Crabby Old Lady and the White House

Crabby Old Lady on Komen/Planned Parenthood

The first thing Crabby Old Lady did last week when she read about Susan G. Komen For the Cure withdrawing their grants to Planned Parenthood for breast cancer screenings was send a donation to Planned Parenthood.

Apparently, she was not alone. Hundreds of thousands of others agreed with Crabby, and Planned Parenthood raised $3 million or more, effectively overnight.

Of course, Crabby's contribution was not anywhere near as large as the $250,000 matching grant promised by New York City billionaire Mayor Michael Bloomberg, but Crabby's sentiment was not any smaller than his. For many years, Crabby has been suspicious of the pink-ribbon campaign in general and the Komen organization in particular.

It started sometime in the mid- or late-1980s when Komen was relatively new. Someone affiliated with them contacted Crabby about getting her friends to pay money to sponsor her participation in an upcoming walk. Crabby politely declined and thought that was the end of it.

But oh no. Then the high-pressure tactics began. Several calls from Komen associates at home over the next two or three weeks trying to guilt Crabby into agreement and then more calls to Crabby's office. Crabby was at a loss to understand why her personal participation was so important to someone. She never found out.

The calls eventually stopped and life went on without Crabby much noticing Komen campaigns except that through the years, she felt uncomfortable about the increasing number of pink-packaged, breast cancer products associated with Komen.

Crabby couldn't identify what bothered her until she read a 2001 rant from advocate journalist Barbara Ehrenreich, herself a breast cancer survivor, against Komen, other breast cancer charities and the relentless cheerfulness cancer patients are pressured to display:

"If you can't run, bike, or climb a mountain for the cure - all of which endeavors are routine beneficiaries of corporate sponsorship - you can always purchase one of the many products with a breast cancer theme...Bears, for example...

"What sustained me through the 'treatments' is a purifying rage, a resolve, framed in the sleepless nights of chemotherapy, to see the last polluter, along with, say, the last smug health insurance operative, strangled with the last pink ribbon.

"Cancer or no cancer, I will not live that long of course. But I know this much right now for sure: I will not go into that last good night with a teddy bear tucked under my arm."


Ms. Ehrenreich is interviewed in a new Canadian-produced documentary titled, Pink Ribbons, Inc. which takes on the corporatization of breast cancer. Here is a trailer:

Unlike Ehrenreich, it was not pink teddy bears that crystallized Crabby Old Lady's ire with Komen; it was when the organization partnered with KFC in 2010, putting pink ribbons on big buckets of greasy fried chicken. It turns out that other products wrapped in Komen pink are unhealthy too.

There is an excellent backgrounder on Susan G. Komen for the Cure and the current controversy by Susan Seltzer at Alternet.

For Crabby Old Lady, it has been many years of disheartening behavior by Komen that fed her growing anger about their motives. One of the biggest is this: Komen trademarked the phrase “for the cure” and according to several reports, spends at least a million dollars a year defending that trademark against other, smaller charities. From Huffington Post in 2010:

”So far, Komen has identified and filed legal trademark oppositions against more than a hundred of these Mom and Pop charities, including Kites for a Cure, Par for The Cure, Surfing for a Cure and Cupcakes for a Cure - and many of the organizations are too small and underfunded to hold their ground.”

A year ago, Stephen Colbert handled the Komen trademark issue much better than Crabby can do it for you:

So it wasn't much of a surprise to Crabby when Komen canceled their breast cancer screening grants to Planned Parenthood particularly after Congress voted last year to defund Planned Parenthood. She always suspected the Komen leadership was as much about political power (Republican in this case) as cancer research.

Just yesterday, Crabby learned this from breast cancer advocate, Betty Pinson, reporting at Daily Kos:

”In 2009, Komen lobbied behind the scenes to weaken the health care bill (ACA) as it was being debated in Congress. They hired Hadassah Lieberman, wife of Joe, in an effort to convince Joementum to vote against the Public Option. Komen spent over $1 million in 2008 & 2009, on behind the scenes lobbying related to the health care reform bill, so who knows what else was on their agenda.”

Compared to Komen's flashy, rhinestone pinkness, Planned Parenthood is a no-nonsense - you might even say, boring - organization that goes about the day-to-day business of providing women's and children's health services.

According to Planned Parenthood, 75 percent of their clients have incomes at or below 150 percent of the U.S. poverty level. For many of them, Planned Parenthood is the only health care they can afford and/or is available in their area. Some people estimate that over the years, as many as one-fifth to one third of American women have used Planned Parenthood's services at least once in their lives.

In a rare moment of political kumbayah, the backlash against Komen was instant and fierce forcing the organization to restore funding to Planned Parenthood – sort of. Here is the less than fulsome retraction on the Komen blog posted Friday:

“We will continue to fund existing grants, including those of Planned Parenthood, and preserve their eligibility to apply for future grants, while maintaining the ability of our affiliates to make funding decisions that meet the needs of their communities.”
Whatever that means.

