It’s October—the leaves are turning yellow, porch ornaments are coming up pumpkin orange, the first frost is sparkling silver, and everywhere I turn the sight of pink ribbons affronts my sensibilities.
In honor of National Breast Cancer Awareness month, the porn site Pornhub.com is promising to donate money for every 30 "boob videos" viewed on its website during October. Perhaps the most craven example of pinkwashing yet, a visit to Pornhub.com reveals that the site's logo has been decked out with Pepto-Bismol pink and adorned with a breast-cancer awareness ribbon. Below a call to "Help Save the Boobs!" a pink "boob views" counter records the number of times videos tagged as "small tits" or "big tits" have been viewed on the site. (Below that, there is an ad for "squirting" videos. Thankfully, it hasn't been pinkwashed.)
There's just one catch to Pornhub's plan: After announcing its intentions to donate the money to the Susan G. Komen Foundation, the research stalwart unequivocally told Pornhub to keep their dirty money to themselves.
Tig Notaro has been getting a heaping dose of publicity lately. It's well-deserved. You may already recognize the charming comedian from her standup, or watched her play the feather-haired policewoman who briefly (and understandably) lesbianizes Sarah Silverman on the latter's eponymous "Program," or listened to her discuss her frequent run-ins with 80s pop star Taylor "Tell it to my heart" Dayne on This American Life. Maybe you've also read that earlier this month Tig released a half-hour standup comedy set (care of friend/comic superstar Louis C.K.), recorded after a diagnosis of breast cancer (in both breasts) only a few days prior. The performance was instantly touted as legendary, with audience member Louis C.K. calling it "one of the greatest standup performances I ever saw. I can't really describe it but I was crying and laughing and listening like never in my life."
If you're suffering from awareness overload, you're not alone.
When it comes to breast cancer, we're inundated with what health studies professor Samantha King calls a "tyranny of cheerfulness." Rather than addressing the more complex issues of inadequate health insurance, environmental pollution, and stalled research, the public face of breast cancer advocacy veers toward to what Barbara Ehrenreich calls "the breast cancer cult," an ultra-feminine, consumer-driven approach drenched in sentimentality and good cheer.
The ubiquitous pink ribbon often overshadows the actual achievements of breast cancer organizations.
Perhaps you have heard of KFC's "Buckets for the Cure" campaign. The idea is, every time you buy a pink bucket of fried chicken from the chain, 50 cents is donated to the Susan G. Komen for the Cure foundation for breast cancer research. Now, raising money for cancer research of any kind is great, but I can't help but think (and I am by no means alone here) that this campaign is misguided and misleading (not to mention the weird irony of buying – and eating – certain breasts to save others). Of course, tying an advertising campaign to the fight against breast cancer, a practice commonly known as pinkwashing, is nothing new. Let's look at some more examples and discuss!