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Big Charity

It must be tough running a charity. You’ve got a cause you care deeply about, and you’re constantly juggling the game of having to spend money (in administration, advertising, staff) to raise money (for the cause!), and worse, of sometimes having to compromise to achieve your goals — you sometimes have to work with your enemies to get where you’re going. And if you’re really, really good at it, and raise lots and lots of money, it becomes easy to lose sight of the cause while becoming corporate.

So it goes with Susan G. Komen for the Cure, the $400 million/year giant pink gorilla of cancer charities, fighting for the cause of ending breast cancer. As charities go, they’re reasonably efficent (about 20% of their budget is overhead, 20% goes to cancer research, and the rest goes to education and health care), and they’re certainly effective — they practically own the color pink, it seems, and their little pink ribbons are ubiquitous. If you’ve donated money to them in the past, you should have no regrets, and you can pat yourself on the back for having done some good.

But it’s time to cut the cord to this Big Charity.

Komen has lost sight of the cause, and has become more of a money-raising machine, for one thing. This is one of those awkward compromises they made to tap into corporate interests: they sold their identity and their label to anyone willing to cough up the cash. One correlation with the incidence of breast cancer is dietary fat — yet Komen went into a commercial promotion with KFC, selling big pink buckets of greasy fried chicken.

It was this national nonprofit education and advocacy organization that coined the term “pinkwashing” to describe the situation where a company purports to care about breast cancer by promoting a pink-ribboned product, but manufactures products that are linked to the disease.

This latest campaign between KFC and Komen is “simply pinkwashing at its worst,” Barbara A. Brenner, JD, executive director of BCA, told Medscape Oncology. “This is just so wrong on every level. . . . This is so much more about KFC’s bottom line than about curing breast cancer,” she said.

This is just one example of losing sight of the goal. I would argue that in addition they’ve been too successful: their marketing has obscured their purpose. We’re drowning in a sea of pink every time breast cancer is brought up, and the symbol of slapping a pink ribbon on something has replaced the substance of the cause. I always say that prayer is the very least you can do, but slapping a ribbon on your car is a very close runner-up.

And now, the last straw. Ultimately, breast cancer research is one part of improving women’s health; if that narrow slice of concern begins to cannibalize the wider aspects of women’s well-being, it does more harm than good. The Susan G. Komen Foundation has reached that point where the money-making machine is being hijacked to benefit organizations that do harm to women.

Specifically, Komen has yanked its support for breast-cancer screenings at Planned Parenthood. That’s astonishing. Education and screening for breast cancer is what Komen is all about — it’s what they do. It’s as if I were to announce that I reject the teaching of evolution at a particular college campus because I really hate their football team (and if I had millions of dollars worth of clout). It makes no sense from the perspective of an anti-cancer charity.

It does make sense if you’re a right-wing corporate entity that has funded its growth on a foundation of a universally appreciated cause, but that actually has closer ties to conservative corporate and religious interests. They aren’t so much against breast cancer, as they are for protecting “good” girls, and against those fornicating sluts who get abortions, and can go ahead and die horribly. They listen more to the anti-abortion crusaders (some of whom are on their executive staff!) than to women.

So don’t give to them anymore. Redirect your charitable giving to organizations that don’t have a Puritanical streak, and are a bit less Republican in outlook. There is no shortage; I recommend the Breast Cancer Research Foundation, Breast Cancer Charities of America, CancerCare, and the Cancer Research Institute. So far, they all seem to be dedicated to fighting cancer and helping people, and a lot less concerned about policing people’s morality to conform to that of the Religious Right.

But I don’t want Susan G. Komen to go away. I think it is an excellent charity for right-wingers and Christian fundamentalists to donate to — their money will go to a cause we can all support, and it’s better than filling the coffers of the Mormon or Catholic churches.

P.S. There are some very bad arguments for not donating to the Komen foundation out there, and the very worst are those that selectively cite statistics to argue that cancer research is futile. Some cancers have been refractory and have shown little progress in the last decade; others are showing significantly better statistics. But most importantly, our understanding of cancer has steadily advanced, and even where someone dies of the disease, we glean another piece of the puzzle. And of course, what do you propose to do otherwise? Nothing at all?

(Also on Sb)

Comments

  1. says

    Thanks for including the part about pinkwashing. I was at the drug-store once and saw special pink nail polishes for the cure. I thought it was ironic that a product that contains formaldehyde, a known carcinogen (although I’m unaware if there’s a tie with breast cancer), to prevent cancer. There are formaldehyde-free nail polishes but this particular brand didn’t have a notice if they were formaldehyde free.
    Of course, I’m just a girl and not supposed to think about these complicated things, as long as I have both boobies and pretty nails.

  2. Pierce R. Butler says

    … anti-abortion crusaders (some of whom are on their executive staff!) …

    Most visibly one Karen Handel, since April 2011 Komen’s Senior Vice President for Public Policy.

    Handel previously came to public attention as a candidate for the governorship of Georgia in 2010, running on an anti-abortion/defund-Planned Parenthood platform and winning the endorsement of Sarah Palin.

    Which leads us to the question of who hired her at SGKftC, and why.

