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This time, the limelight for Komen is too hot a pink

February 3, 2012 |  3:04 pm

Nancy BrinkerThe Susan G. Komen for the Cure folks are terrific at publicity. Most of the time, anyway. They have bathed the fight against breast cancer in a pink glow, bringing in loads of positive press for their runs for the cure and other fundraisers. What could possibly be said negative about an organization that backs cancer research and pays for breast screenings for women who otherwise couldn't afford them?

Now that the Komen pink has been bathed in the red-hot anger of Americans who support abortion rights for its shortsighted and short-lived decision to sever ties with Planned Parenthood over a politically motivated investigation of the latter, its longtime critics, little heard from before, are out in force. Of course there's the question about whether Komen will continue to provide grants to Planned Parenthood to fund medical examinations and referrals for mammograms. Leaders only said they were reversing the cockeyed policy that they will not be affiliated with any organization that is under government investigation for any reason; they never said they would continue to work with Planned Parenthood.

But now, it turns out, there are people who revile Komen for its very success, or at least the way the foundation reached it.

The Feminist Peace Network complains:

After several days of unrelenting fury (much of it from longtime loyal supporters) that has severely damaged their credibility as our boobs' best friend, Komen for the Cure has reconsidered its decision regarding funding Planned Parenthood (albeit with a statement that definitely leaves significant wiggle room). In the wake of what may well be the worst case of accidental re-branding ever by the organization that pinkified the world and took cause branding to epic proportions, we need to take a hard look at Komen's very unhealthy advocacy and re-examine what if any role they should play in supporting women's health. ...

Over the years, Komen has accepted massive support from corporations that make all manner of products that have been linked to cancer and hawked all manner of pink stuff with cancer-related ingredients. They have hammered about the need to be aware and get annual mammograms even while study after study has questioned this recommendation (and oh yeah, they have accepted contributions from the companies that make mammography equipment).

Komen has told us that being aware and early detection are the key, even though in many cases, this simply makes no difference in outcome.  They have hawked (and even trademarked) "for the cure" (a trademark they have spent millions of the dollars we have raced to raise defending), the shockingly expensive drugs that treat this awful disease, while taking large contributions from drug makers.

Recent studies have indeed cast doubt on how effective mammograms are -- though the network doesn't bother pointing out that Planned Parenthood is referring for these tests as well, and teaches women to do breast self-examination, which studies have also found to be less than effective. You'd think from reading this that Komen is way out there in medical space, providing kooky treatments to women because of its ties with corporations. Truth is, though this might change over time, regular mammograms are still the accepted standard of care by many women and their doctors.

Others have dredged up the nastiness last year, though it never came close to the attention paid to the Planned Parenthood moves, when Komen went after smaller cancer charities in trademark complaints over use of the phrase "for the cure," which was seen as distinctly uncharitable. Others complain that Komen is a purveyor of unnecessary kitschy pink junk.

Speaking of which, a gun maker put out a press release Friday announcing that it had "teamed" with Komen to produce a pink-trimmed handgun, with that ever-vague wording about a portion of the proceeds going to Komen. Turns out, Business Insider reports, that the company misrepresented it and there's no relationship.

This could be the week when Komen wished no one had ever heard of it.


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Photo: Nancy Brinker, founder and CEO of Susan G. Komen for the Cure, is seen speaking at the National Press Club in Washington in 2009. Credit: Haraz N. Ghanbari / AP Photo

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