Etsy Wants To Sell You Some Pink Stuff

Breast cancer activists around the internet are waving pitchforks at Etsy, the “indie” internet shopping site popular among twee and wannatwee bloggers, for joining in the October retail ritual of “pinkwashing”.

It seems Etsy sent out a promotional email with the tagline “Tickled Pink: Show your love to the women in your life with Breast Cancer Awareness Month”,  featuring all pink products in several categories. The problem seems to be that only a few of the items have anything to do with Breast Cancer research or awareness.

Blogger “Pink Goose” writes: “Etsy’s lack of ethics and oversight is bad enough. The fact that the majority of sellers are craven opportunists profiting off of our disease with cheap “handmade” crap is bad enough. But the fact that [people] like little miss Nichole actually promote these people as part of a fun, happy “Tickeled Pink” marketing email is beyond infuriating.” When Nicole Smith began getting twitter call outs for the promotional email, she responded simply “Thanks so much for bringing this to my attention. Always appreciate the feedback on how to improve and grow.”

Honestly I’m not sure what people expected of Etsy. They are, for all their crowing about being independent and not just some cog in the capitalist pig dog machine of manufactured consumerism, a shopping site. Meaning, their goal is to make you buy crap from their sellers so they can make money. It’s not surprising (especially considering their mostly young and twee consumer base) that they are using Breast Cancer Awareness Month as an excuse to try and sell people pink crap. Every other retailer is doing the same thing. Etsy isn’t some little shopping hugcircle run by three friends from their dining room, it’s a million dollar company with dozens of employees; in other words, a business. Don’t let their cute little “community for sellers” schtick fool you – their goal is to make money, not make sure your sensibilities remain intact.

That said, I have to agree with one community commenter who said “We don’t need general ‘awareness’ – we need action. Action as in — more, better measures for prevention, more access to better testing, more money for research, more access to treatment and recovery services. Simply coloring everything pink doesn’t do that.”

  1. avatar Miss Noir

    We went to an amusement park yesterday and saw several mouth breathers all decked out in pink… It’s reminiscent of the FLAG hysteria post 9-11…. It does nothing, but instills arrogance in the person who wears it.

    • avatar Messica's $3 Burger


    • avatar Hillbilly Princess

      Amen. Every time I see some pink marketing nonsense, I think of Komen and get pissed all over again.

      • avatar Jessica

        I hate, HATE, October now because of this whole pink-wash everything. I just can’t describe my depth of loathing for the color pink and the Komen Foundation.

        I don’t need to see this shit to be aware. I fucking watched my aunt DIE from it, so I’m quite aware of its existence.

        Sorry, I get a bit riled up when this topic comes around. Ugh.

  2. avatar Franziska

    I hate when people say “we’re raising money for breast cancer”. Breast cancer does not need money. Breast cancer RESEARCH needs money, but the cancer it self does not.

    I also hate that they say “for breast cancer awareness”….um, we’re all aware of breast cancer. RESEARCH needs money. At least when you say money is being raised for research, you know the money is actually going towards something. Awareness just means everything is pink.

    • avatar Sisterhood of Ham

      Every October at the big box craft store, there’s a cardboard display from a yarn company that reads “Knit and Crochet for Breast Cancer!” But I don’t want more breast cancer in this world.

      (This craft store also asks me during Autism Awareness Month if I’d like to donate a dollar “for autism.” Yeah.)

    • avatar Moo moo


      I started my yearly mammograms this year. I’m 30. My Mum had cancer twice but luckily survived both times. My cousin wasn’t so lucky and died this year after 3 months of being diagnosed, she was 40.

  3. avatar GetMePizzaYouOldTroll


  4. avatar pearls_clutched

    Thank you for putting this on the front page. Enough is enough with this crap.

    A corn site is giving a penny for every click in their “BBW” category. So disgusting.

    This cupcake shop made breast cupcakes with names like Java Jugs, Honeynut Hooters, Coconut Milkshakes, Mango Melons, Tangerine Tatas, Rocker Knockers

  5. avatar Whatnow

    I am a breast cancer survivor. 23 years ago this month I was diagnosed and after a lumpectomy, chemo, radiation and 5 years of Tamoxifen I am here. I don’t like all the pink that gets thrown out in October. It seems like every company wants to get on the breast cancer awareness band wagon but it strikes me as a wonderful opportunity to sell more junk. And of course give a piddly amount to breast cancer research if they give anything. I’m sure I am wrong about all companies. Some of them might really be handing over a large amount. And I don’t mind activities where the money goes to research, like marathons, sports and bake sales. That kind of thing is okay as long as the money goes where is supposed to and not in the promoter pocket. As you can see I am a huge skeptic about the entire world. I blame it on breast cancer or the drugs I had to take but I woke up after all that quite a different person. You do that when you face death and win( although my Doctor did say I had a 65% chance of being alive in 5 years).

