I have to admit that this delightful turn of phrase is not mine; it comes from Dr. Samantha King, author of Pink Ribbons, Inc., Breast Cancer and the Politics of Philanthropy. As many readers know by now, I watch a lot of documentaries and two remarkable things continue to surprise me: films that I never thought would be worth the bother happen to be the best films and little girls persistently make their presence known in history, art and the media.
I already wrote about the cynical use of children’s charm to promote products in my State of the Art Exploitation post, but what follows is one of the worst examples I have seen to date. When I first saw it, I knew it had to appear on this site. This clip is an excerpt from the film Pink Ribbons, Inc. directed by Léa Pool and produced by Ravida Din. There are many powerful points made in this documentary, but the one illustrated here is how the color pink is used to inappropriately soothe the impact of a truly horrible disease, namely breast cancer.
I included a short bit from Barbara Ehrenreich—well-known author and a woman coping with the disease herself—about how hurtful and condescending it is to promote these ubiquitous pink products and insist that women be cheerful through the ordeal. Ehrenreich became interested in this “cancer culture” when she was diagnosed and instead of doing personal research on treatment options, she became fascinated by this monstrous phenomenon. The second part of the clip is an advertisement from The National Breast and Ovarian Cancer Centre, Australia Campaign 2005. It is composed of a charming series of vignettes—as if patched together from home video footage—of girls padding their bras and playing with the idea of their bodies’ future development.
For those who are interested, I would like to share a couple of illuminating highlights from the film. The pink ribbons are everywhere and events all over the world are promoting breast cancer awareness and raising money, but the dark side of this is that it evolved to support the megacorporations’ balance sheets. To foster goodwill with their customers, they have engaged in token fund-raising efforts that do not focus the efforts in an effective or coordinated way. The apex of this hypocrisy occurs when the consumer products that promote cancer awareness actually contain known carcinogens!
Even the story of how the pink ribbon got started is an interesting one. It began with Charlotte Haley who after having lost a number of friends to the disease, sent cards with ribbons stapled on them to heighten awareness. In fact, the ribbons were more salmon-colored and when Estée Lauder and Self Magazine approached her and wanted to use her idea, she refused knowing it was only to promote their bottom line. They consulted their lawyers who simply advised them to change the color. Millions of dollars is thrown at the problem and there is no accountability on how it is spent and anyone knowledgeable about the history of cancer research knows there is a disgraceful lack of funds going toward prevention or studying the disease in minorities.
Women and men should be angry about these developments and it feels as though the pink (a deliberate marketing choice of color) is used to deflect militant protests that might stimulate real change into inane events that make people feel better, but does little or nothing to help people.
- Pink Ribbons, Inc. (official site)
- Pink Ribbons, Inc., Breast Cancer and the Politics of Philanthropy
- Welcome to Cancerland (Barbara Ehrenreich’s site)
The following have nothing to do with the film but have worthwhile information most people know nothing about: