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There is an episode of Seinfeld (yes, I am a Seinfeld trivia expert) in which Kramer, signing up for an AIDS walk, refuses to wear the AIDS ribbon.

Ribbons have become such a cliché. Maybe they were a cliché from the beginning, starting with Tony Orlando and Dawn and Tie A Yellow Ribbon

I’m with Kramer. I won’t wear a ribbon — not yellow (support the troops); not white/purple (against violence against women); not white (against pornography); not red (against AIDS); not rainbow (support gay rights) — not any of the 77 official colours that represent (mostly) every disease you can think of and quite a few causes as well.

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Breast Cancer’s colour is pink. I don’t wear that one either.

I have never been comfortable with all the pink — ribbons, teddy bears, jewellery — surrounding breast cancer, second only to lung cancer as a cause of cancer deaths in women. I find it way too cutesy for my taste.

I was also not the first person to feel a little put off when I discovered that Breast Cancer Awareness Month was started by a drug company that sells breast cancer drugs and the pink ribbon was originated by Estée Lauder cosmetics. It has turned into a huge marketing ploy and has successfully shifted the emphasis away from discovering the cause of breast cancer to — purportedly — looking for a cure.

I appreciated this article on the subject and noticed immediately when I opened it that all the Google ads that were generated were for breast-cancer-related pink stuff — to buy. And there was a “Breast Cancer Store” too!

I hasten to add that I am all in favour of people gathering together in support of one another in whatever kind of group and activity that works for them. It’s also important, however, to understand that great profits are being made from the pink campaign by companies which would stand to lose a lot if more resources were poured into looking for the cause rather than the cure for breast cancer — and all the other cancers.

Samantha King’s book, Pink Ribbons, Inc., has been well-reviewed. This Maclean’s interview with her offers a lot of insight into her book and her views on this subject and should give everyone something to think about.

5 Responses

  1. #1
    Busy Dale-Harris 

    I object to the ribbon game. The money and effort would be better spent helping support groups. Unfortunately they are the targeted group for this ribbon game. Dollars that could and should go to prevention are being wasted on these events. Most people don’t know that. We should be educating our friends who ask why we refuse to support such a waste.

  2. Barbara Ehrenreich has also famously skewered Pink Cancerland (as did the late Molly Ivins) as part of the USian cult and culture of Positive Thinking. Sharon, I’ve even seen a pink drill! And lots of pink cookware accessories.

  3. #3
    Innis MacDonald 

    Sharon — I almost ran home to phone you when I walked into Sobeys last night and was confronted by a wall of … wait for it … PINK TOILET PAPER

  4. #4
    Jane Cameron 

    Promoting in Pink was insightful and illuminating. Amongst others, I loved your comment that “all the pink…was too cutesy for my taste.” I read all the reviews connected to your reference to “Pink Ribbons, Inc.” Thank you for that.

  5. #5
    Robbie Lochead(Pereira)MGH 1964 

    Ribbons, fake flowers all suck! A friend of mine buys one ribbon for $1.00 only once then keeps them in the ribbon/fake flower drawer and then wears them on the designated week so the collectors stay away.

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