    • avatar pearls_clutched

      I hear ya sis. Cancer is brutal to go through.

      There are some great corporate donations that go straight to research.

      I have issues with all the crap like soup companies having pink cans during October. The cans are made with BPA which is highly suspect of causing cancer.

    • avatar charliefuckingchaplin

      I am very happy you are here and healthy and I am so sorry you had to go through it all.
      I just wish they gave out complimentary pints of ice cream and a doctor’s prescription for a nap after every mammogram. That, along with the all-clear each year, would make it oh so much more enjoyable…

  6. avatar scuffin

    This “Pink-Washing” fad is absolutely ridiculous.

    • avatar featherbrained

      Barbara Ehrenreich, a breast cancer survivor, writes in Bright Sided: When Happiness Doesn’t Help, that she found the pink washing utterly offensive and paternalistic. It’s the first 1/3 of the book and, oh, it’s wonderful….

      The rest of the book is also great.

      • avatar The fattest fat who ever fatted

        I second this comment.

      • avatar So Belle

        Yeah, remember when she talked about getting a COLORING BOOK in with her goodie bag? Do men who get prostate cancer get coloring books?
        I find the whole thing nauseating.

    • avatar realist

      Whatever do you mean? I myself was complete “unaware” of breast cancer until I saw football players wearing pink cleats. “What are these oddly pink shoes?” I asked. And, lo and behold, a new world was born before me. Now that I’m aware, I’ve gone all pink all the time. I may not be doing any research or raising any money, but I think it’s pretty clear that the answer to this cancer thing is to walk around robed in bold colors.

      Just a quick question: is it a coincidence that this condescending bullshit happens with a typically (though not always) female cancer?

      (The answer is no.)

  7. avatar granola scam

    Fuck that. I’m just gonna talk about my bra colour on Facebook or change my Twitter avatar to a pink colour instead. MUCH more effective.

    • avatar pearls_clutched

      I forgot about that one. Also there’s one about a number and a country. So stupid.

    • avatar Jen

      Oh yeah, forgot about the vaguebooking…thankfully my friends list seems to have outgrown that finally.

  8. Ugh, pinkwashing. There was one hell of an essay I read by a breast cancer survivor about all the HARM that the “pinkwashing” crap ends up doing to actual cancer awareness/research for a cure – people think they’ve done their part by buying the pink yogurt/ball cap/mugs/etc when maybe .001% of the cost will actually go towards research, and even then it goes towards “research”; very little of it actually funds any studies or work.

    I wish I could remember where I found it… it was a really powerful piece of writing, and it was the first thing that really made me question the Pink thing, put a name to how uneasy it made me and why.

    • avatar granola scam

      Yes, this exactly! Awareness is great, but what these organizations really need is money. And so many people aren’t aware of how much of their money is actually going to funding studies when they buy pink nonsense – and of course I know some overhead is unavoidable/necessary, but people really need to do their research.

    • avatar A Blogger

      THIS! But also, it really irritates me how many products THAT CONTAIN KNOWN CARCINOGENS or whose products harms out environment (in turn harming our breasts and our health) are pinked out. It’s all nice and well to support breast cancer research IF the money is going where it belongs – but if you’re selling off, say, pink plastic toys that contain chemicals that have been positively linked to cancer or if you’re selling donuts with pink frosting known to contain harmful preservatives and dyes…well…I’d say you’re really just putting money into making more cancer down the road.

      Ugh. Pinkwashing.

  9. avatar Rachel

    My MIL is a breast cancer survivor & doesn’t have anything nice to say about all this pink crap. She’d rather not be reminded so blatantly about having faced death–She knows it, and once a year, when she has her re-check, she quietly celebrates when she gets the all-clear. I have a coworker who’s battling stage 3 breast cancer–I’d rather spend the money & give her a gift card to take her daughters shopping or something, so they have a memory of a fun afternoon with their mom before it’s too late (unfortunately, her prognosis isn’t that good), than buy a pink mixer that’s just going to put money in Kitchen Aid’s pocket and look stupid on my counter (I don’t like the color pink).

    • avatar LaDeeDa

      Oh, that poor family. That’s a really nice idea for a way to help out Rachel.

      As for being reminded of things, I was noticing how On Demand has an entire “Pink” option for shows this month, which include such options as the Sex In the City episodes in which Samantha battles breast cancer. I couldn’t help wonder, who would want to watch those shows? I don’t, because praise God/knock on wood I am healthy, and I think if I weren’t healthy I still wouldn’t want to watch them because they would bring me down and send my anxiety levels into overload. And again, why would I need to watch them? It’s not like I don’t know breast cancer exists.