For many years there have been public indications that the agenda of the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure is not as pinkly pure as they want us to believe. Crabby Old Lady thinks an important reminder from this episode is that it's good to follow our instincts and also do some research when deciding where to put our charitable dollars.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Andrea Kline: Nameless Neighbors


Way back in the early 60's, I was invited by the Susan B. Komen foundation, as a "local hero", i.e. breast cancer survivor, to be photographed signing a white BMW with a magic marker, along with others from across the country.The car was to be driven from dealer to dealer and encourage people to test-drive (and buy) BMWs. It was highly publicized and wrapped in glitz and schmalts, and it just DIDN'T FEEL RIGHT! I was embarrassed and uncomfortable--it wasn't about us, the survivors; it was all about the fancy-dressed women executives and cars and money--I guess my antenna were working well.

Komen also wanted to block their donations to John Hopkins for research because they also do stem cell research. There is no doubt in my mind that it's a right wing organization and it will continue to go after Planned Parenthood and be more about its own fame and power than a cure. Even their trying to block anybody else saying 'for the cure' as being their particular slogan tells you what they are all about. There are other places to donate for research and let the right wing support this one as it's one of theirs. They can say anything they want now but the truth has been revealed and as you listed examples, it's been showing up for a lot of years.

I volunteer at our local Planned Parenthood. The people who work there are so nice and helpful. They are kind to their patients, and they help so many.

However, I can tell you that the building and the people are very no-frills. You can tell they work to use every dime they have to keep running.

As a breast cancer survivor, I find this very disturbing. While undergoing treatment 2 years ago, I noticed pink Coke cartons and a high end shopping center draped in pink banners. I wondered if this would boost their sales. When I researched Koman, it seemed a lot of their contributions went to salaries - which concerns me. I am one of many Catholic women who contribute to Planned Parenthood and believe in womens' rights to control their own bodies. Many Catholic women of an age do not support the positions of the male hierarchy. They will not be in the voting booth with us or control our purse strings.

I too am and remain Crabby against the SBK folks. I support Planned Parenthood and the American Cancer Society.

Thanks for this. It's been a long time coming. Many women are bothered by the "pink" hype, but I guess Komen has the power (read money)to get beyond our concerns. Do you suppose that one day other folks will stop butting their noses into the affairs of women. I sure do hope so. Dee

Very interesting. I had no idea of the power, money, and issues involving this organization. No female in my family has had to deal with the burden of breast cancer so all I have known is the pink ribbon image. I just assumed they were doing good work without a secondary agenda.

If the Komen foundation were really serious about severing ties with organizations that are under investigation, they would terminate their "corporate partnership" with Bank of America, which issues Komen a ViSA card, complete with pink ribbon.

Ronni, this post is great. Like Bob, I had no idea. Thanks for shining the light (again) on egregious wrongdoing. I like your summing up, "to follow our instincts and also do some research when deciding where to put our charitable dollars."

Sorry. That should read, "...Bank of America, which issues a Komen VISA card..."

Excellent post, with a lot of facts I hadn't known. SGK has badly damaged itself with both the left (who can never fully trust them again) and the right (who are outraged after reversing what they thought was a monumental victory).

As a guy, one thing I'm curious about is what Major League Baseball will do: for the past few years, they have had a day in which all the players wear or use something pink on the field, like bats, socks, caps, ribbons etc., both to show support and to raise awareness among men, who make up the majority of fans.

I had no idea that the pink ribbon was associated with such underhanded tactics and had not given it a thought other than believing it contributed to breast cancer research. Count me as one who is now aware thanks to this brouhaha.

I hope this lesson is not lost on those who are trying to eliminate Planned Parenthood. I have always fully supported them and the good work they do.

GiveWell, an independent, nonprofit charity evaluator.


"We haven’t yet established anything about whether the American Cancer Society or Susan G. Komen is effective (or ineffective) at accomplishing their missions.

But we, at least, have been surprised by this fairly basic information.

Both organizations seem to spend relatively small portions of their funds on researching new treatments or cures.
Both organizations spend significant portions of their funds on “raising awareness” type activities."

Now that SGK has shown it's true "Colors", we are safe in saying that we never really "Got it" when we saw pink food mixers,pink buckets of chicken,and baseball players wearing pink shoes.

They have exposed themselves to be a right wing political organization and I am happy that my dollars over the years have always gone to Planned Parenthood...

Would you believe pink garbage bins? Tacky, ugly and a curbside presence in my Iowa town. Thanks for all the links and videos. Highly shareable.

Although my annual donations have always (well...since at least the early 1980s) gone to help support Planned Parenthood, I must admit to having bought baked goods (once - for which I received a tiny stick-on pink ribbon) and neck scarves (two from a well-known catalogue perveyor - featuring pink ribbons in the design on the scarves) within the past 15 years. The scarves, proving to be something that I didn't use, were donated to a local charitable second-hand store. I shall go take down the tiny self-stick emblem from where it has resided on my bathroom wall where it served to remind me to do self-exams.
I was obvlivious. Thanks to Ronni and her readers for the education.
I'll stick with Planned Parenthood.

Ronni...I have been reading your blog for a long long time....every day...and that is the BEST BLOG YOU HAVE EVER WRITTEN. THANK YOU.

