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And That's Terrible

Did Etsy Exploit Breast Cancer Awareness Month?

As you may already know, October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Lots of different companies and organizations have projects to raise money for various charities but a recent move by Etsy has raised some eyebrows. They sent out an email with the phrase “Show your love to the women in your life with Breast Cancer Awareness Month” but a blogger realized very few of the items listed actually supported a breast cancer charity. 

The blog Pink Goose, run by a woman who had been diagnosed with breast cancer, brought the email to light. The image below shows the main content of the message but you can see the entire thing here. Out of the 24 items featured, only eight had any mention of using the sales to support a charity but even that wasn’t entirely clear.

This isn’t the first time the blogger has had an issue with Etsy over “pinkwashing,” when corporations sell products claiming to fund breast cancer prevention but never follow through. About this instance she writes, “For example, the seller of the little ceramic houses donates the entire sale price to the Canadian Cancer Foundation (Yay!) while the pink mug for “mom” is suggested as a good gift for breast cancer awareness month (no donation.)” And continues, “After all these objects, the remainder of email just shows pink shit that you can buy that has no connection to BCAM. Pink clothing, different shades of pink, pink decorator objects and the like.”

So is Etsy at fault, the sellers, or both? Another blogger, Jane Flanagan of Ill Seen, Ill Said, jumped in and wrote her own post on the happenings. “I’m so angry at Etsy’s glibness and lack of sincere compassion, at their sellers’ disingenuousness (though, of course, I don’t blame the sellers who just happened to have pink products but make no ‘pink cause’ connection who were included in the e-mail) and also at Etsy’s own lack of participation in making any kind of contribution of pink causes, while they merrily use cancer to market their site and sellers,” she said.

Etsy’s Lead Merchandising Specialist, Mary Andrews gave this statement to the Daily Dot:

We really appreciate the feedback and thoughtful discussion regarding the Etsy Finds email around Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Our aim in the email was to acknowledge this national campaign of awareness. While we do not promote specific shop charities, nor did we make claims to do so in the email, we do support acts of generosity and compassion within the Etsy community. The email was meant for awareness, and created in a supportive spirit. We will take all of this into serious consideration as we map out improvements to our emails and how we promote awareness within our community in the future.

What do you think?

(via Daily Dot)

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  • Anonymous

    The answer is ‘Yes’ – they exploited it. It’s highly disingenuous, and a calculated move to make money off the back of a world health concern on Etsys part.

  • Anonymous

    Yes…but maybe not maliciously done in the same way other pinkwashing has been. That email, to me, doesn’t seem to imply that if you buy this stuff you’ll be supporting charity; it does seem to be imply “buy this pink stuff because it’s a pink-related month and some of it even has pink ribbons on it!”

    I can see where the blogger got her ire from, but I don’t think Etsy set out to exploit anything.

  • Sara Sakana

    Casual reminder that Etsy’s ToS basically forbids anyone on Etsy to say anything about any shop or about Etsy itself that isn’t gushing praise–including pointing out plagiarism and pointing out sweatshop goods resellers. I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised if some of the people calling them out on this pinkwashing crap find their accounts suspended for not ~playing nice.~

  • Tap the dancer

    Every one is making such a fuss about breast cancer,all cancers need attention,seems to me that the milk factory is the favorite,Why???

  • Anonymous

    Based on their track record in other areas, I would call bulls**t on them. They are clearly using breast cancer awareness month to make money. If they really cared, they would be donating some portion of the fees they generate this month to charity. Etsy is a wolf in sheep’s clothing, pretending to support the hand-crafting community, while allowing chinese resellers and other crap to happen so they can rake in the fees.

  • Sarakenobi

    I was thinking the same thing – that Etsy’s take is that people wear pink this month – not that they buy stuff to support charities, but that you wear pink to remember and share awareness etc.

  • Samantha Wilson

    ‘the milk factory’???

  • Anonymous

    It’s Etsy. If there’s a way to squeeze money out of something, they’ll exploit it for all they’re worth. They claim to support handmade, yet allow resellers, so them claiming to support breast cancer awareness is another of their hypocritical things.

  • Aoife Hammersmith

    If this is news to you you’ve obviously never stopped by Regretsy.

  • WingNamm

    OK man that jsut looks like its gonna be cool!

  • Anonymous

    It’s sort of a “heart’s in the right place” meets “road to hell paved with good intentions” moment. There’s a good intention, certainly, but it’s done so slipshod that it kind of backfires in Etsy’s face.

    If they focused on items that were going to benefit breast cancer research or charities, as well as being pink, that might come across as more genuine. I feel like that wouldn’t be too difficult to find–although it would certainly take longer. As it stands, this feels sort of lazy.

    So, I suppose the question is: which is worse: Doing nothing for breast cancer awareness month, or doing something badly?

  • Sarah

    Etsy has become so full of bullshit. Regretsy has done more than showcase strange thing for sell there, they’ve highlighted the hypocrisy and just frustrating practices of Etsy.

    The whole “raise awareness” thing is just crap. Everyone knows about breast cancer, it’s easily the most well known cancer. How about raising awareness and educating people about ovarian, uterine, colon, skin, blood, or any other of the the numerous kinds of cancer? Etsy knows that people will buy anything pink as long as they think it goes to support a breast cancer focused charity.

  • Phanie

    I agree, MisterEHolmes. Etsy is a for-profit website and promoting your products that happen to coincide with the latest craze (whether it’s the ‘green’ movement, breast cancer awareness, or hipsters) is just basic Marketing 101. Since when did we decide that we have to hold Etsy to a different standard than say Gap stores for getting behind the AIDS Red movement (and making a profit on that as well)? There was nothing in that email that promised proceeds would ever go to charities.

  • { chaka; }

    did you seriously just refer to cancer ridden breasts as “the milk factory?”

  • RodimusBen

    Neither Etsy nor the sellers are to blame. Idiot consumers are for climbing all over themselves to buy anything that has a pink ribbon on it in the month of October. As a poster stated above, breast cancer “awareness” is sort of a joke– if you live in the first world, you either know about breast cancer by now or are unreachable. What was once a cause with noble intentions has turned into an excuse for companies to boost sales by showing how compassionate and caring they are for the lives of women while walking away with extra profits.