  10. avatar Kristin

    I don’t understand breast cancer “awareness” campaigns either. It’s like that ridiculous Facebook meme a few years ago when women started posting the color of their bras as their status updates. No explanation at all, just a random black… white… nude… red… All in the name of breast cancer awareness. How does vaguebooking/attention whoring raise awareness for breast cancer?

    I’ll gladly participate in a campaign that raises MONEY for breast cancer RESEARCH. But I’m already quite aware of breast cancer itself.

    • avatar HeraTick

      I HATE THAT MEME. It drives me up a wall.

      A) It doesn’t actually raise awareness, because the rules tell you not to let on what the meme is about.
      B) It’s all about being coy, having in-group knowledge that others do not, and most of the time pits women against men.
      C) Nobody ever links to any actual breast cancer activism efforts. They just go Rah-rah.
      D) Men get breast cancer too.
      E) The Bra version of the meme was particularly egregrious, because many survivors of breast cancer have mastectomies and therefore do not have a bra or have a much altered one that they almost certainly did not get in cute tones from the local Vicky’s.

      Anyway, despite my ranting about this EVERY YEAR, somebody still invited me to participate in this year’s meme. RAEG!

      • avatar GrumpyRockStar

        This. I HATE that meme for all the reasons you listed.

  11. avatar Snarky Librarian

    I read the other day that only 3.54% of money spent on pink NFL apparel goes to actual cancer research, while about 45% goes into the NFL coffers and 1.46% goes to American Cancer Society overhead. (source:

  12. avatar Jen

    This is probably about as effective as the “official” pink marketing junk that’s out there. I’m over the whole thing.

  13. avatar Sister Friend

    Ugh. I worked in marketing, and when a brand says they are doing something to ‘raise awareness’, that is a clue that they are not donating money. And when they are donating money, it is always a set (and small) amount, unrelated to the number of pink units of crap merchandise sold.

    The Pinkwashing Think Before You Pink web site is a great example of SOMI, though. I love their ‘critical questions consumers should ask themselves’ PDF

    A friend of mine is a breast cancer survivor (Yeah!). And she is so over all the pink crap – it is all people buy her – if an item comes in ‘breast cancer’ pink, or has a ribbon on it, that is the thing people buy her. Mixers, sneakers, watches, etc. And it infuriates her. As she puts it, “I couldn’t be more fucking aware of breast cancer, thanks.” Like others upthread, I think we are all ‘aware’ enough of cancer. I am tired of my fear of getting cancer (while holding shitty health insurance) being used as a marketing tool to sell crap.

    • avatar The Old Bailey

      I would say, too, that of all the cancers out there, breast cancer is the one with the LEAST amount of awareness issues. I think that the pinkwashing trivializes not just BC but other cancers.
      Continued good health to your friend!

      • avatar j.

        And not just cancers. It’s sickening how, as a society, we pick and choose which diseases are the ‘sexy’ diseases (breast cancer, HIV/AIDS, etc), and totally ignore other just as prevalent, sometimes more aggressive/fatal illnesses that NEED funding and attention, but won’t ever get it because middle/upper income white people need to feel latched on to something that’s plastered all over the media so they and their friends can sit together drinking moscato and droning on about how they’re such good people for doing something meaningful.

        This especially annoys me with HIV/AIDS in Africa. I’m not at all saying that HIV/AIDS isn’t a big problem– it’s a huge issue and it’s terrible that so many people die internationally from it, when in the US, people can live out their lives normally with HIV/AIDS meds. Really sad. However, HIV/AIDS is a bandwagon illness for advocacy. Most people don’t realize that the #1 killer of kids in Africa isn’t HIV/AIDS– it’s bacterial diarrhea. But you would never see an ad on Lifetime with Sally Fields emotionally touting our responsibility to send a quarter a day so that children don’t die of diarrhea. It’s not “sexy” enough for people to give a shit about.

        Again, not saying breast cancer, HIV/AIDS, etc. aren’t important, but people are so blind-sided when it comes to supporting research and funding programs to confront less “sexy” diseases, it’s kind of sad.

        • avatar VegemiteCat

          Yes, I think this is the difficulty that I have with all the endless pink. I also feel so much for those suffering from breast cancer and those who have lost loved ones, but yes, what about all the other diseases that need funding for research, and so many thousands that are ill, eg last month was apparently Sepsis Awareness Month. Sepsis kills more adults in the ICU than anything else and has around a 60% mortality rate (and last year I had it for the third time, but no I don’t want to be one of those dramatic Self magazine life and death stories and I’m young). But I just think the mass marketing of the pink products each October is a bit over the top.

