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Has the Pink Ribbon Become the Bully of Ribbons?

Has the pink ribbon become the “bully” of ribbons? Maybe. Maybe not. (I’m just asking.)

If you were to ask any number of people over, say the age of ten (maybe even younger) that you meet on the street (in the US anyway) if they’ve ever seen a pink ribbon and what cause it represents; I bet most, if not all, would say yes and yes.

The pink ribbon is everywhere and nearly everyone in these parts is more than familiar with it.

It might also be interesting to ask those same individuals a third question that might go along the line of something like this:

Has the pink ribbon become the bully of ribbons? Do you ever get tired of seeing all those pink ribbons everywhere?

I have a feeling you’d get more than a few yeses here as well.

Lots of diseases have ribbons tied to them. I suppose this is so every disease has some sort of identity or brand to set it apart. I’m not entirely sure if this is a good thing or a bad thing.

I do know that as far as ribbon notoriety goes, no other ribbon comes close to the almighty “hate it or love it” pink ribbon.

Nearly everyone knows that the pink ribbon and breast cancer are inseparable in the awareness arena.

But awareness of what isn’t quite so clear.

Without peeking at the chart below, how many colored ribbons can you correctly match to its corresponding cancer?

Ribbon/cancer chart

Undoubtedly, some of the other cancers feel left out, or rather of course, some people affected by those other cancers feel left out.

I got a comment on one of my HP articles from someone who thought I should stop complaining about all the attention breast cancer gets. He told me breast cancer was lucky to get so much attention and that I should be grateful. I guess in some ways this is true, or could be, if pink and pink ribbon use hadn’t gone so crazy and if truckloads of dollars were being delivered for research purposes, but this doesn’t seem to be the case at all.

I do know there are plenty of other serious diseases, ribbons or no ribbons, which deserve attention too.

And again, this makes me wonder how breast cancer became the ‘showcase disease’, in other words, the shopping disease in the first place.

Fair or not, the pink ribbon is by far the leader in ribbon visibility, recognition and attention getting.

Good or bad, the pink ribbon is the ribbon among ribbons.

And let’s face it, the pink ribbon is probably not going away anytime soon.

In and of itself, there’s nothing wrong with the pink ribbon. And I still like pink.

But just as it’s never a good thing for a person to be a bully, it’s not okay for the pink ribbon to become one either.

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Do you think the pink ribbon has become the “bully” of ribbons, or am I way off base?

Is the Pink Ribbon the Bully of Ribbons? #pinkribbons #BCAM #breastcancerawarenessmonth #breastcancer #Pinktober

Staci Melton

Monday 2nd of March 2020

I've been fighting breast cancer for six years. No. the pink ribbon is not a bully. The bullies are the people using it for profit and those who have no freaking clue what it us like to fight it complaining that breast cancer gets too much attention. Get out and do something about it!!! Stop comparing other diseases and illnesses to breast cancer so that you can make your point. All cancers and other diseases are horrible, but complaining about October being for breast cancer is just petty af. It's insulting to me and many other men and women who are fighting everyday to live. I'm tired of people trying to make me feel guilty for having breast cancer. I didn't want it just like no one else wants any other disease or illness. Breast cancer has been around before Jesus walked the Earth, and look at how many people die every year from it. Shame on anyone trying to undermine this awful disease.


Saturday 15th of October 2016

Its interesting and feels supportive to hear that these feelings exist within the cancer community. I hadn't thought about the uber-pressure to "be positive!" But had about the intensity of marathons, 3-day walks and other things expected of survivors.

I don't have cancer, but for 6 years have struggled with debilitating diseases that started overnight and have resulted in huge difficulty raising my children, have found me urging my husband to divorce and find a more able, fun partner while he still can, and In really dark times, have contemplated suicide, rather than face living this way - getting one condition under "management" only to have a new one crop up, or just dealing with the juggling of symptoms from each condition one day to the next. I've wondered how often people during their fight, or especially afterwards, facing chronic symptoms after "cured" have struggled with these emotions.

This month, After seeing what I thought of as the "pepto-bismol" fest on the Today show, as women in pink danced on a truck as they awaited makeovers- I got the phone call that told me I can add Ménière's disease to my list. This being the only dx I've felt comfortable sharing widely because everyone "gets dizziness." This, for me, while another hardship and difficulty for my family, driving me to the "divorce talks" again during a bleak moment, is actually one of the less painful conditions I've got to deal with.

