Cyprus Mail
Guest Columnist

Who is really in the pink?

By Jill Campbell-Mackay

Charitable giving, is one thing expats living here and Cypriots have in common, a genuine generous attitude towards anyone with a begging bucket and a raffle ticket.

And each year the island joins the international observation of October as breast cancer awareness month, and it’s something I do rile against, this pinkifying of a disease which at best is disfiguring and at worst kills. I was really riled after spotting a well known stain removal product on the shelves of my local supermarket, a pink ribbon prominent on the bottle expressing the company’s ‘support’ of Breast Cancer Month.

Trust me breast cancer cannot be removed during a 40 degree wash cycle, nor indeed was it clear on the label if the company was donating hard cash or just promoting a so called ‘awareness’ of the disease.

Unbelievably even pert breasted Barbie has got in on the act – Mattel has launched Pink Barbie with the PR blurb informing us (in all seriousness) that good old Barbie is ‘contributing to fighting breast cancer’. Dressed in a pink frock, tiara and sparkly stole, it doesn’t however say if she comes with a mastectomy bra, wig and a five years supply of Tamoxifen.

But who, I ask, is winning here? The manufacturers of products who pluck our emotional strings and thereby encourage us to buy their temporarily branded pink products? Do we honestly believe that multinationals are all busy working towards a cure for breast cancer? I think not, this is just a marketing ploy.

Companies and sponsors do not donate their own money, they encourage you to buy their product and then pass along a small amount which usually comes out of the marketing budget. It’s a good deal all round with the Consumers’ Association reporting that products aligned to breast cancer can look to a 74 per cent sales increase over brands without a cause.

Cyprus had the dubious honour of being listed in the 2006 Guinness Book of Records for creating the longest bra chain – 114,000 bras linked to measure 95km – in aid of breast cancer awareness (with a small donation requested for each bra gifted). It was for many an embarrassing and an uncomfortable event to encounter for the hundreds of women walking around with at least one empty B-cup.

In reality what we need is stable, continuous, research funding. With all this pink sentimental claptrap surrounding this insidious disease we run the risk of trivialising any form of awareness along with consumers ending up having breast cancer fatigue – the so called ‘consumption philanthropy syndrome. Breast cancer is a killer disease, it is not a marketing opportunity for businesses.

So, thank you local charities – I like your simple plastic buckets, your enthusiasim, and more than anything else I relish your simple dignity.

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