        • avatar granola scam

          Too, isn’t heart disease actually the #1 killer of women?

          But we can’t cry out “Save the boobs!” and talk about our bras then, can we?

          • avatar VegemiteCat

            I guess red things don’t sell as well as pink.

          • avatar Samson

            Yes, and lung cancer kills more women than breast cancer.

          • avatar Redrah

            And heart disease is particularly a problem, because heart attack symptoms manifest themselves differently to women than to men. But the symptoms that affect men are more well-known, so women are less likely to catch it early, and thus more likely to die from it.

        • avatar Courtney

          I agree. I lost two people to different cancer’s this year (our childcare provider – liver; my father – soft tissue sarcoma) so, while I think breast cancer is certainly a worthy cause, my money and efforts go towards raising money for research for the less “sexy” cancers. When an otherwise healthy (for the most part) 57 year old man can die in two months from a rare, rapidly-spreading cancer that the doctors know close to nothing about, that tells me that something needs to be done.

          I love my boobs but I also have faith that, if I ever have to face breast cancer, the medical community has enough knowledge that I will at least have a fighting chance.

          • avatar Witty Knit

            Courtney – so sorry to hear about your losses. My husband is a doctor who researches sarcoma, which (as you already know & have stated) is a rare cancer that doesn’t get a lot of support, institutional or funding-wise.

            It’s a pretty bad scenario out there for cancer research. My husband is not getting renewed at his position at a cancer research center because the government has really cut money for research. Hospitals aren’t faring well, either, many of the teaching hospitals are facing budget freezes. I agree with all the commenters here – instead of buying pink crap that we don’t need, we should be fighting for more money for cancer research (and basically any kind of scientific research).

          • avatar KERFETUS

            Courtney, very sorry for your loss. I also lost a family member to a sarcoma years ago. Like your situation, it was sudden and dramatic for us. Peace to you.

        • avatar Sister Friend

          This. I also think, though, that breast cancer gets a lot of play because most marketers are men, and often older men, and it is just a socially sanctioned way to talk about BOOBS in polite company. If bacterial diarrhea had a sexual component, we would be slapping ribbons on for it, too.

          The truth is, the whole Awareness campaign isn’t doing anything to help women with cancer. According to the National Breast Cancer Coalition, 117 women in the U.S. died of breast cancer every day in 1991; in 2010, 110 women died every day. Not really seeing an impact.

          • avatar j.

            Well, to be fair, you can’t just look at numbers, you have to look at rates. The US population has grown by leaps and bounds since 1991. Prevalence has actually slightly decreased, but not by much. Breast cancer MORTALITY has actually gone down quite a bit (we have funded research to thank for this, not pinkwashing).

        • avatar RedRainbowPuffs

          Exactly. There are so many other conditions that brutal, life-changing, disabling, and fatal, but don’t get any awareness or support. Lung cancer is one of them – the leading cause of cancer death for women. My mom died of lung cancer at a young age and all people can say is “Was she a smoker?” NO, no she was NOT a smoker. LOTS of non-smokers get lung cancer. It’s like this cancer gets ignored because only smokers get it.

          Another condition right off the top of my head would be myalgic encephalomyelitis…totally life changing and disabling – many patients end up housebound and bed bound, unable to care for themselves at all. But nope, no one knows a thing about it and instead accuse patients of depression. Finally, a council of passionate doctors are just putting together a criteria on how to properly diagnose a patient!! It needs funding and attention, but hey…it’s not fatal (though most patients die 25 years earlier than the average person, and chance of cancer is much higher) so it ain’t exactly “sexy.”

          p.s. When AIDS/HIV first came out, no one wanted to study it or work with the patients. It wasn’t until there was a crap load of advocacy that research finally started. And now, it’s sexy.

          Bottom line – disease bandwagoners piss the hell out of me.

          I guess there’s no point in supporting advocacy and funding for a disease if you can’t brag to your friends about it!

          • avatar Samson

            Also because ME is known as chronic fatigue syndrome which most people think is a joke.

          • avatar RedRainbowPuffs

            Yes, so true Samson. CFS – what a horrid name. Might as well name leprosy “Chronic Dry Peeling Skin Syndrome”. *rolls eyes*

          • avatar Moo moo

            I suffer from ME and Fibromyalgia and even though I’m glad that I have started early screening for the breast cancer I have in my bloodline (had my first mammogram come though clear, now onto an MRI scan!) I wish that illnesses such as these were more researched into. I’ve been ill for over 7 years now and have known people who have died from complications related to ME, yet it still carries the ‘yuppy flu’ and ‘lazy hypochondriac’ labels.

↑ Back to Top ↑