I guess my point is, that besides cancer, which I haven't experienced so cannot even measure the difference between my experience and theirs - there are other illnesses - as someone else mentioned - most invisible, many with names no one has heard and therefore can't have instant understanding of the experience, and people with this suffer deeply. I've heard some say they wish they could either get a cure or die. It's difficult to live with the constancy, the secrets, the lack of awareness or community support, and often the same pressure that if you'd just think positively life would get better. My doctors and other care providers have told me I'm one of their most optimistic, least "sick-minded" clients - I find that so insensitive - yes, mental strength helps, but illness and recovery is a process and everyone has their own experience and right to be afforded that - , and this year, when pink month came around and I was grieving over loss of another body system, a month so far In bed, and my absolute inability to give my family the kind of experience I wish I could, I just got mad. Especially given the lack of money that makes it toward research, and the success that has made this a diagnosis where it seems - and I may be way off here -- but this is what I'm told, that survival - and good, back to normal survival - chances are getting better - that right. The attention is disproportionate. And unfortunately, the focus takes away from other cancers and other diseases that cause misery and suffering and have no cure, sometimes no treatment.

I always tell people that suffering is suffering and we shouldn't compare our experience against another's, discount or invalidate it, because when you are going through whatever it is, it is big and difficult and sometimes scary.

I hope for increased awareness of all disease. I hope for less pressure for survivors to feel like they have to "perform" or behave according to expectations of those who haven't had the experience. I hope for awareness that cured doesn't always mean "completely gone." And, that you can be a positive person but still express frustration and sadness, be allowed to have an authentic experience, be a critical thinker and yes, even sometimes experience negative data - just like the average non-sick person. Selfishly, I wish the support I've witnessed given to friends with a cancer diagnosis - food, babysitting, cleaning - all offered and organized by others - had been once offered during the 6 years of my illness. 7 take that back - it has happened, once in awhile someone will really see me and it's beautiful and magical, but this struggle for people without well-recognized ribbons - it's tough.

I appreciate the space to speak out and hope I don't offend anyone with my thoughts. And, I know it's an old post by thank a goodness for the Internet support on a somewhat negative day! Blessings to all of you.


Monday 17th of October 2016

Wendy, Thank you for sharing your insightful comments. You definitely aren't offending anyone by expressing yourself. You're so right, suffering is suffering and comparing and judging gets us nowhere. I'm sorry you are dealing with so many issues. It must be so challenging. And it certainly doesn't help when even those delivering medical care resort to cliches about positivity and such. And yes, the pepto-bismal fest, I hear you. I'm sure many, maybe even most, people will be happy when Breast Cancer Awareness Month comes to an end. Pink fatigue is real. Hope you're doing okay, and I also hope you are getting some support, you certainly deserve it. Again, thank you for sharing.


Thursday 6th of October 2016

I'm hoping to write an argumentative essay on this topic for my college English class. I need reliable resources. Do you know of any?


Sunday 18th of September 2016

Yes I do. Even though they have cleaned up their act, a little, Komen has profited far more than is ethical for their sponsor-fest every October. In addition many companies promote 'Pink Ribbon' in the most God-awful ways. Pink trash bags, pink tools, pink NFL bullshit, pink undertaker outfits FS (true, google it). And the whole time the thing needed is not awareness, but research into new therapies. Less than 8% of Komen contributions goes to breast cancer research. The current CEO males close to $400K/yr. Most pink products actually contribute less than 5% to anything breast cancer related. And long-term survival rates for cancer remain pretty much unchanged despite all the pink hype.

In the mean time Who knows what the gold ribbon is? It's for childhood cancer. Brain cancer just became the number one cancer killer of children. Please visit TheTruth365 on FB to see some of the most courageous humans you'll ever meet. Children battling cancer. Please give October to these kids too, I don't want Pinktober anymore. I want every month to be Gold Ribbon Month for pediatric cancer, until kids aren't dying anymore. We need them. Talia, Delaney, Katie (KitKat), Jonny (Jackie's twin brother), my beloved Kyssi (Kyrstin Andrews), Parker, Zamora Moon, all so beautiful...... Finding cures for them may find cures for all of us. Sorry for the rant, I was just watching CureFest on FB. Annual convention of families impacted by pediatric cancer. This weekend in DC. On the Mall. Amazing love and loss and hope there. Fin.


Sunday 18th of September 2016

Jane, Thank you for your "rant". All your points are totally valid.


Tuesday 21st of October 2014

As a 19 year old with brain cancer, I couldn't agree more. Often I have friends or family that want to spread awareness so that we can get closer to finding a cure. But it is a challenge trying to find anything supporting brain cancer. It is a little frustrating.


Thursday 6th of October 2016

I am currently 18 and when I was in 7th grade I also had brain cancer


Wednesday 22nd of October 2014

Beth, I'm sorry it's such a challenge to find that support. It makes me sad to think breast cancer is a 'bully' of sorts. Thank you for stating your thoughts on this.

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