RACE FOR THE CURE TO BEING RELEVANT

I have been of two minds about how to approach this. One option is to be thorough, do some research, and make a careful, reasoned argument about why the Susan G. Komen Foundationtm is a marketing consultancy masquerading as a charity, a fact only reinforced by their recent actions regarding Planned Parenthood. The other is to put my gall bladder on the keyboard, crank the Dillinger Escape Plan, and let the bile-laced invective fly. Press A for the first option or B for the second.

That's what I thought. No one ever picks A.

As a preface, please consult Lea Goldman's outstanding, well-researched article "The Big Business of Breast Cancer", which represents what may be the one and only outgoing link to Marie Claire magazine I will ever offer. It details the proliferation of scams in the charity industry (a fitting, if oxymoronic, term) that has sprouted up around breast cancer. There are many organizations that use the funds they raise primarily to raise more funds and pay handsome salaries to the administrators and their talentless family members. It is a long read but well worth it. Note well the point that breast cancer research is hardly suffering for lack of funds. The author conservatively estimates six billion dollars funneled toward research annually with almost no progress made since the 1970s.

Second, just in case you missed what all of the fuss is about, the Susan G. Komen Foundationtm For the Curetm announced on Wednesday that it will no longer be making grants/contributions to Planned Parenthood for early breast cancer screenings for the poor and/or uninsured. Nothing says "We're committed to stamping out breast cancer by encouraging regular, early mammograms" like eliminating funding for mammograms.

OK.

The Susan G. Komen Foundationtm has been on my personal shitlist for many years (this post is from 2008). If this is what it takes to get you on the heretofore lonely Screw Komen bandwagon, so be it. But you should not have a low opinion of Komentm because of their announcement on Wednesday. You should have a low opinion of them because they're a fake charity run like any other company with a product to sell. In this case the product is a combination of guilt, pity, and hope dissolved in a weak acid and dyed a nauseating pink.

Wednesday's decision has been described as motivated by pressure from pro-life groups, but in reality Komentm is (and always has been) run by right wingers and closely aligned with conservative politics. The organization's current president, Karen Handel, ran for governor of Georgia in 2010 and lost in the Republican primary. Sarah Palin endorsed her. During her campaign she promised repeatedly to defund Planned Parenthood. She took over Komentm a few months ago. You do the math. On a personal note, Karen, I hope you get cancer. I hope the doctors find it too late to do anything but treat your pain, and I hope they do a poor job of that. Cut and paste that at your leisure to prove how mean-spirited and Uncivil liberals are.

Komen's founder and CEO, Nancy Brinker, is a big money Republican with ties to the past three Republican administration who received a political appointment from George W. Bush as a reward for her fundraising largesse. She draws a salary of $459,000 annually, money well spent compared to the 39% of its budget the foundation spends on "public health education" (i.e., marketing itself). Not to mention that they also spend a million bucks per year in legal fees to threaten other non-profit groups who use the phrase For the Curetm, to which Komentm claims to have intellectual property rights.

That last part is important to the organization, of course, because every successful marketing campaign needs a good logo and a slogan. And that's all Komen is – a consulting firm that helps large corporate clients sell more of their products through pinkwashing campaigns. By slathering everything from pasta to baseball bats to perfume to fast food with the Pink Imprimatur, consumers are led to believe that their purchases are making meaningful contributions to breast cancer research. Somewhere down the line a few cents per purchase may trickle into those bloated coffers, but the immediate and motivating effect of that pink packaging is to get you to buy things. In short, Komentm is a group of salespeople selling image. Whatever money benefits the sick, researchers, or recovering patients is ancillary. Getting those big, fat tax-exempt checks from their Partners for the Curetm is what drives their business model.

Am I too cynical? Consider their lack of discretion in choosing Partnerstm. Nothing says "We're serious about stomping out cancer!" like a pink bucket of fried chicken or pink bags of deep fried snacks. It's ridiculous on that "Earth Day brought to you by Ford" level.

There is a special circle of hell devoted to people who conceal their own selfish behavior with the appearance of charity and good deeds. I suppose that people who make so much money on the suffering of others need some way to look their spa-treated faces in the mirror every morning, but the rest of us need not be deceived. I have never purchased a Komentm-labeled product and I hope you will make a similar arrangement with your conscience today. Playing politics with people's lives is low, even by the withered standards of morality in the corporate world. The 60% of women whose breast cancer is detected before it metastasizes survive almost without exception. The 40% of women whose cancer is detected after metastasis almost inevitably die within five years.

