A while back I was at Luke's Locker to buy some running gear. One of the things I needed was Body Glide, a deodorant-like stick that runners use to prevent chafing on places like our heels and under our arms. Luke's had two types of Body Glide -- original formula, and "For Her." I asked a clerk what the difference was.
Physically, the difference was obvious. Body Glide for Her had a pink lid, unlike the normal grey lid. We looked at the back. The ingredients seemed identical. There was no information on the package as to what differentiated the original from the "for her" -- in fact, the Body Glide specifically states that the original is "used by everyone" -- and at Luke's the price was exactly the same. So why the need for a special product just for women?
We've seen this before. Bic was famously trolled on Amazon after releasing a ballpoint pen "for her," because a good old-fashioned unisex ballpoint just wouldn't do. But the thing that bugs me the most about the Body Glide is the pink lid. As if that's automatically supposed to represent something in our consumer lizard brains.
That something is called Pinkwashing. Don't get me wrong, I love the color pink. It's flattering and stands out, and I don't even mind so much that it's part of the gender binary -- girls like pink and boys like blue.But we're in the middle of October -- Breast Cancer Awareness Month -- and I just can't take the pinkwashing any more.
In 1991, the Susan G. Komen Foundation started handing out pink ribbons at a race for breast cancer survivors, and since then pink-ness has spiraled into a consumerist nightmare. KFC made its fried chicken buckets pink one year. Estee Lauder made a special pink lipstick "for the cure." And last week, as I was making dinner one night, I opened a carton of eggs to find each one branded with a tiny little pink ribbon. I am not kidding you.
For the past five years, even the NFL has been getting into the game of pinkwashing, with disastrous results. A recent plan to use pink penalty flags instead of yellow caused mass confusion, and the NFL has already scrapped the idea. Throughout the month of October the NFL also uses pink coins, gloves, sideline hats and goal-post padding, NONE OF WHICH DO ANYTHING TO HELP CURE CANCER.
Hat tip to the Eric Burger, the Chronicle's Sci Guy, for pointing me to this excellent article on the NFL's month-long A Crucial Catch program.
But A Crucial Catch is not as altruistic as it is presented to be. Research suggests that the NFL and its corporate partners are more concerned with enhancing their public images -- especially among women -- and ultimately revenues, than they are with addressing breast cancer, and they seek to manipulate NFL fandom in the name of public health.
Oh, let's not just pick on the NFL and the Komen Foundation here. How about the Save The Boobies and I Love Boobies campaigns. Yes, yes, boobies are great. But what about the human beings attached to them? If a woman decides to undergo a mastectomy and loses her breast is she still worth saving?
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I resent the fact that women's lives are being used as a marketing ploy. I resent that people think awareness equals action. So does Léa Pool, who directed this documentary, Pink Ribbons, Inc.
You want to help cure breast cancer? Air commercials during the Super Bowl that teach women how to give themselves a manual breast exam. Ha ha ha ha ha. I had fun there for a minute thinking that could actually happen.
The bottom line is that Pinktober solely exists as a way for companies to sell pink products to women in the guise of doing something charitable. There's even a countermovement now, Think Before You Pink. And no one is immune that these kinds of feel-good/do-nothing charities. Guess which stick of Body Glide I ended up buying.