Every October we get a nationwide wave of pink ribbon breast cancer awareness products. Even after October it’s pretty difficult to avoid getting the widespread pink ribbon marketing culture ‘in our faces…’
The marketing with all those trinkets and status symbol associations has overshadowed the vitally important work needed to address putting an end to the deadly disease.
In spite of vast amounts of cash raised from kind well-meaning fundraisers/donators breast cancer continues to be a major health crisis: Corporations make millions from the disease while not anywhere near enough progress has been made in treatment, prevention and reversal.
The figures speak for themselves. Taking the USA as an example, currently some 3 million women have breast cancer. Up to 33% will metastasise (spread to other parts of the body)… and annually some 40,000 women will die in spite of over 20 years of pink ribbon awareness.
There are 6 ways in which the pink ribbon culture distracts, preventing real significant progress.
1. It promotes an ’empty awareness’
There are 2 types of awareness. One is an awareness that leads to making a difference. The other is an ’empty awareness’ which makes no difference because it doesn’t lead to taking action and getting significant results.
This is what’s happening in the case of pink ribbon marketing and its products. Everyone has been made aware about breast cancer but ultimately nothing has significantly changed in stopping women from getting the disease because mere awareness is not enough to achieve the end goal.
2. Pink ribbon spreads misinformation
Pink ribbon marketing may be promoting disinformation by spreading a major misunderstanding that early detection saves lives. The only real fact that can be said for certain about early detection is that it detects different cancers.
Nobody knows at this early stage whether or not the cancer will turn out to be malignant or benign. Another case where pink ribbon campaigns don’t tell the whole truth is the ‘5 year cure rate.’
If the cancer doesn’t return 5 years after treatment the person is signed off as ‘cured.’ However, the cancer may return… but this is not mentioned allowing the stats to be fiddled.
Both the early detection myth and the stats fiddle allows pink ribbon to manipulate the customer through fear and false undertakings so that more pink ribbon products can be sold.
3. Corporations manipulate people’s emotions; spread fear and give false hope, while exploiting goodwill and concern
This is done by the corporations to make more money from products sales. At the end of the day the corporations benefit from breast cancer far more than the women they help who are at risk.
There is much opaqueness and a lack of accountability from corporations regarding fundraising and marketing promotion.
4. Sometimes corporations advertise the pink ribbon on a product that contributes to breast cancer
For example, the pink ribbon has been known to be seen on plastic bottled water. The plastic leeches out a chemical carcinogen know as bisphenol A (BPA).
This is a hypocritical and darkly deceptive piece of marketing. They make the statement ‘we care’ about ending breast cancer only to sell a product that can contribute to it while used to earn customer loyalty.
5. Pink ribbon culture promotes products that can sexualize and degrade women
This can be done by depicting women as nothing more than sex-objects by focussing on the breasts, ignoring the many other diverse aspects that deserve respect in a woman.
During the breast cancer campaigns this includes using degrading slogans such as “save the boobies” and “save the ta-tas…” with the fitting accompanying images.
6. Pink ribbon covers up what really goes on when fighting breast cancer
They may give out rare success stories where superficiality is used with carefully chosen pictures showing how a woman ‘fought hard’ to beat breast cancer… The idea behind this is to promote the image of fighting breast cancer in a palatable way, which makes it more profitable.
Indeed, this covers up the truth; the harsh reality that fighting breast cancer involves devastation and it is not pretty.
As I stated earlier my message for everyone is to think before you pink: To encourage everyone to stop the distraction and be it through grassroots activism; making corporations accountable… lobbying your MP… etc… Or educating your family and friends… do this to focus on finding the solutions related to putting an end to breast cancer.
By Paul A Philips, Guest author