Marketing culture of breast cancer awareness

As each semester passes there are always certain lessons in each of my classes that strike a chord for me. Last semester in my SCOM 240 class my professor used breast cancer awareness marketing as an example for one of our lessons and ever since then it has been stuck in the back of my head as something I wish more people would learn about. And I think it is appropriate to discuss now given that breast cancer awareness month is approaching us.

I’m sure most of you have seen those wristbands that everyone in middle school had that stated in big fat letters “I ❤ Boobies!” Or maybe you’ve seen shirts that say something along the lines of “save the tatas” or “save second base.” And there is absolutely no way that anyone who is reading this has not seen the absolute explosion of pink during October. Obviously all of these things are meant to raise awareness for breast cancer research.

Of course it is a wonderful thing that breast cancer gets so much recognition. It is amazing that there is so much support for funding research to save the lives of so many people. The problem I have with this marketing of breast cancer awareness is that it’s glamorizing and sexualizing the disease. Majority of the marketing focuses on saving women’s breasts because they are a sexualized “desired” organ. Majority of the campaigning for raising awareness includes the words “save the ” followed up by any way you can say breasts without actually saying breasts: ‘tatas, second base, boobs, boobies, tits, rack’ and so on. I think it should be more about saving women from the devastating hardship of breast cancer rather than putting the focus on just breasts. In other words, we want to save women/people with breast cancer, not just the breasts attached to them!

There is a heavy marketing culture attached to breast cancer awareness, almost every top brand has had some sort of pink ribbon attached to their product at some point. And it begs the question: are these brands doing it for the right reason? Think Before You Pink is a campaign launched in 2002 for this exact reason, their aim is to have corporations take accountability for using the pink ribbon and encourage their consumers to learn more about breast cancer. This campaign is important because there are many products that will use breast cancer awareness as a marketing tactic, but at the same time those very products would have harmful chemicals that INCREASE the chances of breast cancer. For example, Philadelphia cream cheese and Kraft mac and cheese have both put their products on shelves with pink packaging and a breast cancer awareness ribbon despite the fact that consuming cheese could potentially increase ones chances of getting breast cancer by up to 50%!

I think that brands need to be more genuine with their marketing. Instead of slapping a pink ribbon on everything so people will want to buy it because they think they’re supporting a good cause, they should actually educate those consumers on breast examinations, breast cancer statistics, and so on. I would want to buy from a brand more if they were to be more genuine about how they are helping a cause.

Its important that people understand breast cancer awareness as an effort to save women, ease their pain, and understand their hardship; instead of thinking of October as the month where everything turns pink and we “save the boobies.” Let’s take these couple of weeks before breast cancer awareness month starts to educate ourselves on self breast examinations, harmful products that can increase chances of breast cancer, fundraisers, and what we can do in our community to properly raise awareness.

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