  3. says

    In addition to the people who have said they will stop donating money, I wonder how many volunteers who make the Walk for a Cure events happen are going to pull out. It sounds like a lot of people who planned to do the walk are now instead donating their registration fees to PP.

    SGK seems too media savvy to not have realized that there would be a huge pushback to this announcement, but I think they may have underestimated how betrayed the folks who participate in these events would feel. They didn’t just give money, they literally gave blood, sweat, and tears only to find out that SGK values politics over helping women with cancer.

  4. magistramarla says

    I stopped supporting that foundation several years ago, when I read that the executives were busy lining their own pockets, as well as contributing to the Bush administration.
    My contributions go to the Sjogren’s Foundation http://www.sjogrens.org, Lupus research http://www.lupus.org and Spasmodic Dysphonia http://www.dysphonia.org
    I have all three of those autoimmune disorders, and I certainly would like to see cures, or at least reliable treatments in the near future.

  5. interrobang says

    Under there somewhere, I’m sure, is Handel’s belief that abortions cause breast cancer. Not that forced-birthers are short of fake nails on which to hang their particular mendacious, misogynist hat, but I will bet cash money that’s part of it.

    My mother is in treatment for breast cancer right now (she had her second-last chemo last Friday) and is doing well generally, but this pinkification crap ticks me off.

  6. wayneturner says

    This morning I opened my paper to find the article about Komen and Planned Parenthood. On the back page was an editorial from right-wing blowhard Michael Gerson claiming that Obama’s refusal to exempt Catholic medical organizations from having to comply with insurance law by providing birth control coverage was a “war on religion”. The contrast was stark; on the one hand a group of religious bigots denying critical health coverage to hundreds if not thousands of low-income women, on the other a bunch of Catholic bishops with their panties in a wad over the “insult” of being forced to comply with the law.

  7. says

    Komen actually literally tried to ‘own’ the color pink, suing a number of smaller charities–including some that had zero connection to breast cancer at all and therefore posed no competitive threat to them–for using the color in fundraising materials (they mostly lost and the National Breast Cancer Research Fund, who existed before SBK, continues to be pink!). They also sued several small research focused nonprofits for using the term ‘the cure’ in their promotional materials–yes, really. Two that I know of, the Prader Willi Association and the Vasculitis Foundation, were recipients of the pink hammer for using the phrase ‘Hungry for the Cure’ (which had been their tagline for decades, they just never thought to trademark it, as most nonprofits don’t behave like assholes over this type of corporate branding BS) and running an event called ‘Canoe for the Cure.’ SBK’s argument was that donors might accidentally give money to these orgs mistaking them for SBK. I don’t know any donors dumb enough to confuse Prader Willi or vasculitis with breast cancer and it is offensive to people with equally devastating disorders for SBK to assume that they are the only legitimate place donors might wish to direct funding.

    SBK are corporate bullies, but if that wasn’t enough to turn you off to them, you have to consider the abysmal failure of governance they have demonstrated over the past few years. The board is supposed to anticipate and mitigate threats to the mission and the brand. SBK’s board has failed to do so over and over and over again, resulting in PR nightmares that are totally unforced errors. It doesn’t take any particular business savvy to understand that using donor funds intended for breast cancer initiatives to support a frivolous lawsuit-a-pallooza or making decisions in direct violation of your stated mission based on the personal religious/political beliefs of one of your board members might not be a good idea. Donors don’t care about SBKs branding issues and they sure as hell don’t believe they are contributing to a personal crusade on an entirely different social issue when they give money to SBK. In the worst case scenario, this amounts to fraudulent solicitation and misuse of donated funds and it won’t end well for SBK unless they do some serious damage control now. If for no other reason, the fact that they have a governing body that is clearly asleep at the wheel makes them an unfit custodian of publicly donated funds.

    Their brand was hopelessly tarnished for me years ago when I saw them put other small, dedicated organizations out of business for purely petty and artificial ‘branding’ reasons. No one heard much about that incident because they have major media partners, none of whom are interested in exposing them for the bad actors they are. Hopefully, this recent incredibly ham-fisted political nonsense will finally shed some badly needed light on their practices.

    My prediction–they will learn nothing from this public outrage and will double down on the assholery and start suing people for pointing out they are assholes. Donations will drop precipitously because donors care about missions even if boards do not and they will blame the ‘liberal media’ for the whole fiasco.

  8. David Marjanović says

    Of course, I’m just a girl and not supposed to think about these complicated things, as long as I have both boobies and pretty, as opposed to pink, nails.

    FIFY.

    Seriously, if that foundation literally owned the color pink (or at least the shade of it they use) and regularly sued for copyright violations, I wouldn’t be all that outraged…

  9. David Marjanović says

    Komen actually literally tried to ‘own’ the color pink, suing a number of smaller charities–including some that had zero connection to breast cancer at all and therefore posed no competitive threat to them–for using the color in fundraising materials

    …erm.

    Maybe I should reconsider what I just wrote.

    They also sued several small research focused nonprofits for using the term ‘the cure’ in their promotional materials–yes, really.

