Thursday, October 28, 2010

Breast Cancer "Awareness"

Since this will be my last rant during Breast Cancer Awareness Month, the curmudgeonly cynic in me must come out for a final October appearance. I have a modest suggestion for the Komen Foundation and all the other excellent organizations that do so much to try and find a way to end this horrid disease which touches nearly every family on earth.

Stop talking about “breast cancer awareness” and change your pitch to “breast cancer research.”

If you stop and think about it, “awareness” campaigns are for things the general public isn’t familiar with. I’m willing to bet that if you stop a hundred people on the street, every one of them will know someone, either in their assortment of friends or family, that has been personally touched by breast cancer. We’re well “aware” of the disease, and how devastating it can be.

What we need is, in my opinion, more money for medical research and less for “awareness” campaigns. Every time I see or hear about a breast cancer awareness event, and there’ve been plenty in the past month, the cynic in me rears its peaked ears and horns. I saw some product at the entrance to the grocery check-out line last weekend and the packaging said something about a percentage of the proceeds going to help fund “breast cancer awareness.” I commented to my wife that it probably meant a tiny percentage, if anything, would go to a reputable breast cancer charity, and the lion’s share of it would go to put more pink ribbons on the company’s packaging and advertising, under the guise of “breast cancer awareness.”

You can easily make the case that by putting a pink ribbon on its products, a company is helping people be “aware” of breast cancer, when what we really need is a greater contribution to research rather than awareness. Decades of working in a business which is entirely supported by advertising (on-air broadcasting) has made me pay very close attention to what sort of claims are made by the manufacturers of every type of product, so don’t tell me “breast cancer awareness” and “breast cancer research” are interchangeable marketing terms. They’re not. Marketing experts are very careful about how they use words.

I’ve already ranted about the silly annual social media campaigns, like Facebook’s, where women post the color of their bra or where they like to keep their purse, under the guise of breast cancer awareness. It would be better if they’d just donate some money for research and post the dollar amount.

1 comment:

  1. Agreed. A few years ago in Harper's, Barbara Ehrenreich wrote about her experiences as a breast-cancer patient, and the ocean of "pink kitsch" that surrounds the fight against the disease. (Here: I've never looked at the ocean of pink stuff the same way since I read it. (he pink accessories the NFL has been inflicting on viewers this month, worthwhile cause or not, are hideous.)

    Also: The Mrs. observes that heart disease kills more women than the top seven cancers combined, but the publicity the American Heart Association's annual "awareness month" campaign receives is microscopic compared to that devoted to breast cancer.