The NFL and the Pinkification of Breast Cancer

Are you aware that breast cancer is a thing? If not, then it’s possible that you haven’t seen any NFL games this month (or you might live under a rock?). October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, which means during every October game we get to see the NFL pretend they give a single solitary fuck about people with breasts.

Pink shoes! Pink coaches hats! Outrageously-overpriced pink merchandise! Aren’t you so aware now?

Of course, it’s worth noting that estimates show only five to eight percent of sales generated by the NFL’s pink merchandise go to cancer research. So maybe instead of buying that heinous $80 hoodie (which puts between $4 and $7 into the hands of cancer researchers), just donate $20 to an organization like the Breast Cancer Research Foundation, where nearly 92% of your donation goes toward actual research and breast cancer programs. You’ve saved yourself $60, your donation is roughly 157% more effective, and your friends don’t have to be seen in public with you wearing that dreadful hoodie.*

“But Courtney,” I already hear you saying, “The NFL has donated $7 million to the American Cancer Society since 2009! That’s better than nothing!”

Oh my dear, sweet, summer child. The NFL has generated $55 billion in revenue for that same time frame (earning between $8-$11B annually), and has plans to become a $25 billion entity by 2027. So you’ll have to forgive me if I’m not clamoring to worship at the NFL’s giant pink schlong for that paltry 0.01% of their revenue.

Of course, there are other problems with the pink-ification of issues like breast cancer – problems that don’t stop with the NFL. First, it’s no coincidence that pink is the breast cancer awareness color. After all, women love pink, right? And this is a women’s issue! But not only is that factually inaccurate (men get breast cancer too), it’s incredibly cissexist to assume that only women have breasts. And don’t get me started on the “Save the Boobies” focus of breast cancer awareness. Save the people, and stop sexualizing cancer of all damn things.

“Awareness” is a vague term that companies use to generate good feelings and positive PR while doing relatively little to actually help their cause du jour. If you want to benefit a particular cause, use skepticism about the organization you’re supporting. You can use a site like Charity Navigator, which does a great job outlining where your money goes when you donate. You can use inclusive language when you talk about an issue.

Just please don’t buy that atrocity of a hoodie.

*That hoodie isn’t ugly because it’s pink/”feminine.” It’s just ugly. There’s nothing inherently wrong with pink, or anything else traditionally feminine. 

Featured Image by Marianne O’Leary

Courtney Caldwell

Courtney Caldwell is an intersectional feminist. Her talents include sweary rants, and clogging your social media with pictures of her dogs (and occasionally her begrudging cat). She's also a political nerd, whose far-left tendencies are a little out of place in the deep red Texas.

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  1. While the NFL pink product line is definitely a 99% PR move, the players and coaches are wearing pink because their mothers, sisters, aunts, cousins, wives, friends, front office staffers, etc., who have had breast cancer — that has affected that player and coaches in a not-so-insignificant way.

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