W7: Blog Post

Everyone is aware of the pink ribbon, the various marathons or walks for breast cancer awareness fundraisers, etc. These are what make up mainstream breast cancer culture. However, we have seen this week that there is more to these pink ribbons, shirts, and fundraisers than meets the eye.

In the article titled, “How Pink Ribbon Culture Harms Breast Cancer Patients and Survivors”, we learn how many companies often capitalized off of the well-known “symbol” for breast cancer. The pink ribbon that we see everywhere has been used, “{by} Avon, New Balance, and Yoplait [who] have sold jewelry, athletic shoes, and yogurt, respectively, using the pink ribbon as a logo, while KitchenAid still markets a product line called “Cook for the Cure” that includes pink stand mixers, food processors, and cooking accessories, items the company first started selling in 2001” (Staff, 2016). Yes, the companies do donate some of the proceeds from their merchandise to support breast cancer research, but, they also make a profit from most of the merchandise. One of the strengths of this culture is that it does raise awareness of breast cancer. However, this awareness becomes more of a profit for bigger companies. Questions like, “how much of the money from the product actually goes towards breast cancer and which breast cancer organizations does the money go to and what types of programs does it support??” are various questions that are raised in regard to these companies and their approach to “raise awareness”. (Ley 2009). Another example is how companies utilize what is called “pink washing”. Pinkwashing is the application of breast cancer symbol on products that contain toxins and chemicals that can cause cancer. An example is “the large oil corporation…their company used pink drill bits to promote the health of women and cure for cancer. These drills bits were used in fracking. Known carcinogens such as benzene, lead, sulpheric acid, and formaldehyde are used in fracking…these carcinogens cause cancer” (WMEAC 2015). These companies may want to “raise awareness’ but in return are doing more harm than good. Another weakness from this form of awareness is that of the pink ribbon symbol itself. Over the year, this ribbon has been used to represent what the author calls the unnecessary feminization of the disease (Ley 2009). The ribbon focuses on early detection and treatment rather than activism pushing for disease prevention (Ley 2009).

The eco-feminist movement focuses on another part of breast cancer when compared to the “pink ribbon” movement. We see that in the pink ribbon culture how survivors are expected to act a certain way. They are expected to be “strong survivors” and are used as images of what a survivor should act like: positive, upbeat, and not fearful. In the eco feminist movement, the focus is more on finding a cure and realizing the hardships that come with such a disease as cancer. Breaking down the “strong survivor” image and instead allowing for the individuals to show more emotion is a focus of the eco feminist movement.

One benefit of the “pink ribbon” breast cancer culture is the awareness that it raises. Going to various breast cancer events, I am aware of the number of women it affects and the various options of treatment, care, etc that can be given. However, after treading the material for the weak, I see the weaknesses that can come from this movement. Having large companies profit from such critical issue is disheartening. How do we know if that money is being used to fund cancer research? And what organizations are being funded? I also never though about how in these movements, having bitter or negative emotions is rarely seen. Individuals are expected to uphold that “strong survivor” image and for some, that may be stressful. Moving forward, having open and honest conversation on the disease and the pink ribbon culture that is so closely tied with it will allow for us to make necessary changes in order to change how we face it in the future. Yes, the pink ribbon raises awareness, but the culture that surrounds it may not be as beneficial as one may think.

Outside Sources

Staff, Pacific Standard. “How Pink Ribbon Culture Harms Breast Cancer Patients and Survivors.” Pacific Standard. October 13, 2016. https://psmag.com/news/how-pink-ribbon-culture-harms-breast-cancer-patients-and-survivors.
WMEAC. “Ecofeminism: Environmental Justice with a Gender Lens.” WMEAC. February 09, 2015. https://wmeac.org/ecofeminism-environmental-justice-gender-intersectional-lens/2015/.

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