What’s so bad about the pink ribbon?
I get this question all the time and it’s a good one, so I thought I’d share my ideas on why the pink ribbon has lost its appeal to so many.
Pink itself is not a problem. It’s only a color. And ribbons are not the problem – they’re just ribbons!
But then we have a certain ribbon that has received oodles of attention as well as a fair amount of criticism, and that of course, is the almighty pink ribbon. I wonder if there is anyone in this part of the world anyway who hasn’t seen the pink ribbon. It’s everywhere. And not just during October’s Breast Cancer Awareness Month anymore. No, now you can see it year round slapped onto to this, that and the other thing.
And this is the problem. The dang ribbon is everywhere!
The pink ribbon might have been a good symbol at one time, but now it is overused and too often misused.
The pink ribbon is worn out.
You know how coaches, moms and dads and even teachers will hand out ribbons for everything? It’s an attempt to make every child feel good. But sometimes too many ribbons are given out and as a result, the ribbons lose their meaning.
The same can be said for the mother of all ribbons, that infamous pink one …
And the problems with the pink ribbon keep on stacking up.
I’ll start with ten reasons why the pink ribbon has lost its appeal.
1. Largely due to overuse and misuse the pink ribbon has lost its effectiveness, or at least lost sight of its original goal. The pink ribbon has morphed into a marketing tool, and a highly successful one at that. The pink ribbon is now used to sell stuff and lots of it. Unless you’ve been house bound for quite some time you probably don’t need any visuals, but just in case here’s a rather all-inclusive collage.
And the very fact that breast cancer awareness is so tightly linked to shopping is flat out sexist in the first place.
2. The pink ribbon is sometimes used in an under-handed way to make people feel good about shopping and where they are shopping at. The pink ribbons are used to increase profits as well as a corporation’s image. Talk about bang for your buck – I mean ribbon.
3. Pink ribbons are often misleading. People buy items with the pink ribbon on them because they think their money will go to a good cause. This may or may not be true. Sometimes there is a cap on how much will be donated regardless of how much money comes in. Plus, sometimes not one dollar or even one penny will go to breast cancer anything.
4. The product with the pink ribbon is sometimes questionable. Some of the products are even linked to the possibility of contributing to the risk of breast cancer. You can find a list of some controversial items here.
5. Many people are insulted by the pink ribbon because it seems to “dress up” breast cancer. It’s a cute and tidy way to package a deadly disease. A pink ribbon seems to make breast cancer feminine, pretty and perhaps even an almost “acceptable” kind of cancer. I mean how many times have you heard, well at least breast cancer is the good cancer?
6. The pink ribbons only represent the females with breast cancer. But men can get breast cancer too; sadly, this leaves them as outcasts – adding to the possible humiliation of having a “woman’s disease” in the first place.
7. The pink ribbon is used to represent hope, faith and courage. The underlying message for some might be construed to be, Just remain hopeful. You’ll be fine. This leaves little room for other genuine feelings like fear, anger and uncertainty.
There is nothing wrong with courage, hope or faith. But when these become tied to a pink ribbon, perhaps we are unintentionally suggesting that women should sit quietly and accept breast cancer. It might even suggest that we should sit back and accept the lack of progress in prevention and treatment, much less a cure. Think about it. Remember all that sugar and spice nonsense about good little girls?
8. The pink ribbon overshadows all the other ribbons. It’s the “bully of ribbons.”
All the other colored ribbons for all those other diseases are forgotten about, too often shoved out of the spotlight by the mighty pink one. Don’t feel bad if you can’t name even one other colored ribbon and the disease it’s matched to. Most people can’t. Here’s a chart to help you out:
9. The pink ribbon does its part to keep sexism alive in breast cancer land. There are way too many examples to count. There are far too many lame attempts to make breast cancer awareness light-hearted or sexy by adorning pink ribbons everywhere. They suggest breast cancer awareness is more about saving breasts than the person’s life. Here are just a few examples:
10. The pink ribbon has been around for decades, but when you look at the results that matter – fewer deaths from breast cancer, this has not been the outcome from all those ribbons. Breast cancer continues to claim about 40,000 lives annually in just the United States. And the metastatic community continues to be mostly left out of the pink ribbon loop in more ways than one. Sad, but true.
There are undoubtedly many other problems with the pink ribbon, but this list should do for starters.
It’s time to get the knots out of the pink ribbon. I say, let’s untie it, retie it or maybe even throw it out!
What do you say?
This October (and all year long) be a savvy shopper and follow these tips from Breast Cancer Action’s Think Before You Pink campaign.