Friday!

How lovely for a Friday to roll around after a short work week. Although it feels like I barely glanced off the office this week, I'm ready for a break. But first...

This week, my blog friend Acacia wrote this brave post. Yes, I said brave. It's a word people use a lot to praise each other on the blogosphere. And not that I want to be a detractor of the kind sentiments they're expressing, but a lot of what that word is assigned to doesn't count as brave in my books.

But Acacia is brave and her post was brave and angry and just and it moved me tremendously.


When I shared Acacia's post with the Etsy editor who had created the e-mail, she replied with a very pat response: "Thanks so much for bringing this to my attention. Always appreciate the feedback on how to improve & grow". This further angered me. I myself have guest-blogged for Etsy and blogged about numerous Etsy sellers, I've been a supporter of, and contributor to, their community. So my reaction is magnified because I have counted myself as part of the Etsy community...

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.

And I'm so angry for Acacia because I can't begin to fathom how this must make her feel. And I'm frustrated for people who buy these products mistakenly assuming that they're helping in some way. Of course, Etsy isn't the only retailer participating in "pinkwashing", but that doesn't negate this criticism. Etsy should know better and they should also have given Acacia's e-mail and her blog post more respectful consideration and responded more professionally and substantially*.

I know this isn't my usual cathartic Friday blog post and there were other lovely things this week, I'm sure, that I just can't summon right now.

But I do hope you all have a lovely weekend!

* cf. this - a great role model for how an organization, and an individual, should respond to personal criticism.

P.S. The photo above was the sky one morning this week as I left for work. For a moment, my entire apartment was suffused with pink light; that's a form of pinkwashing I can get behind.

30 comments:

  1. Okay, you're right, *that* is brave.

    And I can't believe the etsy sellers using cancer as a selling tool, that's truly sinister.

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    1. Thanks Cara. I agree - it is sinister.

      And Etsy's own active participation in using these sellers as a marketing tool is sinister too. They perhaps can't manage what their sellers are doing, but they can definitely be selective with which sellers they choose to promote. They could also commit to making a contribution themselves, as they too profit off the transactions of these "pink" products.

      Badly handled all around... and now compounded by a lack of responsiveness, betraying them to be just as much the corporate douchebags as the kinds of businesses they purport to offer an alternative to.

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  2. Shaking with anger over this. As an Etsy seller who actually used the sale of my items to support my mother who battled metastatic breast cancer until she passed away in January - WITHOUT putting a f*cking pink ribbon on any of my items! - this is a travesty. Thank you for sharing Acacia's post. I haven't sold any items in awhile and was debating about whether to close my shop (because of time and motivation) this information just made that decision really easy. I am so done with Etsy.

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    1. Wow Bethany - thank you for this comment. I'm so very sorry for your loss and I'm angry and frustrated with and for you...

      I know my wee blog is just a drop in the ocean and Acacia herself has been completely ignored by Etsy's team. Hopefully somebody with more pull than me can light a fire under them so they pull their head out of their asses.

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  3. I send more heartfelt and genuinely apologetic emails when people write to tell me a tote hasn't arrived after five business days. My heart is broken for anyone with cancer / loved ones with cancer who saw that email.

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    1. Of course you do... that's the decent and human response.

      It seems that beneath the turgid indie wankfest, Etsy is just another Big Business with no sense of accountability or responsibility or decency.

      Delete
  4. Well, that was upsetting to read. The Etsy administration's lack of empathy truly continues to baffle me.

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  5. It started with the twee "tickled pink" title and went downhill from there, didn't it? The whole thing stinks of a deep-seated lack of... something. Morality? Decency? I'm not sure what to call it, but it's utterly reprehensible. Etsy should be ashamed to have even considered this kind of insensitive "marketing".

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    1. Yup - it really did go downhill from there. I don't understand why people or organizations think that kind of language is appropriate to use around cancer. We wouldn't use it around AIDS or starvation in Africa. Dying is not something fluffy and suffering from a disease that could take your life is not something cute to hooray about.

      It is indecent, and ignorant and unreflective. And now rudely ignored to boot.

      Delete
    2. That is such a great point, Jane. The "save the ta-tas" and "save second base" and "beware for boobies" - they are cheap platitudes on a painful reality. Those terms sexualize the issue, as if that's the only reason women need to care about having breast cancer. To be sure, that is a heartbreaking aspect of it, to lose the parts of our bodies that are so much a part of our feminine identities - hair, curves, outward beauty. But by the time my mother passed away, it had spread throughout her entire body - it is so not that simple. Not to mention that it totally ignores the percentage of patients that are male! Everything about it is unfair.

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  6. Hello Jane

    I am saddened to read of this horrific piece of marketing by Etsy and the cruelty and greed of the Etsy sellers.

    Ms Nicole Smith's,the Etsy Respresentative's" lack of caring in her response baffles me.

    My condolences to Acacia for having to endure this dishonesty and disrespect.

    Thank you Jane for your caring spirit

    Helen x

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    1. And thank you Helen for yours. It is saddening and maddening!

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  7. My first thought was I don't mind Etsy rounding up items for BC Awareness month--but they should only have included those that donate profits. I'm not even sure about that though. It's almost political...Will they do Autism awareness next? Football players wear pink shoes on Sunday. Is that good or bad; s it subtle Nike promotion? Is there too much pink--so much we don't see it anymore?