    *headdesk*

  10. says

    Scarina’s comment touches on this, but I’ve long disliked the Komen Foundation because of how breast cancer culture reinforces gender roles — including shaming patients for not being cheerful and “positive” all the time. Fuck that shit.

    what she said. those “save the tatas” t-shirts are driving me up the wall

  11. Phledge says

    To conservative men, nothing is more no-brainer than to support breast cancer ‘awareness’–the titties HAVE to be saved! Women’s bodily integrity and the right to eschew Pretty? Not so much.

  12. kaboobie says

    Since I already donate to Planned Parenthood on a monthly basis, I checked out the alternate cancer charities PZ suggested and made a donation to the Breast Cancer Research Foundation. I also found out my employer will match 50% of my donation.

  13. What a Maroon says

    Have they sued the band The Cure yet?

    They’re going after the surviving members of The Band first.

  14. NitricAcid says

    I saw a fellow on FaceBook post a “Save the Boobies” poster to support this sort of thing, and I couldn’t believe how furious it made me. I had a friend (we used to be very close) who recently went through chemo and radiation for breast cancer, and, though I may never see her in person again, I value her a hell of a lot more than any specific body part of hers.

  15. says

    They’re (SGK) begining to sound just like the turd-burglar chain who tried to sue a life-long member of Clan McDonald in the Scottish courts for using their brand name – thankfully Scots judges lack any sense of humor but have a wonderful sense of fair play and handed the chain its ass on a plate, along with huge court cost bills for the defendant.
    I knew there was a reason I stopped donating to SGK a few years back and started giving my cash to the free clinics instead – I need to add PP to my worthy recipients list, especially now with the attacks on their funding ramping up.

  16. mikeym says

    @what a maroon

    They’re going after the surviving members of The Band first.

    For titling their debut album “Music from Big Pink?”

  17. ikesolem says

    When it comes to cancer, prevention is far easier than curing, and that means reduced risk factors. The most prevalent risk factor is exposure to industrial and agricultural toxins that damage cellular DNA, leading to the production of cells that have escaped cell cycle regulatory control.

    As far as privately finaced ‘cancer foundations, a large number – if not the vast majority – take cash from agricultural and industrial sectors that produce vast quantities of carcinogens (i.e. petrochemical outfits, pharmaceutical manufacturers, pesticide and herbicide investors, etc.) – and as you’d expect, they don’t spend much time talking about environmental causes of cancer.

    That’s the real scandal here, but then, it’s not just the private foundations who do this – the vast majority of universities with public-private contracts with industry also do the same thing. Do you think a university looking to take in $100 million in royalties from some contact with Monsanto is likely to encourage researchers to examine the health and ecological effects of said product?

    Of course not – which means the corruption is across the board, doesn’t it?

  18. Randomfactor says

    The radical mastectomies which will result from this ludicrous anti-screening action take “cutting off your nose to spite your face” to a whole new level.

  19. dianne says

    The most prevalent risk factor is exposure to industrial and agricultural toxins that damage cellular DNA, leading to the production of cells that have escaped cell cycle regulatory control.

    You may well be right, but…specifics and data?

  20. lizdamnit says

    NitricAcid up at 19 – yes. The “boobie” and “tata” centric modern cancer advertising sticks in my craw. On one hand, I can see how a person with cancer cracking a joke could use that to deal, since humor goes a long way to cracking open shuttered windows of shame. But the tata stuff is juvenile.

    As for SGK, they lost my respect years ago, and they just fell farther. One of these days, I just want some large charit-o-corp and their fundy friends to erect a giant “fuck the poor!” billboard. Just out with it already!

    Actually, what I want is for them to restore funding, and to have equal campaigns for heart disease, cervical cancer, and the like. Or are hearts and cervixes (cervicii?) too icky to talk about? Ugh.

  21. ikesolem says

    The most prevalent risk factor is exposure to industrial and agricultural toxins that damage cellular DNA, leading to the production of cells that have escaped cell cycle regulatory control.

    You may well be right, but…specifics and data?

    Have you ever heard of Google Scholar? There’s vast amounts of data, dating back to the 18th century investigations of scrotal cancer in young chimney sweeps.

    Anyone willing to deny that such specifics and data exist is either woefully uninformed – or is an agent of the very interests who wish to deny that link. So, which are you, “dianne”?

  22. madscientist says

    I’ve seen this thing happen with so many non-profits and charities. Some management flunkee comes in, brings in propaganda flunkees, and before you know it 99% of the money is going to CEO salaries and advertising and virtually nothing is going to the cause originally promoted by the organization.

  23. dianne says

    Anyone willing to deny that such specifics and data exist is either woefully uninformed – or is an agent of the very interests who wish to deny that link.

    Take off your tin foil hat, it’s only enhancing the effects of the radio waves. There are lots of “toxins” out there. Some of them cause cancer, some of them cause other things, some of them just smell bad. If you want to be effective, you’ll have to be more specific. What specific agents are you most concerned about and what is the evidence that they are causing cancer? Which type of cancer/s is/are suspected?

  24. dianne says

    Actually, what I want is for them to restore funding, and to have equal campaigns for heart disease, cervical cancer, and the like.

    Heart disease is not exactly a solved problem, but the mortality is dropping pretty rapidly, especially for younger people: cancer became the number one killer of people under age 80 because deaths from heart disease decreased, not because death from cancer rose (actually, the mortality rate from cancer is decreasing too for younger people, just not as quickly as for heart disease.)

