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February 01, 2012

I never thought I'd blog

on this topic.  It's a sensitive one in several different respects and not one I have been willing to touch with a 10 foot pole.  However, the time has come as I am sure at least one person is curious out there. If not, for the sake of this post, perhaps you can pretend?

During the fall of 2010, I went to hell and back, quite literally.  From discovering my lump (on my own, thank you very much) to the not-so-good doctor's appointment, to the horrible first 'ogram, sonogram and biopsy and all that followed.  It was a season that was supposed to be filled with changes and colors and instead was filled with misery and change, but not the kind we wanted.  

Despite all of the days that seemed so full of uncertainty, there were several things that kept me going.  I blogged about nearly everything (very cathartic), I had friends come out of the woodwork to help us (and we will forever pay forward the kindnesses) and my husband's employer showed amazing urgency and flexibility.  I would like to make it abundantly clear just how grateful we are, as I fear this post may indicate something otherwise and that is simply not the case.  However, I am so very tired of pink-washing, everything Komen-related and, in a small, sad way, glad that they pulled their funding from Planned Parenthood.

Make no mistake, I am no fan of Komen and I do appreciate the good Planned Parenthood has accomplished.  Oh, and before I go any further, this post is NOT a political debate.  I appreciate everyone else's views on heady political topics and pray for the same respect in return.  This is NOT a debate about abortion (yes, I know some will say it is no matter what) and given that I completely respect other people's views, I expect that I will not be railed for my personal and political views here or in person.  I know there are people who have made up their mind with respect to how I feel on certain topics and I will simply state that they not only have never lived in my shoes, but they might well be wrong.  

I am not glad that the funding has been pulled so that numerous women lose the opportunity to have needed health care.  Yes, Planned Parenthood does offer health care and does not just spend their days trying to "trick" people into abortions.   While I am grateful I have never needed their health care services, I am glad that they exist.  Why on earth would I then be even remotely excited that Komen has pulled their funding?

I am not happy, but simply relieved that many, many people are waking up to the greed of the corporation called Komen.  They beg for money from those who don't have it.  They spend a mere 20% of their received funds on actual research.  They withdraw funds from organizations that actually need the money.  They fund-raise by labeling products with pink ribbons.  Many of these products not only are not necessary for us to survive, but may in fact harm us, and yes, cause cancer.

Shocking?  Not really.  Komen says they want a cure, but they have recently developed a perfume that may well contain cancer-causing ingredients.  The scent costs $59 per bottle, however fewer than $2 goes to research.  I can't imagine anyone purchasing this, knowing that most of the cost is not even going to the purported mission.  

I hesitated to write on this topic, partly because I had so many blogs turn pink for me in 2010.  They did it as a show of support and I appreciated it more than anyone will ever know.  However, turning pink in support and following up with virtual and local assistance is not the same thing as the pink-washing that Komen does day in and day out.  

I spent a good portion of the last year mortified about the type of cancer I had.  I received a pink basket in the hospital (for my original surgery) filled with pink, plastic items that included a poem and a "tiddy" bear. I was supposed to be cheered up by the poem, as it was about another woman and how she received a fabulous new set of breasts.  I was also supposed to be thrilled by the junk in the basket.  Instead I was mortified.  A gift basket of organic fruit would be one thing (and, yes, we did receive those and loved them), but this was just beyond painful.  Rubbing the pink-washing in my face once again.  The basket just reminded me that because I had this recent blip, I was supposed to become a member of another club.  Well, no, thank you.

Please understand that not everything pink disturbs me and I know that many pink ribbons are truly meant as a sign of support. However, Komen is not supportive.  Coloring buckets of fried chicken pink is not supportive.  Putting pink ribbons on products that we don't need or want is not supportive.  In fact, for many of us, it's a reminder of times we'd rather forget.  If anything, Komen was extremely unsupportive when I was diagnosed.

Did they come to my house and cook me meals when I was sick?  No, but my friends ensured we were had groceries and dinners for months.  Did they visit me in the hospital or take care of my kids?  No, but my friends and family made sure that happened.  Well, what did they do?

They stepped up their efforts to get money from me.  It was almost as if my name was on a new high priority list.  As though because I had been diagnosed, I suddenly had the ability and desire to give to an organization that, in my opinion, has done little towards their supposed goal.  It took three letters from me and three phone calls from Peter to have my name removed from their mailing list.  

