Telling the truth is a revolutionary act

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By Zoe Christopher, BCAction Resource Liaison

Lately I’ve been having a hard time reconciling our focus on a “pinked perfume” with the realities of the current global crisis. Sometimes I feel small and ineffective, climbing a short ladder set against the wrong tree. So what if corporate pinkwashers keep the profit cycle churning? So what if an organization’s successful marketing strategy depends on a few lies? This is not new. And pink is just a color. Let them have it. Give it up. Women are dying, for God’s sake – how does this matter?

Then on Saturday I marched with OccupySF, and I listened and I watched closely. As hundreds of us navigated the city streets, the crowd continued to grow and I felt the giant embrace of the world’s activist community. It hasn’t come easy but I realized that this is what happens when we educate each other one at a time. This is what happens when a truth is revealed, shared.  This is the energetic locomotive of social justice. This is how change happens.

At BCAction, as the Resource Liaison, I’m the one on the receiving end of most of the emails, letters and phone calls. I hear both the inspiring and the deeply disturbing stories from our members; I do the research to find answers to their questions; I distribute messages of support and love that come our way; and I field and respond to the criticisms. I ride an emotional roller coaster that descends into the dark, disturbing truth of our atrocious healthcare system and soars with the personal and political victories that we all work hard for. My coworkers know that my best days always include a convert, someone who approaches BCAction from the opposite side of the field but is receptive to and ultimately awakened by our position.

In late September, I was contacted by an organization that assumed an alignment with our work. They were developing an online resource for pink products that would help “…support breast cancer research and funding.” Well – you know how we feel about pink products and cause marketing but apparently they didn’t. I took a deep breath–and 24 hours–and then replied to their email with copies of our critical questions, our current TB4UP campaign (“Raise a Stink!”), and some truths about pink ribbon cause marketing. I didn’t expect to hear another peep.  Two days later, the company’s co-owner wrote to me: “Thank you so much for the information, it was eye opening! Your email prompted us to reexamine our breast cancer awareness page and completely change it.”

I always get teary when things like this happen. I wept many times during the OccupySF march for the same reason: people are waking up. “One at a time” has become thousands. I believe that if every one of us would take a stand for all of us, we will see change. Corporate profiteering at the expense of the vulnerable and pinkwashing on the backs of women living with breast cancer must stop.

Today I know I have my priorities straight: whether we are calling out corporate greed in general or revealing the egregious practices of individual pinkwashers, acting on what we know to be true is of vital importance. It’s our responsibility. Each of us must teach our friends and loved ones – no act is too small. The truth is spreading like a fire determined to burn clean.

“In a time of universal deceit — telling the truth is a revolutionary act.”

-George Orwell


  1. Posted October 19, 2011 at 3:16 pm | Permalink

    I think our zoo was annoyed when I posted a link to this site after they began promoting a “wear pink get in half price” zoo day. I’m trying to figure out what wearing pink and getting in the zoo have to do with breast cancer research.

  2. Robin hacker Caito
    Posted October 19, 2011 at 3:42 pm | Permalink

    I loved reading your letter. While reading, I found myself cheering you on and felt as though you were reading my thoughts, because I feel exactly the same. Bravo to you for all you have done and continue to do. I would to become more involved.

    Love and Blessings,
    Robin Hacker Caito

  3. Posted October 19, 2011 at 4:44 pm | Permalink

    Keep telling the truth – it sets people free! It comes at a cost to you to do so, but I think that is OK with you because you understand the importance of your passion. I’m trying to do my bit by making my Facebook community aware of pinkwashing. One at a time.

  4. Posted October 19, 2011 at 5:53 pm | Permalink

    Yes, I’m glad they are waking up.
    I am aware of the staggering amount of things for ‘awareness’ that are just offensive. Have you seen this Halloween costume?
    *shakes head

  5. Suzanne Sanders
    Posted October 19, 2011 at 6:31 pm | Permalink

    At first when I first looked at the e-mail my blood boiled because I thought you were advertising the toxic perfume pink for breast cancer. I clicked on the link to send an e-mail to write a lot of not so nice words against the pink and to take me off the e-mail list. I took a deep breath to read your article and yea it was not about selling pink toxic perfume. Thank you.

  6. Posted October 19, 2011 at 8:48 pm | Permalink

    Thank you so much for this Zoe, and for continuing to rise to the challenge that your job poses. As the late great June Jordan said, each one, teach one. You do that so wonderfully well, and I am deeply grateful

  7. Posted October 19, 2011 at 9:56 pm | Permalink

    Zoe ~ I was buying a bday present today for an employee. I was informed that a portion of my purchase was going to benefit SGK. I asked, politely, if I could opt out of that. The sales lady asked what I meant. I told her that I wanted to buy the item (it was the only place that sold it) but I did not want any of my funds directed to SGK. She cautiously looked around the store and whispered to my: why? I told her I cannot support such an organization and rattled off some current stats from SGK’s 2010 990. She smiled and said that she was not allowed to voice an opinion but she suspected that all was not kosher with SGK. I slipped her one of my cards and told her to check out other blogs I follow. She profusely thanked me! (I had another not so positive encounter with the manager at my local Safeway, see my 10/18/11 post.) Don’t underestimate the power of influencing one person at a time.

  8. Sandra Surico
    Posted October 20, 2011 at 8:01 am | Permalink

    Breast cancer has nothing to do with the color pink. This fact was brought home to me very vividly by a dear friend, who is painfully recovering from a double mastectomy. The honesty of her sharing is needed to be heard by all the women who have had a lump found, removal performed,chemo and painful radiation that often leads to radiation poisoning and then when all has failed, a mastectomy that leaves you physically and emotionally scarred! How about considering quality of life rather than quantity of years spent in pain?

  9. Posted October 28, 2011 at 5:51 pm | Permalink

    I am so happy to find this site, posted on a community list where i live! I am pissed off that the offices in Vancouver, BC for Breast Cancer are in the most expensive area of downtown offices, and the pink monogramed jackets that staff have make me cringe. I wonder how much of the donations received do anything toward ‘research’. It bothers me how many people buy in. All these efforts ‘for’ cancer, when we need to be cleaning up our environment of the industries that pollute.

  10. Dianne
    Posted October 31, 2011 at 7:33 am | Permalink

    Excellent post, Zoe, and very encouraging.

    Naomi, I just looked at that Halloween costume. How about that product description? “Halloween is your chance to show your fun side. Let it shine through for everyone to see with the Pink Ribbon Women’s Costume.”

    “Fun side.” Good. Freaking. Grief.

  11. Dawn Lucie
    Posted November 13, 2011 at 1:37 pm | Permalink

    Just wanted to say hang in there Zoe – you’re doing a great job, honey! And in case you don’t do it already, you need daily Green Smoothies – in just one week (often less), you WILL feel ten years younger. May you be blessed by the Mother in your work.
    Love In Life,
    Dawn Lucie aka “the dawn:D”

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