    Anyway, the boilerplate response you got is most disappointing. I have an Etsy store, love Etsy, and expect more of them.

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    1. Hi Jen - I expect more of them too. I think we all do.

      I think all individuals and organizations should pick worthy causes they support, either publicly or privately. I do not think it should be a bandwagon they jump on or a marketing tool to help them profit.

      If you support a cause, you do so authentically -- and the cause is the one that benefits, not you. If you're walking away with cash -in-hand (as Etsy would from the transaction fees on all these products), something is wrong.

      Delete
  8. Whoa, if I wasn't already angry enough after seeing Hila's pin of this article.....that response!! It actually floored me a little. I can't believe they're not remorseful, or at least embarrassed? I find the idea of pinking breast cancer pretty difficult to swallow even when people have good intentions, I just feel like we've been tricked that this is the best way to support people when really it's mostly making money for big business. I dunno, perhaps it didn't start out that way but it definitely feels like where it's lead to.

    Well done on calling Etsy on this, I hope more people do. It's so gross.

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    1. I agree, Becka. It's a lot of very clever marketing masquerading as something compassionate and cause-driven. Etsy - and the people who work there - clearly do not believe they are accountable to the community that supports them and has made them successful.

      From not on, I'll endeavour to support Etsians through their standalone sites rather than their Etsy storefront. I don't want to withdraw my support of talented artisans altogether, but I will be loath to use Etsy as my gateway.

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  9. Thanks for drawing our attention to this. I had naively viewed Etsy as an artistic community. How silly of me.

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    1. Thanks Alice. I agree - I was very quick to lend my support to Etsy. And I do believe that there are many talented artists and artisans who have Etsy stores. But I am sceptical of organization's own conduct and integrity.

      Increasingly, I feel like so much of this blog and indie scene makes lots of noise about authenticity and integrity... but actually conducts themselves in a manner more like the corporations they claim to be reacting against.

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  10. This is totally appalling. When I was a magazine editor, I always felt frustrated with the pinkwashing that goes on during breast cancer awareness month — I'd be pitched a crazy number of products that mostly gave very very little back to any cancer foundation. It was common to see 5% of some $20 product, which amounts to a buck (and these were big fancy companies, not handmade.) Anyway, that felt like a marketing ploy rather than a real charitable contribution, but at least they were giving something back. I agree that Etsy isn't responsible to police their sellers on how they're individually promoting their goods for a cause. But to send out a mass promotional email about buying these pink products that don't give anything back — that's poor ethics, total laziness on their end, and just plain distasteful. And it's super sad, especially since we probably all know someone who's been touched by this awful cancer.

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    1. Thanks Jen. I agree completely and I'm completely turned off by their lack of response too.

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  11. I have pretty much ranted all I can on twitter, pinterest and my blog about this, ever since I read Acacia's post. I'm angry, totally angry. This is the lowest of the low etsy - if you have a shred of decency, respond to Acacia, apologise, and promise never to do this again.

    I'm over it all Jane.

    And Acacia, you are one hell of a brave woman.

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    1. Same - I'm spent from being so angry and Etsy not even batting an eyelid. I'm really thinking hard about how I can withdraw my support from this organization while still supporting sellers.

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  12. People who care may be interested in the developments / continuing discussion from Acacia's post and my own:

    Hila's post: http://hila-lumiere.blogspot.ca/2012/10/pinkwashing.html
    Etsy discussion: http://www.etsy.com/teams/7714/ideas/discuss/11083922/
    Get off my internets: http://getoffmyinternets.net/etsy-wants-to-sell-you-some-pink-stuff/

    As yet, no response from Etsy...

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  13. And one more:

    http://www.dailydot.com/news/etsy-pinkwashing-breast-cancer-awareness-month/

    Thank you everybody for chiming in, tweeting, Facebooking etc. It's satisfying to get some coverage, even if Etsy's response still feels wholly indifferent and unreflective.

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  14. I feel like my cynicism is coming back in waves. Sadly, I read this post: http://jezebel.com/5950971/the-nfls-campaign-against-breast-cancer-is-a-total-scam last week about the NFL's greed regarding Breast Cancer Awareness month. The league is littered with pink shoes, towels, hats, etc (I see it every Sunday when my husband watches football) so I thought all profits were going to Breast Cancer related charities. Yeah, no. Pretty disgusting. Now Etsy? What ever happened to integrity?

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    1. I know... I'm actually feeling pretty blue about the whole blog / indie scene right now... all those businesses that were "made" early on by very sincere trust in integrity and belief that here, at last, was something "different" from the mass retailers and established media.

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  15. More coverage today (yay!)

    http://racked.com/archives/2012/10/16/etsys-breast-cancer-awareness-month-roundup-includes-almost-no-sellers-who-donate-to-charity.php

    http://mashable.com/2012/10/15/etsy-pinkwashing-breast-cancer/

    http://www.themarysue.com/etsy-breast-cancer/

    http://www.digitaltrends.com/social-media/etsy-accused-of-pinkwashing/

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  16. One more Jane: http://www.cnet.com.au/etsys-pinksploitation-339342049.htm

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    1. Thanks Hila! And finally adding this

      http://dukky.com/marketing-for-a-good-cause-learn-from-etsys-mistakes/

      Delete

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