    There are ribbons for cervical cancer, along with practically every other form of cancer you can imagine. The cervical one is teal and white. I’d like more attention to ovarian, myself. It’s a nasty one with few treatment options. And pancreatic. Of course, pancreases look lousy on billboards, so it’ll be a harder sell. Plus there are few survivors. One reason breast cancer charities are so prominent is that there are a lot of breast cancer survivors working for awareness, etc. It’s good, but kind of imbalanced.

  25. chriskg says

    It seems to me that (to coin a phrase), “They are going to cut off their breasts, to spite their chest.”

    “Chest” could be taken to mean “money chest.”

    This, as others have mentioned, means I too will be donating to PPA instead.

  26. mmmmd says

    @ 27 cervices.

    I got weary of pink everything years ago. How about more of the blue tie for prostate cancer? And how about more media and sponsored coverage for the #1 preventable cause of death and disease in the US and possibly the world–tobacco? Lung cancer still kills more people yearly in the US than breast and prostate cancer combined.

  27. frog says

    I don’t mean to be touting someone else’s work, but I’ve seen a reasonable overlap between posters here and at The Whatever (and all those folks who linked to Jim Hines in the comic art post just drive home the secret cabal of SF/F-loving atheists). John Scalzi is donating part of his earnings to Planned Parenthood in response to this 9link) and it would probably be a nice idea for other folks to make similar gestures.

  28. carovee says

    I have been reading a lot of articles about this across the blogosphere. Some articles claim that early screening has lowered the death rate for breast cancer. Others claim that too much screening has lead to many women receiving unnecessary treatment and that the death rate hasn’t changed in the last 20 years. Can someone clear this up? Is there any consensus on whether progress has been made in treatment and survival rates? Thanks.

  29. says

    What I don’t get with this is, do they honestly think, if someone came along and said, “Heh, we have a vaccine, or something, which can be taken, which nearly eliminates breast cancer.”, the first reaction from the assholes trying to end Planned Parenthood wouldn’t be the exact same as they had to the existence of the HPV vaccine? These people don’t give a shit about anything other than their delusional ideas about roe vs. wade, and they have shown, time and again, a willingness, in all sphere of politics, to invent, manufacture, or distort, facts, to get what they want. Which makes the act of listening to them, by an organization that is **at all** in interested in women’s health, like Komen, an act of either extreme stupidity, or eventual suicide (once they find an excuse for why breasts shouldn’t be ‘covered’ by health care either, and start babbling about what Komen is doing wrong to bury them too). And I don’t doubt, for a single moment, that there are already some of them that are thinking about this.

  30. dianne says

    Can someone clear this up?

    No. Or at least not altogether, but some points…

    1. Screening definitely leads to earlier treatment. This probably saves lives. But there is some evidence that not all cancers are clinically relevant. Some may even resolve on their own. So it may be that some cancers being found are just not ever going to be important (so slow growing that they won’t harm the patient unless she lives to 150 or even self limited) and of course all procedures, including cancer treatment, have risks.

    2. The death rate has gone down. In women, the breast cancer death rate has gone from over 32 per 100,000 in 1973 to just under 22 per 100,000 in 2008.

    3. The death rate is deceptive because it isn’t controlled for incidence. Incidence has gone up for a variety of reasons, but one major one is that people live longer and don’t die of other things. Five year relative survival has gone from 75% in the 1970s to over 90% in the 2000s. This is actually probably an underestimate, given that it’s a cohort not a period analysis.

    Source of data on survival and death rates: seer.cancer.gov.

  31. Matt Penfold says

    I have been reading a lot of articles about this across the blogosphere. Some articles claim that early screening has lowered the death rate for breast cancer. Others claim that too much screening has lead to many women receiving unnecessary treatment and that the death rate hasn’t changed in the last 20 years. Can someone clear this up? Is there any consensus on whether progress has been made in treatment and survival rates? Thanks.

    The consensus with regards breast cancer screening in the UK is, as best I can tell, that it should continue but that more research should be done both in the UK and other countries and the situation kept under review. The data does not seem to be strong enough to end the program at the moment, especially since it would be seen as cost-cutting measure.

  32. Blattafrax says

    #28

    Anyone willing to deny that such specifics and data exist is either woefully uninformed – or is an agent of the very interests who wish to deny that link.

    Bullshit.

    The biggest risk factor in the development of cancer is age. (http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/wyntk/cancer/page3 National Cancer Institute [in the USA])

    The worst toxin by far and documented as being responsible for millions of deaths is entirely natural. Tobacco smoke products.

    I’d suggest that genetics and natural ionising radiation play a large part too.

    Then artificial ‘toxins’. Yes, there is a risk from petrol fumes, herbicides, food additives even. But the value of being able to move quickly from one place to another; not starve every few years due to a lack of food and have access to doughnuts with a long shelf-life outweighs this by an order of magnitude or two. IMO.

    So your statement shows a clear lack of imagination (well informed people may not be Monsanto employees and still disagree with you in a hundred and one ways). One can accept risk; understand that some chemicals have positive and negative effects; have a sense of proportion even.

    But coming back to PZ’s post – which is slightly relevant to this rant. Wonderful to read, thank you.

