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Pinkwashing has Lori van Dam ’86 seeing red.

“I was getting my car serviced,” says the CEO of Susan G. Komen New England, “and they were selling pink keychains and pink air fresheners—and none of the proceeds were going anywhere except into the pockets of people who made them.”

It’s an unfortunate side effect of a cause being so closely connected to a color—an idea pioneered by Komen founder Nancy Brinker to unify the organization and pay tribute to her late sister, Susan Komen, whose favorite color was pink.

“For a long time, people talked about pink and its association with breast cancer as being about awareness—taking breast cancer out of the shadows and saying it’s something we can actually talk about,” says van Dam.

But awareness isn’t enough, she adds: Even with pink’s saturation—especially during Breast Cancer Awareness Month (which Komen hopes to rebrand as “Breast Cancer Action Month”)—44,000 people die of breast cancer annually in the U.S., with one in eight women diagnosed in her lifetime.

Which is why Komen launched “More than Pink,” with a goal of halving the nation’s breast cancer mortality rate by 2026. On the local level, affiliates are working to increase access to care and reduce disparities in outcomes for women of color.

For many patients and survivors, pink symbolizes hope, community, and support—but it’s important for pink to mean more than green.

“You can buy all manner of pink items that don’t advance the cause,” van Dam says. “The only time pink upsets me is when it’s on socks that don’t go anywhere.” —ES



“The importance of color varied a lot between different punk scenes,” says George Hurchalla ’88, the author of Going Underground: American Punk 1979–1989, who came of musical age in the torn-and-tattered hardcore era of the 1980s. “The initial New York scene was more about black, like the Ramones and their leather jackets. But the early ’70s glam-era influence in London was what gave us the notion of vibrant color in punk.”

Notably pink, he says, which was featured prominently on the covers of three all-time classic British punk albums.

“The Sex Pistols’ epic Never Mind the Bollocks had the band’s name outlined in pink on a yellow cover,” Hurchalla notes. “The legendary Pink Flag was the first album of the band Wire. And on the cover of the Damned’s classic third album, Machine Gun Etiquette, guitarist Captain Sensible is wearing a ludicrous pink feathered top over yellow feathered pants.

“Pink was the complete antithesis of a ‘rock ’n’ roll’ color, which punk was trying to shake up,” he adds. “It was vibrant, it was gender-bending, and for all these reasons, it upset people—mainly men—a lot.” —ES

Color and Cataracts

Before I had cataract surgery, I sought out several friends who’d had the procedure done. One or two mentioned that before surgery, their vision had become foggy, as though they were looking through a yellow filter. Afterward, colors just popped.

I thought I was seeing colors just fine—was I in for a surprise! I had the procedure done in both eyes, about a week apart, and was amazed at how color perception in the “new” eye was so much more intense than the remaining “bad” eye. It was easy to compare during that intervening week, and I kept covering one eye and then the other to see the difference, not really believing it. Colors definitely were more brilliant—especially in the dark-pink, magenta, and yellow ranges.

There were some amusing side effects: Soon after the surgeries, I discovered that some outfits I had assembled for their matching colors no longer really matched. And sometimes at stores, when I see pants and tops labeled with the same color, the items look a little off, particularly when the fabric is different.

I have read that people can perceive the same color differently. So, is my new vision the real deal? What is “real”?