It was black and white.  But this “pinkwashing” issue isn’t.

What is pinkwashing? It’s all shades of gray…

Pinkwashing is the over-promotion of consumer goods and services using the pink ribbon that represents support for breast cancer-related charities.  The biggest part of the issue is lack of transparency.  When a corporate brand sells a pink product, how much of that sale actually goes to the charity?  In many cases, it’s not that much.

There is so much conversation around “Pinkwashing”, particularly during Breast Cancer Awareness Month, that we decided to address it for our own brand.  Truth is, we have had our own share of criticism for the “pink” tutu (story behind the original tutu image below).

Our view?  Yes, there are companies that have absolutely taken advantage of the pink for corporate profit.  They give cause marketing a bad name.

But we can’t stick everyone in the same category, and we can’t change the color.

Pink is the color tied to breast cancer…

Every cancer has their own awareness color.  It is also important to remember that even breast cancer has shades of pink, and blue.  In 2015, we added ‘men’ to our mission, and have included blue tutus in our awareness campaigns.  There is also the metastatic breast cancer community.  The logo is one we particularly love because we think it really represents the entire breast cancer community (below).

breast cancer charities


So as a consumer, what can you do?  Find out more about what the company (and receiving non-profit) is doing with the funds.  Ask:

HOW MUCH is really going to the non-profit from the sale of that pink item?

And exactly WHAT are they funding?

It’s great that companies are giving you the opportunity to spend your money in ways that make it matter.  But trust your gut.  If making that purchase doesn’t feel right, then send the $1.00 directly to your favorite charity.  Every dollar matters when it is being well spent.  Or volunteer.  Both are always really, really appreciated!

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So Why the Pink Tutu?

The original image was black and white, and had nothing to do with breast cancer until many years later.  Bob Carey was asked to donate an image by the Arizona Ballet for a fundraiser.  They wanted artists to create something that represented ballet.  Bob always enjoyed re-creating himself in front of the camera. He created this image and kept the tutu.  A few months later he was inspired to create another “Ballerina” image as he and his wife Linda drove cross-country for their move to New York.


After Linda returned to treatment because of cancer metastasis in her liver, she shared her husband’s crazy pictures.  They found escape and laughter in the images, and The Tutu Project was born.  Bob and Linda dedicated this body of work to raise awareness for the struggles facing men and women with breast cancer.  They were particularly interested in helping with the costs they struggled with most – those not covered by insurance.  Today, their foundation distributes the funds raised to help cover those expenses.

Here is an excerpt from Ballerina, the book.

Carey’s now famously attention-grabbing images were obliquely inspired by the artist’s involvement in a  2002 pro bono Ballet Arizona project in which hand-picked artists were asked to photographically interpret the meaning of ballet to them personally.  Never having been to a ballet performance and essentially clueless as to the difference between a plie and a pas de poisson, Bob Carey responded – with the help of wife Linda and an assistant wielding a razor – by shaving his entire body and painting it shiny silver, a signature look that appears in many of the artist’s black-and-white photographs.  The look was complete when he donned a ballerina’s pink tulle tutu and bowed butt-first to an imaginary audience.  Artfully silhouetted and rendered in ethereally glowing black and white, the image captured both impertinent playfulness and agonizing isolation and vulnerability, themes which run throughout much of Carey’s work.

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This article was originally published on September 23, 2013.

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