  33. Brownian says

    Ikesolem, how do you do it?

    How do you never get tired of being the stupidest person in any room?

  34. Ichthyic says

    My prediction–they will learn nothing from this public outrage and will double down on the assholery and start suing people for pointing out they are assholes. Donations will drop precipitously because donors care about missions even if boards do not and they will blame the ‘liberal media’ for the whole fiasco.

    A microcosm of why the American Economy is slowly collapsing in on itself.

    The same things apply to politics, btw. The two things are both based on leadership skills and sound decisionmaking.

    The lack of sound decisionmaking and leadership extends at least partly, from my observations, to the rest of the world as well.

    But then, in the end, as soon as we point the finger to the “leaders”, we have to remember the old cliche…

    most of those fingers point back at us.

    nobody really wants to take the responsibilities of leadership on themselves, especially if someone else offers to do it for them.

    We turn a blind eye to the fact that those who offer to do it for us are often completely unqualified, or have only personal motives, in doing so.

    I’ll just keep saying this:

    protests are a complete waste of time. They make you feel like you did something, when you did NOTHING, but claim you care… and then STILL hand the reigns of responsibility to someone else.

    It will always be this way; a society will build itself on a grand idea, then inevitably collapses when those within it best suited to supporting the idea defer their responsibility to someone else.

    and so it goes.

    over and over and over again, throughout history.

    until there is nothing left, and no grand idea will dig us out of the hole we have dug for ourselves.

    We are lazy, shortsighted people.

    I wonder if that will ever change?

  35. Rev. BigDumbChimp says

    protests are a complete waste of time.

    I agree for the most part unless there is an actual significant impact on donations / income and as a result less direct donations and / or a real stigmatization of their actions and their group. Will that make them backtrack on their decision?

    Maybe.

  36. Ichthyic says

    The most prevalent risk factor is exposure to industrial and agricultural toxins that damage cellular DNA

    look, when people ask you for cites, you could actually give them the idea you actually have perused at least SOME of the primary literature.

    screaming at them to use google doesn’t suggest you have made a critical analysis of the literature YOURSELF, nor does it help anyone else who might not be ABLE to make a such an analysis.

    If you can’t, that’s fine, but then you also can’t hold your conclusions with such conviction.

    There are a lot of questions involved in the claims you make.

    Primarily, we need to look at the big division first:

    Your claim is that, in essence, environmental factors are much more important in the genesis of most cancers than heritable ones are.

    If correct, what kind of studies should one start looking for to really get a handle on whether this might be accurate or not?

    Well, first thing to my mind would be to look at correlative data studies, to see if a pattern emerges first.

    How to do that with humans? Only one relatively easy way I can think of:

    Twin studies.

    So, are there twin studies attempting to elucidate whether cancer genesis factors are primarily based on heritable (parental genetic contributions) vs environmental ones?

    Yes, there are. Here’s a review on the subject from 2000:

    http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJM200007133430201

    It indeed is supportive of the idea that heritable contributions to cancer genesis may not be as strong as once thought.

    BUT…

    Not only do you have to take into account the limitations of twin studies in general, and the standard trope of correlation /= causation, there are many MANY other factors that need to be looked at as well before a strong conclusion can be made about the contributions to cancer genesis in general of any specific environmental chemical.

    -there are hundreds of different types of cancer, all affected differently and with different pathways of initiation.
    -there are often many different ways even one, specific, type of cancer can be initiated and stimulated to grow.
    -there are not only complications due to heritable factors, but developmental ones as well (it’s often extremely difficult to isolate the effect of one specific chemical from the effects of the millions of other environmental factors one is exposed to during development).

    ….and I’m just barely scratching the surface.

  37. F says

    SGK gave circa $680,000 to Planned Parenthood this past year.

    SGK pays its CEO $459,406 a year.

    Susan G. Komen for the Cure 1%.

  38. Ichthyic says

    I agree for the most part unless there is an actual significant impact on donations / income and as a result less direct donations and / or a real stigmatization of their actions and their group. Will that make them backtrack on their decision?

    yeah, you’re right, I’m overgeneralizing.

    I keep thinking about the OWS kind of protests; protesting against the “evils of corporations and government” in general.

    I know that at the heart of it, that railing against poor decisionmaking and leadership is what drove both the teabaggers AND the OWS folks.

    but in the end, protesting at that level changes nothing.

    if you’re gonna protest, you need to do it early, and start locally, and then, after you succeed in generating a change of direction, you need to participate to make it stick.

    likewise, protesting something as large as one of these giant corporate charities isn’t going to change the direction they want to take it.

    It’s pretty clear that at some point, somewhere, there was a time when the charity was indeed devoted to the goal of trying to reduce the impact breast cancer has on all of us.

    but then, someone got the bright idea it could be co-opted to serve an unrelated political agenda; like, say, an unrelated rider attached to a bill before it goes for a vote before Congress.

    and there was nobody there to protest it. Nobody there to stop whoever it was from doing this.

    after that, it was fucked. Protest after that can only take the form of slash and burn, and hope that something better arises from the ashes.

    meanwhile, think of all the time and money and effort that was wasted in building this entity into the monster it is.

    and it will have to start all over again.

    like I said, it’s just like a microcosm of the larger state of affairs we appear to have created.

