As with most other large-scale movements, the true message behind the pink and purple accessories has been lost on many: the pink ribbons, after all, are only that — pink ribbons. During the month of October, entire aisles of stores are devoted to pink products: hats, scarves, bracelets, office supplies, chewing gum, Kleenex, hair curlers and water bottles all adorned with the small, recognizable pink ribbons bring in quite a profit.
That revenue, however, is not necessarily directly tied to any foundation. The money you are spending on a pink travel mug may only be going to the producer of the mug: lots of companies have a cap on the amount of money they donate to a beneficiary regardless of how much of a product they sell.
While pinning a satin ribbon onto your jacket or backpack is likely done with good intentions, it is important to identify the needs of a movement in order to be an effective participant.
Nearly 12 percent of women will develop invasive breast cancer in the United States over the course of their lifetimes. Through federal and private funding, the U.S. spends at least $1 billion on breast cancer research annually.
About 25 percent of women and 14 percent of men will experience domestic violence during their lifetimes, according to the National Domestic Violence Hotline. Domestic violence is a pattern of abusive, coercive behaviors that a person uses to control his or her current or former partner. Many people in abusive relationships, however, find that it is not easy to simply walk away from their bad situations. There are often many other extenuating circumstances and this is sometimes forgotten.
Financial abuse happens in 98 percent of all domestic violence cases. The Allstate Foundation’s Purple Purse website explains, “Financial abuse prevents victims from acquiring, using or maintaining financial resources. Financial abuse is just as effective in controlling a victim as a lock and key.”
The common denominator in combating both breast cancer and domestic violence, along with the topics of many other foundations and organizations, is simple: money. The Breast Cancer Research Foundation provides necessary funds for necessary research of breast cancer’s causes. Giving victims of domestic violence and financial abuse true opportunities for safety and security means offering financial support and empowerment through organizations like the Purple Purse Foundation.
Being an informed supporter is crucial. Purchasing apparel or paraphernalia adorned with a pink ribbon does not mean your money is necessarily going to the right place. In fact, your dollars may support corporations that are doing far more harm than good to the cause.
Last year, Breast Cancer Action, a national breast cancer awareness organization, publicly took issue with “pinkwashing” — corporations’ rebranding of products that have been found to contain cancer-causing ingredients. The pink ribbon can be placed on any product and is not regulated by any agency and, thus, purchasing products with the pink ribbon does not guarantee that your money will ever reach the proper beneficiary. Both Swiffer and Cover Girl have marketed pink-ribbon products that contained dangerous ingredients linked to the development of cancer.
Rather than purchasing commemorative pink or purple products, consider giving directly to a research or aid foundation. Any foundation big or small will echo that any donation matters. When you are compelled to show your solidarity with an organization by purchasing a product marketed toward garnering profit for the corporation, donate that money directly to an organization that you see as being essential to the cause you are supporting.