I often walk into the supermarket but I have never seen a blue ribbon on any products on the shelves. In fact, I have never seen a black ribbon (lung cancer), a green ribbon (kidney cancer) or any other colored ribbon on any product; however, the shelves are always overflowing with items embossed with a large pink ribbon. Often, the packaging includes blaring announcements that for each returned cap the XYZ Corporation will donate to breast cancer research some tiny amount of money. As I think about it, those pink ribbons are on the shelves year round, not just during breast cancer awareness month.
It is sad that Americans find their easiest way to express their beliefs is through consumerism. How is buying/not buying some item from a corporation the best way to enact change in the world? How many times have you heard some political group that does not like the beliefs of a CEO and so decides to boycott its products?
Somehow, people are going to cure breast cancer by buying pink-colored stuff from their store, stuff that was probably made in China instead of donating that money to the organization directly.
In Welcome to Cancerland by Barbara Ehrenreich, she talks about the negative effects of pink. “In the harshest judgment, the breast-cancer cult serves as an accomplice in global poisoning – normalizing cancer, prettying it up, even presenting it, perversely, as a positive and enviable experience.”
Cancer awareness is very important. People need to know about this disease, how to be screened and how many people are negatively effected. People need to know how important it is to provide funding for research, for treatment and for psychological support for the effected. Nevertheless, cancer should not be made into an exclusive “sisterhood” thing. Nor should people believe that buying a certain type of yogurt and mailing in the top to the manufacture complete their obligation to defeat cancer.
Joel T Nowak MA, MSW