Think breasts -- and think pink!
2001-10-01 23:37:26

Special Ideas
Beer is Civilization.
-- Jeff Gerstmann


If you didn't go to Yahoo on October 1: it was pink. They'd changed their site's background to support the Breast Cancer Research Foundation in its "Global Landmarks Illumination Initiative."

That's a public relations campaign trying to raise breast cancer awareness by casting pink lights on, say the Empire State Building or the Leaning Tower of Pisa. Efforts by other groups have been equally innovative. At least two public service advertisements encouraged regular self-examinations by reminding women how much men enjoy gawking at their breasts.

It's all evidence of just how far both advocacy groups and corporations will go to promote their cause. "As a significant and recognized world monument," explains a link on, "Yahoo is honored to join with The Estee Lauder Companies and the world's most prominent physical landmarks to encourage people to think pink and raise awareness and funds for The Breast Cancer Research Foundation." This also illustrates that there's a certain amount of self-promotion along with these efforts. "Get informed," Yahoo urged Monday night-- though all ten of their links failed to lead anywhere. But they didn't forget to include the text about how their home page is a significant and recognized world monument.

And Yahoo is also offering you the ability to add a Pink Ribbon theme to your "My Yahoo!" page. Of course, since by definition the only person who sees your "My Yahoo!" page is: you -- it's pretty hard to see how this actually benefits the war against breast cancer.

I dunno, breast cancer research just has to be one of the most un-controversial charities around. It's not like anyone's taking a stand by saying "I, for one, am opposed to breast cancer!!!!" I don't mean to take anything away from the act of committing resources in a sincere effort to help -- but I guess I'm always distrustful when corporations take these easy stands. I have been ever since a restaurant gave me a drink coaster which read "Proctor & Gamble wants you to help kids say no to drugs!" In fact, I once got into an argument with a self-righteous circus clown who dropped into my workplace parking lot in full clown regalia -- unannounced -- and began hectoring me about the warm feeling he gets by giving balloon animals to impressionable fourth graders. To help them stay off of drugs, and stuff.....

Er, sorry, I'm digressing. My point is, it's kind of like the recent Onion parody -- "Dinty Moore Breaks Long Silence On Terrorism With Full-Page Ad." Maybe the act of participating in these gestures, regardless of their impact, creates an enduring commitment to the cause in both corporations and viewers that may outlast pink lights on the Leaning Tower of Pisa or grade school clown traumatizations.

But if they want me to rein in my cynicism, I'll need to see some assurance that we aren't just narrow-casting our compassion -- and that our contributions are going to be used effectively and efficiently. Are we targetting prostate cancer, too -- or just yummy breasts? Actually, now that I think about it, that's probably a Trojan Horse, since any cure for breast cancer would most likely be applicable to other cancers as well. It just wouldn't be as titillating to the public to launch a campaign against, say, bone marrow cancer. Are these people slick, or what?

In fact, the Breast Cancer Research Fund knows that much of the world's attention is focused on the aftermath of terrorist attacks in New York, so their promotional material says they've found a common link. Yahoo's page reminds us the Breast Cancer Research Foundation is dedicated to finding a cure for breast cancer in this lifetime, so "the events of September 11, 2001 are that much more thought-provoking." So thought-provoking, in fact, that the group is diverting some of the money it raises to the Twin Towers Fund. That ought to deflect the criticism that they're siphoning off money from other worthwhile causes.

Except, maybe, for critics complaining the diversion siphons off money from breast cancer research itself. The very reason Yahoo! went pink in the first place.

Over.  End of Story.  Go home now.

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