October (pink) thoughts

October is the international Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and my personal mementoes this year have come in the shape of pink IT products and the Facebook game, of course. As most female users, I was invited by more than a friend to reveal in my status, albeit cryptically, where I like to put my handbag (or just “it” for the sake of the game) when I get home. Sharing this piece of information would have first left men wondering for days and then somehow spread breast cancer awareness.

This reminded me of the same game in its 2009 version, where you were asked to tell in your status the colour of the bra you were wearing, for the same two, awkwardly paired reasons. Since I live in two cultures (or, at least, in two languages), I got the game rules both in English and in Italian. Quite interestingly, there was no mention of breast cancer awareness in the latter, which, apart from saying something about the general debasement of any awareness campaign in my declining homecountry, alerted me to the degree of futility these games can be quickly reduced to – just another virtual peephole for male voyeurs.   

This article explores the issue in more detail – particularly, how the campaign has benefited Facebook more than breast cancer awareness so far – and provides information on and links to other, less sexually-tinged campaigns. Then, the article focuses on “pink-washers”, companies that support pink ribbon campaigns, but are either elusive about the donated percentages in their advertising or actually manufacture products with carcinogenic components. A very useful list of critical questions to ask before you buy pink products can be found on the Think Before You Pink Blog, run by Breast Cancer Action, which, in contrast to mainstream cure-oriented, corporatized US breast cancer organizations, promotes prevention and a greater access to screening and treatment for low-income women. Ah, in case you are wondering, the company manufacturing the abovementioned pink IT products placed a cap on the amount of money they will donate to breast cancer research.

I learned a lot about breast cancer and Western breast cancer culture, thanks to Barbara Ehrenreich’s  essay Welcome to Cancerland (2001) and Miriam Engelberg’s graphic novel Cancer Made Me a Shallower Person (2006). I do believe they will both make excellent October reads. Having enjoyed these two texts a long time ago, I’ll probably spend the rest of the month, brooding over the fact that I usually put my handbag on a very unsexy shoe rack…

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