A media kit from the fast-food chain—best known for its waitress’s impressive bosoms and its subpar wings—arrived in my mailbox this week. In the press release, Miss Hooters 2014, Janet Layug, implores me to spread the word about their $3 minimum breast cancer donation bracelets because “no other dining destination is as uniquely qualified to raise funds and awareness about breast cancer research.”
Forgive me for being highly dubious of this claim.
The barrage of breast cancer donation promotions is unavoidable in October—and if you have a minimal amount of media literacy, you’re already cynical about them. Pink Ribbons, Inc. and an array of articles have raised serious questions about how much breast cancer sponsors actually donate to research or treatment and how much of the campaign is a marketing ploy to trick us into spending more right before the Christmas rush.
But there is actually something more irksome than exploiting cancer for profits. A number of companies “pinkwash”: they raise money for breast cancer charities yet derive their revenue from products and services that harm the health or status of women. Below are some of the worst offenders I've seen this year.
As the Hooters press kit shows, an appreciation for breasts does not automatically translate to an appreciation of women. Sure, Hooters may have a vested financial interests in breasts—or rather, a very specific type of breast. But even as the restaurant chain touts its support of breast-cancer research, its lack of female-friendly policies leaves much to be desired. Of course, there is the past sexual harassment lawsuit and the general atmosphere of sexual objectification. There is also the 2011 lawsuit filed by two Michigan Hooters employees who claimed their boss told them to lose weight or lose their jobs (it settled out of court). But that's not even getting into the alleged violations of wage-and-hour statutes, which affect the very livelihoods of the restaurant's almost entirely female servers. By the way, Hooters hasn't been perfect to men, either. The chain has faced multiple class-action employment discrimination lawsuits from men, alleging that Hooters denies them job opportunities for which they are fully qualified by barring them from server positions.
2. Baker Hughes
Hooters didn’t even set off the alarm bells in this year’s round of pinkwashing. The most egregious Breast Cancer-awareness tchotkes came from Susan G. Komen’s partnership with fracking corporation Baker Hughes, which will be using giant pink drill bits to extract oil. Right off the bat, the “Doing Our Bit for the Cure” campaign seemed peculiar. And as it turns out, those adorable pink drill bits are potentially facilitating the addition of carcinogens into the environment. A 2013 study showed that water collected at sites where fracking occurs contains chemicals linked to cancer, as well as birth defects and infertility.
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