I expect a hew & cry over SGK's "rights" to do whatever they want. However, they are NOT respecting the right of their donors to know where their donations really go. Donors who think their money is going to help alleviate the horrors of breast cancer have the right NOT to have their money given to advertise corporations that pollute the environment, to negate warning messages about BPA, etc. SGK has not walked their talk. They've made alot of money, tho. Thanks for the post, Ronni. You're making a huge difference in awareness.

I sort of ignored the Komen Foundation, aside from what Barbara Ehrenreich said about it. It is difficult to complain about charity organizations which claim to be altruistic without being characterized as a mean person. So this exposure of Komen is very good.
It has been an excellent educational experience, too, reminding women of what Planned Parenthood does and how lucky we are that such a service exists.
I liked that cartoon. It is very much to the point, as well as being funny.
BTW: An article in the Huffington Post is floating around the notion that PP has better and more sophisticated PR than they do.
That is ridiculous and needs to be refuted every time someone brings it up. It was public outrage that forced Komen to back down, not "slick" PP publicity (of which there was none).

I agree with you. When I had no health insurance, I went to the clinic at a local hospital for my medical issues. One of the residents referred me to a program called The Pink Ribbon Project through a hospital in Akron that provided me with my annual mammogram annually for several years. My mother is a breast cancer survivor because it was detected early so this is close to my heart and survival. I am not rich but now Medicare takes care of my mammogram and every year when I have my mammogram, I send as much as I can to those good people.
The Komen program will never see a nickel from me.

Komen has just proven that under crony capitalism everything is exploitable.

Many years ago, I showed my support to the SGK foundation by doing the walks, giving money, etc. It made me feel good to walk with the names of loved ones who had died from the disease and/or who were dealing with it.

However, listening to others question where all this support money was actually going and hearing Barbara Ehrenreich speak about her view,I stopped.

The “pink” everything in my estimation, got too "big business".

Thanks, Ronni. This is such important information. I always knew the Cancer Society was suspect, and I had ideas about SGK. Thank you for showing me that my feeling was correct. I love your blog, and I almost always come away with something new to contemplate.

My choice to end my relationship with the Koman foundation has been a long time coming. As a twenty year breast cancer survivor, and donor to the cause, I have been watching as Nancy Brinker's fancy suits became fancier, and through research have discovered that a high percentage of donations are directed to salaries (as mentioned by others on this subject).
It is really a shame that the "cause" gets to be muddied by what is clearly recognizable as the common plague of our world today....greed.
Koman has been notified to delete me from their database.

EXCELLENT POST ! -- barbara

Right on, Crabby Old Lady!!

Excellent post! Well done! Without all the information you provided, I've had a bad feeling about SGK for a long time but wasn't sure why. Something just didn't feel right about them. Now I have facts! Thank you.

I'm a cancer survivor (lymphoma) and am uncomfortable with a lot of fund-raising and awareness programs that feel like exploitation.

Once again, thank you for such an informative, researched, and illuminating post!!

Excellent post. "Pink Ribbons, Inc." now in Canada and U.S. at film festivals http://firstrunfeatures.com/pinkribbons_playdates.html.

Also banners for your blogs! Many thanks, Ronni.

I've always been uncomfortable with organizations that parade "victims" to elicit contributions. Planned Parenthood says little, just jumps in and does the work with none of the hoopla. Good post!

I totally agree with Ronni and most other responders. I've never donated to Komen because I always thought they were just a little too "pinko" (sounds rather like Joe McCarthy, doesn't it?) and way too slick, especially in recent years.

Although a long-time donor, I stopped contributing to Planned Parenthood a while back because of their relentless mail solicitations. Also, I thought it was time for younger generations of women to step up. However, in response to Komen's stupid move, I sent a donation to PP. Anything to defeat right-wing extremists wherever they may be! I'm probably back PP's mailing list. Oh well, solicitations! That's another story.

Being a 20+ year breast cancer survivor, I long have disliked "political pink". Having said that, there are many other breast cancer organizations, less pink, who, do provide many services to women diagnosed with breast cancer. I do not want to see a broad brush hitting all organizations. Many have stepped out through the years so that we no longer hide, and whisper the word cancer. I am for anything that brings awareness, politics aside. Individuals can decide for themselves who they want to donate to.

Two points re Komen, Planned Parenthood et al. First the really magical effect that the Komen had on so many people who signed the petition and second, my unoriginal observation on the corrupting effects of money and power. Komen became a major player in non-profit world and their high paid executives began to taste the power they could tap at will, Next came the political skullduggery and then the anti-abortion right-wingers got in the act.

The Pink Ribbon was effective in raising peoples'
consciousness about breast cancer but I think the organization has outlived its usefulness and is ready to fade away. Remember "The March of Dimes"?

Mythster--The March of Dimes is still around...with a different mission. I was of two minds when, first, their focus was changed from infantile paralysis: 1) Why would they not disband the organization? and 2) Well...they had a good organization, already functioning, that might be put to good use instead of cold-starting another organization.
I still don't know how I feel about it!!

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