I do think it is a shame that they pulled their funding, but finally the truth about this organization is coming to light.  Komen, in my mind, has a lot of explaining to do for years and this issue was finally the straw that broke the camel's back.  I am happy to report that all is not lost for PP, as today I read that:

Tait Sye, a spokesman for the agency, said Wednesday afternoon that "more than $400,000 from 9,000 donors came in the last 24-hour period."Add that to a $250,000 "Breast Health Emergency Fund" from Texas oil executive Lee Fikes and his wife, Amy, and the group is closing in on the $680,000 it received from Komen in 2011.

It doesn't thrill  me that the funds had to come from other sources.  If I had any respect for Komen, then it would have been due to them truly understanding that Planned Parenthood is not the end-all, be-all of evil organizations.  However, they clearly don't.  I must say the more I learn about Komen, the more I feel that they are truly evil.  A corporation founded on a promise that, in my opinion, has not been kept and likely can't be.  A corporation that preys on guilt and tries to deny the link between environmental hazards and breast cancer.  A corporation that has a budget just for suing other small non-profits just because they used the phrase "for the cure" without THEIR permission? Well, why wouldn't they, considering the millions in funds they receive?

I am not asking for anyone out there to read this and suddenly desire to support Planned Parenthood.  I am simply asking that if you have contributed to the Komen Foundation, walked in a walk or even thought about supporting them in any way (perhaps by purchasing something pink?) to rethink your options next time.  There are many decent organizations in existence, e.g. Breast Cancer Action that support those with breast cancer and are not in any way funded by pharmaceutical companies or companies who do not have our breast, I mean, best interests at heart.

If you were considering a donation to Komen because of their decision, please reconsider your plan. Support a local organization that helps unwed mothers, perhaps volunteer through your church or donate to deserving organizations overseas, like Mercy House, who truly need your assistance (and, yes, we will be supporting them this year).  Please give your money or time directly to those who need it, not to an organization who has not only ignored its mission, but left behind those who could have truly used its help.




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I have to be honest, I've felt this way about Komen for a long time.

Every time I'd see a 60-Mile Walk commercial, I wondered, "Yeah, and how much is actually going to research?" Yeah, it's great to wave the pink boas, and hold up the pink, worn out sneakers, and get the troops all energetic, but is all this a sham? It seemed disingenuous then and it's confirmed today.

Is it just me, or do many "charities" end up getting bitten by the "greedy corporate/political" bug and end up veering off course towards greed and coverups?

I'm so sick of it all.

BTW - Very well written. Thanks for sharing.

This was very interesting and helpful for me to read. I have always wondered about Komen and pink washing - part of me thinks that given the amount of $$ that goes into it, why haven't they made progress in finding a cure? I did not know how little of their $$ goes to actual research. Sad. Good for you for sharing your thoughts!!!!

Thank you for having the courage to say this. I have secretly hated Komen for several years, but for different reasons. My mother died of a cancer that is almost always fatal once it's been found, and I hate that so much emphasis is placed on breast cancer. I don't want it to seem like I'm taking away from the horribleness that you and your family have been through, but I always resented all the pink. Now knowing that so little of the money donated goes to actual research is just sad. Maybe with enough public outcry, Komin can follow the example of Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation and put more toward research to stop families going through the heartbreak of cancer.

I had NO IDEA! I'm so glad you wrote this!

Thank you for saying what so many have felt for a very long time.

Very well said. I was aware of some of the problems with Komen before, namely the pink washing and the fact that comparatively little of the money they receive goes to breast cancer research, but I didn't know just how bad it was, and seeing the numbers laid out there in your post is really damning. I don't think I've bought a lot of Komen stuff in the past, but now I'm going to go out of my way to avoid it. I'm sure the head honchos at Komen will also be thrilled to know that their decision has prompted me to make my first ever (though long overdue) donation to Planned Parenthood, and I'm going to go ahead and plan to donate monthly from here on out.

I agree that the one good thing of all of this is that it's throwing a lot of Komen's real motives and their usual MO into relief. Generally, it's tough to criticize them, because to do so can make it sound to some people like you're somehow against funding breast cancer research, even if that isn't remotely the case.

Well written Jen, very well written!

