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10 Things Wrong with the Pink Ribbon!

This post addresses 10 things wrong with the pink ribbon, though there are probably many more. Be sure to let me know what I missed down in the comments. 

So, what’s wrong with the pink ribbon anyway? 

Turns out, plenty.

I get this question a lot. It’s a good one, so I thought I’d share my ideas on why the pink ribbon has lost its appeal for 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.

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, dads and even teachers often 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 stacking up. 

To grab a copy of my FREE ebook, Pink Is Just a Color, Ribbons Are Just Ribbons: A collection of writings about Pinktober shenanigans, Click Here.

Here are ten things wrong with the pink ribbon:

1.  Largely due to overuse and misuse the pink ribbon has lost its effectiveness, or at least, the right kind of effectiveness.

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 (before the pandemic) you probably don’t need any visuals, but just in case, here’s a collage put together by my friend, The Accidental Amazon.

Has any of this crap cured breast cancer?

The very fact that breast cancer awareness is so tightly linked to shopping is flat out sexist in the first place.

You might want to read, Why Is Breast Cancer the Shopping Disease Anyway?

2.  The pink ribbon is sometimes used in an under-handed way to make people feel good about shopping and where they are shopping.

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. This is known as ‘pinkwashing’. You can find some examples 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 attempts to make breast cancer feminine, pretty and perhaps even an almost “acceptable” kind of cancer. I mean, how many times have you heard, at least you got the good cancer?

6.  Pink ribbons are, well, pink. They represent females with breast cancer.

But men can and do get breast cancer too. Sadly, this can leave them feeling like 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.   All you need is faith, hope, love, courage and strength, right? Not!

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 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. In a way, it’s become the bully of ribbons.

The other colored ribbons for all those other diseases are mostly forgotten, 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 probably can’t.

Here’s a chart via Choose Hope to help you out:

Can you match the ribbon to the cancer it represents?

9.  The pink ribbon does its part to help keep sexism alive in Breast Cancer Land and beyond.

There are too many lame attempts to make breast cancer awareness lighthearted or sexy by adorning pink ribbons on t-shirts (and other stuff) along with sassy, provocative slogans.

Many such campaigns claim such an approach is necessary to appeal to a younger crowd and to avoid being too serious.

Too often, many of these campaigns and/or products seem to suggest breast cancer awareness is more about saving breasts than lives. Here are two examples:

10 things wrong with the pink ribbon

It’s all about the boobs. Seriously?

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 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. Unacceptable!

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?

Do you want to read more articles like this one? Click Here.

Think before you pink  #pinkribbon #breastcancer

Do you buy products with pink ribbons on them?

Do you think the pink ribbon is worn out, why or why not?

Is it time to throw it out?

Follow Nancy’s Point on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to join the conversations there as well.

Let’s change the stale breast cancer narrative together. If you like this post, please share it. Thank you!

10 things wrong with the #pinkribbon #breastcancerawarenessmonth #BCAM #breastcancer #pinkribbonculture #advocacy #pinkisnotacure

A version of this post also appears on Huffington Post.


Friday 12th of March 2021

Nancy, thanks for this article. I'm not a pink person. I believe it brings too much attention to me and not what it is supposed to represent! I have breat cancer and I don't want the attention. It needs to be on the cancer and the cure and not on me! There are so many other cancers out there and I saw it when doing chemo!!


Tuesday 16th of March 2021

Melanie, And yes, the attention "pink" brings is often not good attention. Thank you for sharing your thoughts on this. Stay well.


Friday 25th of October 2019

Nancy I love your post. This post is from 2012. It is now 2019 and there is still no hope for cure. Sad but true. Humans can do wonders. We can go to moon but cannot find a cure for the most deadly disease. Millions of families are suffering still there is no cure.


Monday 28th of October 2019

Jennifer, I'm glad you loved it. Thank you. And yes, seven years later, and here we are.


Monday 17th of October 2016

Hi Nancy, Well that was a good read. And so true. I have registered to help out breast cancer awareness (pink ribbon) this year and i have actually made my own little trinkets to sell to help raise monies. But than i came across your blog and it has got me thinking, "is it worth selling my things as i am giving full profits to the foundation, if thats not where the money is going to go. I also had a friend register after i had told her i had done, i keep getting the feeling shes not doing it for the right reasons. Soo now that i have read your blog, i feel even more undecided if i want to go along with it all. Your blog brings many differant outlooks on the topic. I think the merchandise needs to be cut and keep it as a simple ribbon like the rest of the "ribbon awarenesses". So Nancy what is your suggestion to me on how do i still help raise money and awareness for this cause?? Bless x


Tuesday 18th of October 2016

Tammy, I applaud you for wanting to raise money. Why not donate to research? That would be my suggestion. Or perhaps donate to a local charity in your community that does things for women (and men) impacted by cancer. Awareness has mostly been achieved (in the US).

10 Reasons Why the Pink Ribbon Has Lost Its Appeal –

Saturday 4th of June 2016

[…] source […]


Tuesday 15th of March 2016

Nancy, great post on the reasons behind the pink ribbon loosing some of it's appeal. My wife is a breast cancer survivor, being diagnosed at the age of 31. Because of her journey we started a non-profit to help women and ultimately create more awareness for genetic testing (specifically BRCA). Once you've started this journey, the pink ribbon changes. The purpose and meaning is still good, but comes with a different light. Great post Nancy! Anyone that wants to learn more about genetic testing can start by checking out our hereditary cancer quiz:

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