Regardless of whether they cave to public pressure and reverse this decision, I would love to see the Susan G. Komen Foundationtm and its self-aggrandizing, silly publicity stunts reduced to ground zero. I want corporate sponsors to feel like they'd rather put a swastika on their packaging than another Komentm logo for fear of a public backlash. And I want to prove that charitable giving is not wedded to the act of shopping. And since I'm so much better at pointing out what's wrong with everything than at offering solutions, here's what you should do if you want to help the fight against breast cancer:

1. Donate directly. Call or visit the Sloan-Kettering or Johns Hopkins/Avon cancer research institutes and ask how to make a donation that will go 100% toward research. Or donate to the American Cancer Society, which contributes less to research but does a lot of quality-of-life things like buying wigs or prosthesis for cancer victims. Donate locally to a hospital or hospice in your area that will use your money directly on patient services rather than commercials and administrative salaries.

2. Donate your time. One afternoon helping Chemo patients by cleaning their home or running their errands is worth more than all the yogurt lids in existence.

3. Say no to fake activism and Cause Marketing.

4. Remember that people die from things other than breast cancer. Cervical and ovarian cancer are overlooked. Men needlessly die from the reluctance to get regular prostate exams. AIDS is still a thing. Heart disease is the #1 killer of men and women. Depression is a leading cause of death among young people.

5. Share this with as many uninformed people as possible. On Facebook, via email, or whatever. Show them Lea Goldman's article. Explain patiently why Planned Parenthood is used as a pinata by every floundering right wing political figure to score cheap points and get the rubes whipped into a frenzy. If you encounter said rubes directly, insult them. Suggest that his or her parents were related prior to marriage.

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121 Responses to “RACE FOR THE CURE TO BEING RELEVANT”

  1. dorne Says:

    I am one of those people with a rare(VERY) cancer. When first diagnosed information given to me was pretty sketchy. I spent hundred of hours doing research just to find there is very little research to find and what I did find you could not draw conclusions from. out of necessity participant numbers were quite small.Most seems to be done in the asian market,then France then U.S.The problem with pool size (besides it is rare) are the requirements. Most don't accept stage 3 or 4 (we die to quickly,before data can be gathered)and very few are discoverd in stage 1 or 2 because of the umbiquous symptoms.
    We rely on privately funded donations,and university studies.
    Most Dr.s will not even know what Thymic Carcinoma is and 90+ oncologists if they know what is have never treated it or even seen a patient with it. But I digress

    It ……….pisss me off some days (especialy in Oct.) that so much attention is payed to Breast Cancer and Lung Cancer or any of the ones Lawyers are advertising for lol.

    I feel for every woman or man that has cancer any Cancer.
    It makes you suffer in so many different ways. For a decade now we have been hearing how closse they are to the cure for breaast cancer. GREAT then continue that string of research to the end but free up some of the money for the rest of us. We suffer,our families suffer just as they due for victims of breast cancer but we don't have a light at the end of the tunnel. What we see is darkness hopelessness and few that care. Thymic patients are constantly at risk taking any "new" "in-testing" "off-line"use drug that one Dr. saw hope in, of course it may have already failed for more.But when there is NO HOPE MANY SETTLE FOR A SMALL CHANCE. can we all say one million dollars? That is what it may cost to die while taking a chance on the newest drug! experimental = $$$$$$$$$$$$
    and Thymic patients may have friends throw a neighborhood BBQ(for ex.) but we DO NOT HAVE A NATIONAL ORG. THAT CAN HELP US. sO YES I RESESNT THE WASTED MONEY .i DON'T RESENT THE CAUSE OR THE WOMEN SUFFERING AND WOULD NEVER WISH CANCER ON ANYONE. bUT PEOPLE OUT THERE NEED TO WAKE UP THERE ARE A LOT OF CANCERS OUT THERE SO DONATE TO AMC NIH OR JUST THE LOCAL PERSON WHO HAS TO CHOSE BETWEEN CANCER DRUGS AND FOOD OR HEAT

  2. nitpicker Says:

    "The organization's current president, Karen Handel, ran for governor of Georgia in 2010 and lost in the Republican primary. "

    This is not true. Handel is an SVP at the organization, not its President.