Like many, I had no idea how any of the research / funding / etc worked. Wow is all I can say. I didn't know ... I think that more people are seeing red rather than pink these days ...

Very informative and well said post!!

Thank you for writing this, Jen. In reading coverage of yesterday's events, I found out there's a documentary (coming out tomorrow) from our friends up north about this topic:

"Breast cancer has become the poster child of corporate cause-related marketing campaigns. Countless women and men walk, bike, climb and shop for the cure. Each year, millions of dollars are raised in the name of breast cancer, but where does this money go and what does it actually achieve?"

Official site here: http://www.nfb.ca/playlist/pink_ribbons_inc/

So glad you wrote this Jen. I am like many of you other commenters. Haven't liked Komen for a really long time (years). The pink was all for you :) Komen, not at all. I never felt comfortable saying how I felt though. Didn't want to offend someone who had been helped by them or whatever. Your first hand account makes a huge difference I think. You're not someone on the sidelines criticizing but someone who has been in the thick of it. Thanks for having the guts to write this.

My husband has mentioned before how little that is donated to Komen goes to actual research so we've never been supporters of the organization. And all of the pink crap for sale is rather annoying. I didn't know the exact numbers though or the other bad things about them. Actually, you'd probably be surprised by a lot of the big-name charities and how little actually goes to the cause they claim to support. We've always been more supportive of local efforts or organizations that need donations.

Thank you for this. I have felt this way for a long time. If the goal is breast cancer awareness, that goal has been met a million times over. Message Pretty sure everyone is aware at this point and perhaps all of the money spent on pink merchandise/junk for things like pink socks and uniforms for special one-day events could be spent on actually finding a cure.

*hugs* Thank you for saying what I have thought, but with a million times more authenticity.

well written...can't stand the pinkwashing!

My step mother had breast cancer. So I ran the 5k, got donations, and wore the ribbon. I had heard mumblings of problems but figured they couldn't be a big deal if nothing was in the media about it. Your blog and the whole PP thing has taught me a lot. Thanks for your courage. I will find better ways than SGK to show my support in the future.

I agree completely. I have seen from the other side of the retail industry and it has been clear that this is a profit machine that pushes unhealthy and overprocessed junk food made even more toxic with red food coloring, the original carcinogen. I agree as well that they have outed themselves to show themselves to be the bigoted, uncaring profiteers that they are. They are a low-life corporate shill who have exploited womens' suffering and excruciating experiences with cancer to make money and push their political agenda. Good riddance. Planned Parenthood needs to distance themselves from this rotten group. How is it that they can't donate to PP becuase of the bogus investigation, yet they are still giving Penn State 7.5 $ Mil. Was the Sandusky Sex Scandal whish is under Federal investigation, the worst in college history, somehow resolved and we just didn't know about it? They are Vile.

Thank you for writing this.

Wow! I had no idea. Thank you for writing this, ans shedding a realistic light on Komen.

Someone needs to investigate Komen!

Thank you! I've always had reservations about the "femininity" of their support, but I muddled through because I thought they were doing enough good to tolerate the distasteful. I'm stunned at the betrayal I feel, especially when I really should know better. I lost my mother to breast cancer and I am also a high risk. In honor of my mother, I cannot let them slide any more. Like you, I'm glad this happened. I have no reservations about discarding them as they have discarded so many other women. I do kind of look forward to how they spin the Penn State funding tomorrow.

Excellent and thank you. Fabulous overview. I, too, am a breast cancer survivor and hold all the same opinions. Nice to know that we're not alone.

Thank you for writing this. I remember when I first started writing critiques of pink culture and industry. It wasn't easy. Komen does function as a corporate nonprofit, and as you said the light is now shining on the many unskillful decisions the leadership has made in the last ten years. The tide is turning now.

Like the rest of the posters, I would like to thank you for writing this. I, too, have seen another good side effect of SGK pulling their funding of Planned Parenthood. It feels to me like SGK's horrible move was the final straw in getting more women to stand up against the extreme right who have been at war against women's health issues. I, too, will never, ever, give SGK a single penny in any way, shape or form.

Thank you for writing this. Hopefully this will encourage more people to stand up against Komen. I have supported Komen for years & feel totally betrayed by this. My family & I, several of whom are breast cancer survivors, are DONE with Komen & will be encouraging other family & friends to be DONE as well.

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