VIDEO: Is Susan G. Komen for the Cure Guilty of Pinkwashing?

by , 02/15/12   filed under: The Big Idea

Video by Zina Saunders

The backlash against Susan G. Komen for the Cure continues. The world’s largest breast-cancer organization came under fire in early February after it announced its decision to withdraw funding from Planned Parenthood, a move that was widely panned as a blatantly political effort to appease right-wing pro-life (or “anti-choice,” if you will) groups. Several high-level Komen resignations (and threats of resignation), a petition from more than two dozen democratic senators, and one brief website hacking later, Komen backpedalled, but the damage to the organization—and the legacy of one sister’s promise—was done. Illustrator Zina Saunders created an animated short to express her disgruntlement. “In the process of reading about Komen,” she says, “I found out a lot more about their disgraceful practice of ‘pinkwashing’ corporate sponsors who make and use toxic, cancer-causing chemicals in their products.”

Susan G. Komen for the Cure, breast cancer, eco-fashion, sustainable fashion, ethical fashion, green fashion, sustainable style, Planned Parenthood, toxic chemicals, pinkwashing


It’s no secret that Komen is in bed with a number of multinational corporations, including Coca-Cola, 3M, and General Mills, but critics are now questioning the level of influence these affiliations have on the supposedly non-partisan issue of women’s health. “Nothing causes a business to stop in its tracks faster than the fear of a) losing money, and b) bad publicity. It is not that anti-choicers have so much influence on Komen; it’s that they can have so much influence on Komen’s sponsors,” wrote Ms. Magazine’s Mara Einstein when the outrage first broke. “It is is not that anti-choicers have so much influence on Komen; it’s that they can have so much influence on Komen’s sponsors.”

Komen has downplayed links between bisphenol-A and breast cancer, even as it funds research that explores that connection.

Komen has also infamously downplayed links between bisphenol-A and breast cancer, even as it funds research that ostensibly explores that connection. Mother Jones pointed out in October that Komen receives a considerable largesse from industries that use BPA in their products, from plastic water jugs to food-can liners. In September, research conducted by theCalifornia Pacific Medical Center found that BPA caused healthy breast cells “to grow and survive like cancer cells” while inhibiting the effectiveness of certain cancer-fighting drugs. Komen’s noncommittal position on the chemical, however, remains unchanged.

Former Komen employees describe Brinker as an “imposing figure” who flies first class and prefers five-star hotels.

Also gaining traction are accusations leveled against Nancy Brinker, Komen’s larger-than-life founder who turned a cause into a household brand. On Monday, The Daily Beast announced that Brinker had billed Komen for $133,507 in expenses from June 2007 to January 2009, according to her filings with the U.S. Office of Government Ethics, despite a full-time position as chief of protocol for the State Department at the time. The money, according to the filing, covered “speech-writing expenses, certain travel, and office costs,” as well as “office personnel work,” but didn’t delve into specifics.

Half a dozen former Komen employees described Brinker as an “imposing figure” who “flies first class, prefers five-star hotels, and generally exhibits an entitled air.” (She prefers to be addressed as “Ambassador Brinker,” not by her first name.) One of them quipped: “How many mammograms could you buy for those first-class tickets?”

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