    I’m not saying don’t protest.

    I’m saying, in the end, say what it is you really want to see:

    Everyone who has any sense wants to cut the head off this thing and use it for fertilizer.

    OK, great. Off with its head!

    Now, who picks up the pieces to build something new out of it all over again?

    You?

    Me?

    that guy over there?

    I dunno. I guess I’m just saying that people need to look at these things as small examples of something far more pervasive that we need to fix, as a society, if we ever expect to do anything other than:

    … plant a garden, fail to tend it, have it inevitably get overgrown with weeds, burn the weeds, plant a garden, fail to tend it….

  39. says

    Thanks PZ.

    I had not heard of Pinkwashing until I read your article, but I have seen in it action so now I understand what is going on.

    And good on you for being tough enough to call a turd a turd when you see it, even when it is a difficult subject you are tackling.

    Cheers!

  40. says

    Here’s an interesting older post about Komen from Jonathon Turley’s blog:

    “The true absurdity of our current laws is shown by the abusive litigation of Susan G. Komen For the Cure — an organization fighting breast cancer. Komen has sued public interest groups who dare to advertise that they are seeking money or support “for the cure,” ranging from “Bark for the Cure” to “Kayaks for the Cure.” While claiming to want to fight breast cancer in endless ads played on the radio and television, the organization is crushing smaller groups trying to raise money for a cure to breast cancer. The organization has reportedly spent over $1 million that could have gone to breast cancer research to sue other public interest organizations. It is a disgraceful “scorched earth” campaign by a group that has become a fundraising machine.”

    Whole post here–Komen stuff is at the end of the article: http://jonathanturley.org/2011/02/07/coming-soon-to-stores-palin%E2%84%A2-palin-trademarks-herself/

  41. Azkyroth says

    Have you ever heard of Google Scholar? There’s vast amounts of data, dating back to the 18th century investigations of scrotal cancer in young chimney sweeps.

    So link some. You’re making the claim, after all.

    Anyone willing to deny that such specifics and data exist is either woefully uninformed – or is an agent of the very interests who wish to deny that link. So, which are you, “dianne”?

    She didn’t “deny” anything, you dumb shit, she asked you to provide supporting evidence for the claim you made.

  42. says

    The most prevalent risk factor is exposure to industrial and agricultural toxins that damage cellular DNA, leading to the production of cells that have escaped cell cycle regulatory control.

    Uh, no. At least not in the case of breast cancer, where genetic risk factors far outweigh environmental risk factors.

  43. Dr. Audley Z. Darkheart, liar and scoundrel says

    Oh for fuck’s sake. Fuck this shit.

    Have you ever tried to buy anything (especially if it’s “traditionally feminine”) during the month of October that doesn’t have fucking pink ribbons plastered all over the packaging?

    I bake. Nearly all of the companies that produce baking staples donate money to SGKftC– I’ve bought fucking yeast that had pink fucking ribbons all over it, fer chrissake.

    Anyway, now I feel like I’m totally screwed. I do not want to give SGK any of my money, but I feel like I’m kind of boxed in because of all of the fucking corporate sponsorship.

    Fuck.

  44. says

    Crowepps:

    The loathsome Sen. David Vitter, cosponsor of the Senate’s version of the Die on the Floor bill, has issued a press release about how happy he is that the Susan G. Komen Foundation has *taken his advice* and defunded Planned Parenthood.

    Why, are they going to be funding the makers of Pampers instead?

  45. robro says

    Noticed that the story is on the front page of Google News tonight, which means lots of people are clicking links to it.

  46. paul says

    There is an opportunity for Planned Parenthood here, if they realize it in time. They need to set up a way for people to donate money earmarked for cancer screening and prevention. That way, people can transfer the donations they would have given to SGKftC and still know that it is going to fight cancer.

  47. davidcortesi says

    PZ, that was a nice post. Nice piece of writing, balanced, covering more history and a broader perspective than the many other outraged bloggers on this subject did. Good work.

  48. truthspeaker says

    interrobang says:
    1 February 2012 at 12:48 pm

    Under there somewhere, I’m sure, is Handel’s belief that abortions cause breast cancer. Not that forced-birthers are short of fake nails on which to hang their particular mendacious, misogynist hat, but I will bet cash money that’s part of it.

    I would not bet against you.

    I wonder if they’ve every sued Code Pink? And what about Pink Floyd? If they sued David Gilmour, Roger Waters would sue them for not suing him.

  49. truthspeaker says

    Regarding the “save the tatas” campaign, one thing that bothered me about it was it contributes to people not knowing that men get breast cancer too. Not nearly as many men get it as women do, but a few men do. A guy I know is one of them so I feel obliged to mention it whenever breast cancer comes up in conversation.

  50. Ariaflame, BSc, BF, PhD says

    @Dr Audley Is it possible for you to stock up on some of the least perishable items in September to avoid the pinkification?

  51. says

    Ichthyic: I think that you are making an error in attribution here. I do not think that it is that we willfully pass on the responsibility — it is that the truly principled and competent people end up retiring or dying, and leave behind people who aren’t necessarily as principled or competent (usually the former), and thus we are left with little choice.

