Trick or Fright: The Pinkwashing of Halloween
A new campaign from U.S. breast cancer charity, Breastcancer.org, titled Take the Fright Out of Breast Cancer™ is causing a stir amongst its community members who resent having this fun, kids’ day allocated for yet more breast cancer awareness and fundraising. The title was chosen by the organisation, “because we know that a breast cancer experience is filled with fear” and the stated mission is to “provide the information and support that helps people reduce and manage those fears.” The idea is that people will be encouraged to come together to “take the fright out” by celebrating Halloween with a purpose. People are being encouraged to host parties and events, hold bake sales, and generally increase public awareness levels around fear of breast cancer.
Comments from the site community such as, “Dumbest idea ever!”, and “It’s not your holiday; leave it alone,” are typical of the near unanimous rejection of the proposed event by those posting on the site HERE. More pointedly, Stage IV patients, who suffer fear and stress year round, say they don’t need further reminders of their mortality. As one member pleads, “Let the kids and us patients just have fun with Halloween, please.” And men, who can get this disease too, are totally blindsided, since the dominant pinkness is reinforcement of societal perceptions that breast cancer is only a women’s disease, and therefore men remain destined to be diagnosed later and have a poorer prognosis.
Enough is Enough
Why a major charity that does so much good would stoop to such base marketing and fundraising tactics beggars belief. Sure, competition for funds is intense, but it’s time pink charities stepped back from the monster they have created and rationalised their marketing to take into account the public weariness for yet more pink products and hoopla around this very serious disease. As one poster pleaded, “shift the awareness campaigns to research campaigns. That’s what we need. Research. We’re all painfully aware.”
Despite a sustained backlash and the threat of a social media campaign to lobby for cancelation of the campaign, site moderators have thanked commenters for their “honesty,” but have decided to push ahead. Looking at the preparations to date, it’s obvious that much time and money has been invested in the campaign to date and that canceling the event would likely mean some heads would have to roll within the organisation.
Fear is an unpleasant emotion caused by the “threat of danger, pain, or harm,” while fright is a “sudden intense feeling of fear.” Why on earth would a breast cancer charity use a fun event to contribute to the widespread worry over potential or actual diagnosis and treatment of a disease which kills over 40,000 people per year in the U.S. alone?