Nail polish. Eye liner. Lipstick. If it has a pink ribbon, it means that your purchase is supporting the fight against breast cancer. I came across an interesting article this week, about something called “pinkwashing.” This video clip explains the term:
Ironic isn’t it? Companies that knowingly use cancer-causing ingredients are joining the fight against the very thing their actions are perpetuating.
Reminds me of how the Green Revolution of the 70’s, which promised to grow crop yields and reduce starvation through super seeds and synthetic fertilizers, ended up impoverishing farmers who lacked capital, ruining soil due to unsustainable practices, and harming the health of millions through toxic chemicals and decreased food nutrition. The very thing that the Green Revolution claimed to fight – starvation – was in fact facilitating poverty and undermining health.
It also brings to mind the many ways that foreign aid has failed due to a double standard. Many Western countries, like Canada, provide aid to other countries. But often this takes the form of “tied aid,” which is essentially aid with strings attached, such as economic agreements that end up benefiting the rich and crumbling the livelihoods of the poor. Once again, something that is seemingly helpful is in fact increasing vulnerability.
This has had me thinking about how effective our actions are to curb trafficking. There are some who claim that legalizing prostitution would make women in the sex industry safer, when in reality this only promotes increased demand for paid sex and subsequently the supply of trafficking victims to fill that demand.
Many men are willing to stand behind anti-trafficking initiatives and even provide financial support to organizations on the front lines, but in reality support the pornography industry significantly more through their personal habits. Not only are trafficking victims often used in pornography, but as author Victor Malarek points out, “pornography is the trigger that send men into the night following the direction of their erections.”
I think of the decisions of governments – how some are fully on board to fight trafficking in terms of punishing offenders but do nothing to provide opportunities for people to lift themselves out of the poverty that threatens to push them into exploitation.
As the Whistleblower movie demonstrates, peacekeepers from Canada, USA, Germany, France, and a host of other countries are sent out to conflict or post-conflict zones to help stabilize the environment and provide some semblance of safety for the people, but their very presence can create a trafficking-based sex industry in regions where it has never existed before.
I also think of our North American spending habits. We often give ourselves a pat on the back when we make a donation or help someone in need. But do we know where the stuff we purchase and consume comes from? Like the chocolate we eat? Or the coffee we drink? Or the clothes we wear on our backs? Several men, women, and children experience forced or exploitative labour to produce much of our furniture, trinkets, jeans, treats, fruit, tea, and coffee. Exploitation takes many forms, and our demand for stuff can truly hurt others around the world.
Depressing? I know. This is probably not fun to read. But if we truly want to be effective in ending modern day slavery and exploitation, we have to stop looking at ourselves through rose coloured glasses and face the reality that we are contributing to the problem.
Please let this be a challenge to you this coming year to live intentionally, give generously, act consciously, and love abundantly. Let’s stop pinkwashing our lives and start making choices that radically change the world. And don’t get overwhelmed, no one is perfect. I am still learning so much myself. Just take it one step at a time and celebrate the victories as they happen one-by-one!
What do you think of pinkwashing? Do you think we live lives of double standards? What are you doing or want to do to ensure that you are not undermining your own efforts to fight injustice?