollars in “cause marketing.”
Although I don’t doubt the good intentions of many of these foundations, sadly, there have been many scandals over the years. One foundation that leads the pack in the fight to end breast cancer is The Susan G. Komen Foundation–licensed proprietary trademark of the pink ribbon. They have been in the news for outrageous pay increases for their top executives and a diminished budget of actual research.
The other criticism roots in what is known as “pinkwashing” in cause marketing. Over the years, many companies (donors) have used the powerful call to action of the pink ribbon for profit, promising their consumers to donate a percentage of their sales, when in reality they are keeping the majority of the proceeds.
This is how it works. Let’s say a brand of running shoes publicly promises to donate 1 dollar per pair sold. Before the campaign starts it caps the maximum donation at $50,000 and never discloses it to the public. So, regardless of the success of the advertising, if 1 million pairs are sold, the amount of the donation check will still be only $50,000 Quite the return, huh?
During October–designated National Breast Cancer Awareness Month by the American Cancer Association–the “pinkwashing” is in full bloom. Clothing, cosmetics, drinks, fried chicken buckets, pepper spray, and even dog food display the little pink ribbon on their labels. However, this past weekend I realized that the one product that is 100% related to the female breasts–the necessary brassiere–seems to be hiding in the shadows.
Out of curiosity I surfed one of the most popular lingerie websites–Victoria’s Secret–hoping to find a huge spread about the breast cancer fight, only to find that, even though this brand is “all about boobs”–and moreover, its iconic color is pink!–it has no use for the boobs that had to be removed from their owner’s bodies in order to survive.
Surprised, I Googled other lingerie sites and found the same result: nothing. I did find an interesting article from the Today Show in 2013. It reported the story of the daughter of a breast cancer survivor who collected 120,000 signatures from women hoping to convince the Victoria’s Secret executives to produce a line for mastectomy needs. According to the article, the lingerie giant rejected the petition and concluded in a public statement that the best way they could help was “to continue funding cancer research.”
I understand that producing a complete line for a market segment that has a shorter life expectancy is not profitable. But, I guess they haven’t read the report of the American Cancer Association that estimates that the 1 in 8 women who will suffer from this disease in their lifetime, will most likely endure surgery, and, hence, will need the special post-surgery bras.
I am not calling for a boycott or anything like that. It just made me sad to discover that mothers, wives, daughters, sisters, and friends who face the fate of becoming angels before their time, have difficulty finding a bra that makes them feel like a whole woman in front of the mirror.
To my dear female readers, don’t let your guard down. Get your annual check up and mammogram, because there is too much to lose. And to my male readers, get your women to the doctor if they forgot to schedule their appointment. Early detection saves lives.
Thank you for reading and sharing.