    Furthermore, human socialization is IME heavily predicated on being dishonest and manipulative in order to get a leg up on others and shift things in one’s own favor (even if it is merely the conversation one is having at the time); it is thus much easier for people with less honesty to get their way as they have no qualms with being consciously dishonest and manipulative. It obviously does not help that humans are extremely susceptible to such bullshit either, and it helps even less that humans remain susceptible to such bullshit even when the results are plain to see. As such, even a person with principles might be fooled for lack of experience into hiring someone without who will attempt to abuse their power.

    In any case, when the dishonest take power, honesty is anathema to their existence and they will do everything possible to keep the honest from retaking power — which is not hard to do, because they have no qualms with being dishonest while the honest most certainly do, and thus they can spout whatever they want and leave the honest to try to clean up the mess (and more often than not fail because the dishonest will bullshit their way into getting support, making an even bigger mess and likely ostracizing the honest). The honest then become apathetic in the face of dishonesty, and the impetus to become informed grows less because no end to dishonesty is seen; the end result is that you have a dishonest dystopia perpetuated by its own dishonesty, with most honest people too downtrodden to speak up and those that do pressured — socially or otherwise — to shut up.

    And it sucks, not because we are all to blame but because no one is to blame; it is merely a sad confluence of entropy, psychology and lack of (accurate) information.

  52. Dr. Audley Z. Darkheart, liar and scoundrel says

    Ariaflame,
    That’s the plan. Dairy products are right the fuck out, though.

    Seriously, the supermarkets around here are a fucking riot of pink come October.

  53. dianne says

    @71: What a strange “defense” of the decision: It mentions Komen’s decision to defund PP almost not at all and instead simply gives an emotional appeal for unity. Very strange. Almost as if they know that they should be ashamed of themselves. Sorry, Komen execs, you screwed up. Admit it and make amends if you want any chance of maintaining your credibility.

  54. sebloom says

    @70 I noticed that “adding comments has been disabled for this video.” After all, we wouldn’t want to have a discussion about this, would we…

  55. dianne says

    @71: I wrote a comment to the Komen site you linked to. It is, what a shock, “awaiting moderation”. I don’t expect them to actually publish it, but at least their webmaster will have to read it.

  56. raven says

    @Dr Audley Is it possible for you to stock up on some of the least perishable items in September to avoid the pinkification?

    Great idea.

    I’m so appalled by Komen that this and everything like that is worth doing. They’ve clearly been taken over by right wing extremists and fundie xian morons.

    Hitchens: Religion poisons everything. Proven once again.

    The money I would have donated to Komen is going to Planned Parenthood. Cut out the middleperson.

  57. Rev. BigDumbChimp says

    @71: What a strange “defense” of the decision: It mentions Komen’s decision to defund PP almost not at all and instead simply gives an emotional appeal for unity. Very strange. Almost as if they know that they should be ashamed of themselves. Sorry, Komen execs, you screwed up. Admit it and make amends if you want any chance of maintaining your credibility.

    And the whole bullshit about abortion is so fucking ridiculous. The money went to screenings. NOT ABORTIONS. Only 3% of PP services are abortion related. The rest are needed health services, much of which for the undeserved.

    Just by coincidence we have a PP fundraiser coming up in March. I’ve doubled my sponsorship and auction donations (photos).

    The good side of this is that the number of donations for PP have increased dramatically. $650,000 in 24 hours. Almost enough to replace a years worth of what SGK is now dropping.

    And I have a comment at that Miss A site in moderation as well.

  58. says

    Obviously they need to spin, spin, spin. But not sure how they will spin this documentary away coming, as it does, on the heels this PR disaster:

    http://tbogg.firedoglake.com/2012/02/01/the-komen-syndrome/

    There is a bigger picture here that is not evident to the donating public. Pharma and other industries have realized that patient advocacy can equal big money. They actually call it ‘venture philanthropy.’ They are moving in and taking over nonprofit ventures that have been in sphere of actual patient groups for decades. These venture philanthropists ‘Komenize’ advocacy through heavy-handed, aggressive marketing and promises of (desperately needed) big money for research. One scheme is to get patients to ‘tell their stories,’ complete with data from their medical charts that would be HIPAA protected if they weren’t able to convince patients to voluntarily provide it. They then aggregate and sell that data to the highest bidder–and it’s all perfectly legal.

    There is one such group now targeting very vulnerable rare disease groups. They pull patients in through slick marketing and vague promises and ask patients to ‘share their story’ as a way to get at protected data legally and for free. They are backed by pharma and Steve Burroughs, a major CA venture capitalist, and partner with groups that sell this data to Wall Street investors* and are actually pretty bold about it. For instance, many partner with FasterCures, which is a program of the Milken Foundation–yes, that Milken. Turning patient data over to a convicted felon. What could possibly go wrong? These groups (RARE Proj, PatientsLikeMe, FasterCures, etc) are inevitably linked to one another and have real Congressional clout. Actual patient advocacy groups are completely outgunned.

    Komen’s malfeasance over the years has provided ‘proof of concept’ to these sociopaths that there are good pickins’ to be had off the bones of the sick. Those of us in rare disease world are watching this whole ugly corporate marketing attack unfold in our world right now, knowing we are about to be strangled by RARE Project’s denim ribbon.

