Saturday, June 2, 2012

Pink Ribbons, Inc.

The title of this post is the name of a documentary that is slowing being released across the United States.  Unfortunately, it appears it won't be making its way in my direction so I will have to reserve it in my Netflix cue and hope it gets released to DVD soon.  The documentary tells a brave story, one that many are hesitant to tell, but it's important that we look behind the curtain.  

Pink ribbons.  We see them everywhere and are told they are part of the search for the cure.  But are they really?  It's politically incorrect to even question those ribbons.  Questioning the ribbons is almost like questioning breast cancer survivors as the two have become so entwined.  However, for a while now, I've questioned the story behind the ribbons and the documentary seems to be confirming my suspicions.  

Pink ribbons don't cure anything.  Using them to create "awareness" is meaningless.  All they do is create more profits for companies whose products sport them.  And, as this article from Salon points out, the funding that actually does go to find the "cure" supports the status quo of treatments, treatments that aren't really cures but are programs that bolster profits of pharmaceutical and other medical treatment businesses.  (For those of you who might think I'm being callous, ALL of my biological aunts have had breast cancer, I lost a dear friend - who was technically a "success" as she survived past her 5 years - to the disease, and an old friend of mine underwent a double mastectomy several years ago.)

In order to find a cure, there must be an understanding of the cause.  When companies that sell products under the banner of the pink ribbon include, in those very same products, chemicals that are known carcinogens, there seems to be a terrible conflict of interest.  

The Salon article links to an article by well-known social justice author and breast cancer survivor Barbara Ehrenreich.  In this article Barbara reinforces my identity as a feminist when she states, "the feminists want a cure, but they even more ardently demand to know the cause or causes of the disease without which we will never have any means of prevention."  She continues:  "suspicion should focus on environmental carcinogens, the feminists argue, such as plastics, pesticides...and the industrial runoff in our ground water.  No carcinogen has been linked definitely to human breast cancer yet, but many have been found to cause the disease in mice, and the inexorable increase of the disease in industrialized nations."  Isn't prevention so much better than finding a "cure" through new expensive and toxic treatments that increase the profits of large corporations?

Why do individuals not realize that buying things isn't activism?  And it's definitely not a cure.    Read Ehrenreich's article and watch the movie trailer.  Then tell me what you think:


Shona~ LALA dex press said...

I was waiting for your post about this doc. In fact, I was going to e-mail you if you did not talk about it. I've mentioned this story before, but I'll never forget the rant one of our client's with breast cancer went on about her anger towards pink symbols being touted as a cure which segwayed into her views on the chemicals + products causing cancer. It was quite a moment to witness.

Cherie said...

Shona, you know me well. ;) So glad to hear about cancer patients who see through the fluff of the ribbon campaigns and want to focus attention on things that actually cause cancer, like products that contain carcinogens.

Anonymous said...

Big giant hallelujah, amen, you go grrrl!!! Ribbons drive me effing crazy - 'ribbon-washing' ya know? Reminds me of the plastic water bottle folks bragging about their eco-consciousness because they have 'saved the earth' with their bottles that now use less plastic. Hypocrisy in action isn't anything new, but as the daughter, niece, granddaughter, and friend of breast cancer survivors, I don't see pink ribbons as decreasing my chance of getting it myself, and am sickened by the companies deliberately using cancer as a profit mechanism. Great post.

Cherie said...

Ecogrrl, the water bottle thing drives me crazy, too. There's a certain coffee shop chain that says buying their water in plastic bottles will help people overseas. Sheesh.