PINK RIBBONS, INC.: Breast Cancer and the Politics of Philanthropy

by Jacquelyn Lewis

A well-written critique of the “pink washing” of America.

Never before has the massive, global fund-raising campaign for breast-cancer research been scrutinized by an academic authority. Samantha King, an associate professor of health education and women’s studies at Queen’s University in Ontario, fearlessly takes the issue by the horns in her latest book, placing the most beloved charitable cause of neo-liberal America under her microscope. Pink Ribbons, Inc. is a brief but dense history of breast cancer’s path from stigmatized disease to mainstream issue, championed by activists, politicians, and multinational corporations alike. Though ubiquitously emblematic of the movement, pink ribbons are just the tip of the campaigning iceberg, as King shows that car companies, cosmetics manufacturers, and even the NFL have successfully enlisted “cause-related marketing.” Such flashy corporate promotions, which pledge to donate to organizations like the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation, endow buyers with a sense of doing good, but King urges this largely female demographic to learn where their well-intentioned dollars are going. Not only are the percentages of corporate donations minuscule, but often donors are also producers of environmental toxins associated with breast cancer. This well-written critique of the “pink washing” of America is full of insight and sure to make you think twice the next time you whip out your checkbook for a limited-edition, pink waffle iron.

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