    *MN AG recently sued a private equity company for selling HIPAA protected material to friendly Wall Street contacts. Why Wall Street feels entitled to personal health history is a mystery. Maybe they’ve exhausted efforts to figuratively wring the blood, sweat and tears out of Americans, so now they are going after our literal blood, sweat and tears? http://www.ag.state.mn.us/PDF/Consumer/AccretiveHealth20120119.pdf

  59. carlie says

    According to a lot of sites, Komen has also recently stopped funding stem-cell research on breast cancers. Their site isn’t organized in such a way to easily find their policy statements, though.

  60. carlie says

    Found the original and a story from lifenews.com:

    On November 30, 2011, Komen quietly added a new statement to its web site stating that it does not support embryonic stem cell research but supports the kinds that do not involve the destruction of human life.

    “Komen supports research on the isolation, derivation, production, and testing of stem cells that are capable of producing all or almost all of the cell types of the developing body and may result in improved understanding of or treatments for breast cancer, but are derived without creating a human embryo or destroying a human embryo,” Komen says. “A priority in our research funding is to quickly find and deliver effective treatments, especially for the most lethal forms of breast cancer, while seeking effective preventive strategies, enhanced screening methodologies, and solutions to disparities in breast cancer outcomes for diverse women.”

    link to original Komen pdf statement

  61. David Marjanović says

    “save the tatas” t-shirts

    “Save the Boobies” poster

    Jesus.
    Haploid.
    Christ.

    the turd-burglar chain who tried to sue a life-long member of Clan McDonald in the Scottish courts for using their brand name

    …What I just said.

    cervixes (cervicii?)

    Cervices. Cervic-s (spelled with x), cervic-es.

    Have you ever tried to buy anything (especially if it’s “traditionally feminine”) during the month of October that doesn’t have fucking pink ribbons plastered all over the packaging?

    Whoa. Didn’t know it was anywhere near that bad in the USA. (Elsewhere, there don’t seem to be any big cancer charities.)

  62. says

    P.S. There are some very bad arguments for not donating to the Komen foundation out there, and the very worst are those that selectively cite statistics to argue that cancer research is futile.

    In case anyone hasn’t pointed it out yet, here is the most recent ACS report on breast cancer. Mortality rates have been steadily falling since the early 90s, and the 5-year survival rate has been steadily going up since the 70s. So whoever wrote that book sounds like someone with an axe to grind who selectively cherry-picked stats to make his case. That doesn’t mean that there aren’t a myriad of problems with “Big Pink”, but it’s just not true that there hasn’t been significant progress with breast cancer.

  63. carlie says

    Wow. This was retweeted by Karen Handel, senior vice president of public policy of the Komen foundation today:

    “Just like a pro-abortion group to turn a cancer orgs decision into a political bomb throw. Cry me a freaking river.”

    source

  64. dianne says

    I went back to the Komen justification linked to in comment 71. I left a comment. I know several other people, including Rev BDC here have left comments. Yet somehow the post has no comments. Perhaps they aren’t getting the comments they wanted.

  65. Eric R says

    I’m a little disappointed that, so far as I know, a whole day into this and not a single corporate sponsor has stepped forward and commented, let alone withdrawn their support.

    I would very much like to see an exodus of corporate supporters over all this.

  66. lovelyritamm says

    The reason breast cancer research is the 800 lb gorilla is because I’ve been told that 1 in 8 women will have it in their lifetime. Nor a lack of family history preclude you from getting it. I don’t think the risk of other cancers (ie, uterine, pancreatic) is as high. And it doesn’t just affect older people, though it is more common when you’re older. The problem is, when you’re younger, it’s often more aggressive, which makes early detection all the more important.

    When you detect breast cancer early, it has a very high cure rate. And treatment is easier too.

    I just recently finished with breast cancer treatments. I was lucky – it was caught early by a physical, and early enough that I escaped chemotherapy, and though I’m in my 30s, mine was non-aggressive.

    My experience has taught me how important screenings are because if you have this, you really want to catch it early. Not only for the obvious reasons, but I had no idea how much it could affect the treatment you undergo.

  67. says

    “Just like a pro-abortion group to turn a cancer orgs decision into a political bomb throw. Cry me a freaking river.”

    Just like Pink Inc to turn women’s rights into a marketing gimick

  68. Rev. BigDumbChimp says

    In my mind this doesn’t change a thing for me. Good PP will continue to be funded. Bad SGK showed exactly what their priories are.

    At least it forced me to look more into SGK and discover that I don;t want to support them for more than just this public relations disaster for them.

  69. says

    Yeah, I mean the founder and CEO was a Bush appointee in the State Department (ambassador to Hungary, among other things).

    (Though her Wikipedia page doesn’t exactly describe her career stations particularly well, she could’ve been a career diplomat, but it doesn’t look like it)

  70. Stardrake says

    Likely too little, too late. People have started digging into the SGKF’s operations, and many are not liking what they see. This looks like the decision that will keep on hurting….

    Kewl!

  71. caveatimperator says

    Perhaps they should just declare themselves a religious organization, and then they can keep their finances and operational procedures in the dark. Well, more in the dark at least.