pink desert flower

Don’t hate them because they’re pink. The “they” in this case are breast cancer sufferers, survivors, supporters and organizations like the Southern Arizona affiliate of Susan G. Komen for the Cure, all of whom are linked to pink whether they like it or not.

Komen’s 15th annual Southern Arizona Race for the Cure kicks off March 17 at the University of Arizona Mall, which means the route won’t even clog up most city traffic (unless, of course, you plan to careen through campus in your Hummer). You’ll even get an Olympic silver medalist as the honorary race chairwoman. High jumper Brigetta Barrett doubles as a UA undergrad and her mom is a breast cancer survivor.

Despite the hard hits Susan G. Komen for the Cure has taken of late, our local branch does some pretty amazing things.

Those things don’t include paying administrative salaries at some Komen corporate office out in Dallas, either, but things that help women right here in Tucson and its environs.

“Komen Southern Arizona is the only local breast cancer foundation to turn donations into treatment dollars,” says Gillian Drummond, Komen SAZ’s communications consultant. “Many of the others are helping diagnosis and screening only. Our grants include programs for chemo and radiation and mastectomies.”

The Race for the Cure puts 75 cents of every dollar into local grants for breast cancer treatments, screenings, diagnosis and education, and 25 cents toward international research efforts.

Yet all the good stuff often goes unnoticed while some folks are busy hating pink or otherwise lashing out at Komen. We can’t really blame people for hating the pink. The hue has actually become a stigma thanks to the loads of pink-ribbon products on the market. Purses. Shoes. Staplers. Rubber duckies. Dish soap. Automobiles. Tattoos. You can even find pink ribbons on bags of potato chips.

It’s enough to make you think pink, see pink and even pee pink just going through your daily life. All this pink hype, called “pinkwashing” by and “pinkification” by Tucson writers with short red hair and glasses, is truly enough to make anyone sick.

For the record, Komen is in no way behind the proliferation of pink ribbons on every other product. Komen’s trademarked pink ribbon is in the shape of a woman running, with a small dot on top for her head.

All other products can pop up with any other variation of the pink ribbon they choose, slap on a sticker that says the company is “donating a portion of the proceeds to help fight breast cancer,” and merrily do God-knows-what with the money.

While Drummond says she has not seen any pink-hating backlash at the Southern Arizona office, she says the office did catch flack from the Planned Parenthood debacle.

The debacle involved people up in arms because Komen gave grant money to Planned Parenthood, and then others were up in arms when Komen said it would stop the grant money. Komen then changed its mind, and is giving the grant money as usual, although none of the money or grants had anything to do with the Southern Arizona office.

No matter. Some ignorant locals still lashed out at our Komen branch.

“One staff member who drives a Komen ‘wrapped’ car—bright yellow with a pink ribbon—was shouted at when she was driving,” Drummond says. “And we got several hateful and quite vicious answer-phone messages and email messages. But I found it more upsetting than scary. It was hurtful and brought me to tears several times.”

The backlash, however, did not drive Drummond from a very cool organization, which she first discovered some years back when taking part in the Race for the Cure as a way to keep fit.

“I was under the impression I was racing to find a cure for breast cancer, little knowing of the 75/25 promise, and the fact that Komen SAZ and the grants it funds are really here primarily to serve under- and uninsured women who have nowhere else to go,” Drummond says.

“So now that I know about the mission, I realize not only what a necessary organization this is in our community, but that if the community turns its back on us—for political, religious reasons or other—they are only hurting local women. They’re hurting their friends, their neighbors, their colleagues, the many women (and men) who need support, particularly in this current health crisis that Arizona is in.”

For more information and to sign up for the race, head to