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Breast Cancer Awareness month: Is it time to take off the rose-tinted glasses?

The month of October is Breast Cancer awareness month. An annual event that since a faithful and successful campaign run by charity Breast Cancer Care, has been rose-tinted in its glory. Although here in the UK we do not suffer quite as badly as across the pond (where pink handcuffs have known to be used by police officers, especially to *raise awareness* for the cause), there is still a twinge of guilt caused by the ‘pinkwashing’ or ‘pinkification’ that now accompanies every charity event, fundraiser, and campaign associated. Amidst the fluorescence are many sufferers and survivors, some of whom have come together under the title ‘Breast Cancer activists’, to make their point about where the line lies between clever publicity and being inconsiderate.

Wear it pink Day Cupcakes, Breast Cancer Awareness month

Image courtesy of DixieBelleCupCakeCafe,

Among the many issues expressed against the association between Breast Cancer Awareness and pink, is that cancer is not pretty or comforting. It is coarse, challenging and life-changing. For someone who has experienced, or is experiencing this, to be bombarded with torrents of fluffy pink happiness is at the very least, offensive. Secondly, due to one of the many misfortunes of ingrained gender norms, with which western society seems to be blessed in multitude, for many, pink is a gendered colour. Not only is pink equated with fluffiness, brightness and happiness, but also softness, femininity, approachability, and perhaps, even, representative of something with solution. To ‘weaken’ (because yes, apparently that is the given association that comes with the gender connection) this form of cancer is again disrespectful. Projects like ‘Punk Cancer’, as well as Stella McCartney’s mastectomy photo-shoot have attempted to recalibrate how breast cancer awareness can fit in with other versions of a woman, proving that what might be traditionally deemed ‘defeminized’ ways of speaking about breast cancer, can, and have been equally successful.

Image courtesy of: Howard Lake,

Image courtesy of: Howard Lake,

Yet, however we choose to combat and raise awareness of a cause, the question remains, does sensationalism help – in the case of Trump, apparently so? Recently, Gillian Tett made the case for slogans. Like the pink of breast cancer, the slogan is the reliable, safe and an easy way through…but this doesn’t necessarily mean that we should go along with it. Having said that the feel-good element that can be so heart-breaking for someone experiencing the illness, it is this element that has equally gained the associated charities a huge amount of attention and funding, most of which can be redirected into research and progression in treating the illness. In addition to this, it could be suggested that any bright colour could have been equally successful – it’s an intentional misfortune that 20th century society had to pick pink.

Breast Cancer Awareness, Wear it Pink Day

Image courtesy of: Jason Hugh,

It is after all of this that we realise that for the most part, the success of breast cancer awareness as we know it does ultimately boil down into a PR stunt: the effective, striking, and contentious colour pink. Therefore, whether you choose to question, or to qualify pinkification, or even do both, this #nationalbreastcancerawarenessmonth remember to pink carefully about the PR behind the good-will.

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