  3. Sarah Says:

    If a great enough percentage of the charity's income is not being spent on the stated "mission" it is your responsibility as a donor to conduct your "due diligence" and know that.

    And….that….would….be….the….point….of….this….post. That….would….also….be….the….point….of….the….entire….backlash….and….all….the….discussions….it….has….spawned….including….this….one. I….am….not….sure….how….you….expect….donors….to….exercise….this….due….diligence….if….no….one….knows….about….their….fuding….decisions….and….how….they….are….made. Psychic….powers….perhaps? You….like….to….yammer….about….how….you….believe….in….the….christian….religion. I….could….swear….that….followers….of….judeo….christian….theology….did….not….believe….in….that.

  4. RPD Says:

    You're right. Same on Planned Parenthood for taking a nickel from this organization.

  5. bb in GA Says:

    @Sarah

    Did some ol' psychic mess w/ your posting? It kind of ran over the borders a little. Thanks for your kind and concise response.

    You can request a 'P&L' from your favorite charity or for the real small ones, you can probably get an email.

    You be sweet now and have a nice weekend.

    //yammer bb there (sorry Mr McDonald)

  6. Elle Says:

    If a great enough percentage of the charity's income is not being spent on the stated "mission" it is your responsibility as a donor to conduct your "due diligence" and know that.

    This is really interesting.

    Charity law in European countries provides a great deal of protection to the donor. The roots of its formulation lay in the interest of wealthy patrons, who gave money for specific purposes, to ensure that they were not shortchanged on the delivery of that purpose by future generations of charity trustees. Charities in many countries are intensively regulated to ensure that they are delivering against their stated purpose, do not spend excessive amounts on administration, are not involved in (party) politics, and have governance arrangements in place that far exceed the requirements of for-profit companies.

  7. bb in GA Says:

    @Elle

    Things in the US are more liberal relative to charities, but we are not alone. There are organizations such as:

    http://www.charitynavigator.org/

    that are available to help you evaluate groups that solicit your charitable contributions. They have in-depth ratings on many charities, but for the drive-bys, there is a list of 574 (currently) with a star rating system with the details availble for 'drillers'.

    Our org of interest:

    Susan G. Komen for the Cure 4 Stars

    Dallas, TX

    Ending breast cancer forever

    Health : Diseases, Disorders, and Disciplines

    Their Program/Admin ratio is just a little of 80/20 which is the mark of a well run charity.

    I would really be interested to know what percentage of their Program Expenses is tied up in the PP controversy.

    I'm betting way less than 10%

    //bb

  8. bozo Says:

    props to plonker at 12:43 2 Feb

    Handel is not president of Komen.

    Asserting that Handel is president is Just Plain Wrong(tm) and leaves your post an easy target.

    My two pesos.

  9. eau Says:

    @bb – I usually regret engaging with you, but…

    Are you seriously saying that this organisation misleading people into charitable donations is a-ok with you because it's not technically illegal?

    And for those shrieking "She's not teh Prez! WHoLE pOST iz NULL adn voId!!!1!!!!!!!" –

    But both Handel & Brinker are, in fact, big money Republicans, no? Anyone bother checking out the rest of the board/executive? I thought not.

  10. GuyFromOhio Says:

    Never wish cancer on anyone. Ever.
    It sucks so hard, it defies description.

    I can only conclude that no one close to you has ever suffered so, or you would never have written such words, as justified as you think you might be in writing them here.

    Otherwise, another excellent G&T post.

  11. zyxomma Says:

    I've never bought pink-ribbon anything, and never will. I had their number from the start. It took courage at the cash register when the grocery clerk asked, "Do you want to give a dollar to Komen for the Cure?" to tell her why I didn't and wouldn't, ever.

    I'm not indifferent. My mother had breast cancer. It was iatrogenic, brought on by THREE mammograms a year (justified by her doc because she 'had all the risk factors'). The gallows humor in radiology is, "We X-ray the breast until we find the cancer the X-rays caused."

    Look into thermography. Stop eating so much reproductive tissue (eggs, dairy). READ the labels of all your cosmetics, skin care, and hair care products. DISCARD all those that contain parabens (ethylparaben, methylparaben, butylparaben). Pathologists find parabens in EVERY breast tumor they examine. Beware of "fragrance;" it's probably loaded with petrochemicals. Use nail polish without formaldehyde, butylene, and pthalates. Cultivate an attitude of gratitude. Wear underwire and/or polyester bras only on rare, special occasions. Eat lots of fresh vegetables. Drink plenty of water.

    Health and peace.

  12. bb in GA Says:

    @eau

    No, I'm not making that point. I'm ignorant of the charges. I'm not for misleading people legal or not.

    Komen seems, by objective measures I've seen, to be a reasonably well run charity. I don't understand their tactics. If they are in the anti-breast cancer biz, I would think they could easily make a designated gift to PP for just that (breast cancer screening).

    I know money is fungible and designated gifts are somewhat silly from that perspective, but it would preserve their anti-abortion position with their donor base (if indeed that is the deal.)

    Since cancer is non-discriminatory by Left/Right politics (w/o regard to the Fearless Moderator's desires) I can see the tactical FAIL, but I don't doubt it is their right to give/not give as their Board and/or Execs decide.

    Help me here, If SGK didn't donate to PP, wouldn't that money be used for the intended purpose or mission of SGK somewhere else? Does this become an efficiency argument of some kind? No other available agency could get the most out that money in providing the preventive care than PP?

    I really want to know how much of their Program Expenses are involved w/ PP. I'm betting small.

    //bb

  13. Clix Says:

    In fairness, cancer research isn't just about finding a cure. When I went through my chemo last year, I was able to use drugs that had fairly mild side effects. And I just love the skin-glue stuff; my scars are much smoother than they were last time. Also, hurray for sentinel-node biopsies! Thanks to them, I still have almost all of my lymph nodes.

    I don't think I got any assistance from anything Komen related. I did get quite a bit of help from the American Cancer Society. They gave me a gas card, and a wig, and set up a makeup session! It was a blast. There were three of us patients there, and we had soooo much fun.

  14. Kimberley Says:

    Awesome! A few years ago I made a very unpopular statement about breast cancer fundraising and am so happy to read your post and see that I am not alone in this opinion. Love that I found you!
    Cheers- drink up!

  15. Scott Says:

    @bb – You're right that the money would go to fight cancer, even if it wasn't going to Planned Parenthood, although the amount the director of the charity gets gives me some reason to doubt that assumption. But let's assume you're right.

    The problem with this assumption is that Planned Parenthood is one of the only, if not the only, form of health care for poor women (and men). By defunding Planned Parenthood, Komen is taking away the only opportunity for some women to get breast cancer screenings and treatment. In other words, Komen's actions say that fighting cancer is great, but only for those that can afford it. Everyone else can go off and die – preferably quietly.

  16. Bitter Scribe Says:

    Until recently I edited a trade magazine that covered consumer goods packaging. I used to get so fucking tired of press releases about how this or that box or bottle would sport pink trim as a sign that for each one purchased, one penny or whatever would be donated to the Komen foundation "to fight breast cancer." I'm sure breast cancer was shaking in its shoes.

  17. Schroeder Says:

    Thanks for this. All these decades I thought I was alone on the Screw Komen (& Nancy Brinker) bandwagon. I've lived in Dallas over 50 years & have followed Brinker's career with interest, beginning with her prowl thru Dallas high society in search of a rich husband. But what really sets her apart from normal people, & establishes her bona fides as a self-serving Republican, is the cold-blooded way she used her sister's death as a path to fame & fortune.

  18. Bellesouth Says:

    Someone pointed this post to me tonight, calling you a "kindred spirit." I've been all up in these a-holes for YEARS, have written anti-pink-ribbon posts every October, and wrote a couple of posts this week about how evil these guys are.

    The pro-life/pro-choice thing does NOT MATTER. Komen is a corporate shill, sells fried chicken and SUVs, and raises funds from Race for the Cure to PAY FOR RACE FOR THE CURE.

    When people were passing around the petition to send to Komen, I was all "screw 'em. They suck." Because they do. For about a gazillion reasons that have nothing to do with abortion. Sharing.

  19. Ruthie Says:

    "And that's all Komen is – a consulting firm that helps large corporate clients sell more of their products through pinkwashing campaigns. By slathering everything from pasta to baseball bats to perfume to fast food with the Pink Imprimatur, consumers are led to believe that their purchases are making meaningful contributions to breast cancer research."

    Edl: You apparently missed the "For the cure" ™ special edition handgun with the Pepto-pink slider. Everyone has a breaking point. When I realized that it wasn't an "Onion" article, I swore off those pink products for good.

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