Sisterhood Blog

A Pink Ribbon Is Not Meaningful Social Activism

By Debra Nussbaum Cohen

  • Print
  • Share Share
Istock
A pink ribbon — the least we can do?

A dear, and shockingly young, friend of mine was diagnosed with advanced breast cancer last year. She has undergone chemotherapy and surgery, and is now dealing with radiation and a second round of chemo in advance of more surgery.

I’d do anything I could to support her and the scientific work that might one day make breast cancer less common.

But I’m not much of a ribbon-wearer, so still won’t be adding a pink ribbon to the lapel of my jacket this month, which is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. And when I saw the headline of Chanel Dubofsky’s Sisterhood post, “Why I Hate Breast Cancer Awareness Month,” it grabbed me like a mammogram grabs, well, you know what it grabs.

It’s hard to argue against efforts to increase awareness of breast cancer or any other important issue, but today there are so many causes claiming ribbon colors as vehicles for their message that I think they’ve lost their power. Some colors, like yellow, have as many as eight different issues associated with them. Yellow ribbon causes range from “Support Our Troops” and suicide awareness to bladder and anal cancer awareness. Red ribbons were initially used to signify drug prevention awareness, starting in the 1980s, and, since a campaign started in 1991, have become the symbol of AIDS awareness.

This website lists dozens of awareness ribbons, from the green ones to “help find missing children” to those in red, white and blue that recall the victims of 9/11’s murderous terrorism. Then there are the more, shall we say, marginal ribbons, like the blue, red and black one secured in the center with a little Greek letter pi, for “polyamory awareness and acceptance.” And, naturally, there are also ribbons making fun of other ribbons, like the gray one shaped like a question mark, which ostensibly “supports the millions of people who don’t know what the hell all these ribbons mean.”

Ribbon-wearing just seems like a cheap way to tout support for a cause, one that for many discharges any impetus toward actual activism, the kind that can lead to genuine change.

Chanel, in her Sisterhood post, cites Barbara Ehrenreich’s 2009 essay, “Not So Pretty in Pink,” in which the author writes, “To some extent, pink-ribbon culture has replaced feminism as a focus of female identity and solidarity.”

I’d go further, and say that ribbon culture as a whole — and its sister statements, the cause-related Facebook status update and the endlessly-forwarded email — have for many replaced meaningful social activism.

Thankfully, I see among some in their late teens, 20s and early 30s — a generation of people who do not content themselves with ribbon wearing — committed to doing more to aid the causes they find compelling.

Perhaps someone should design a ribbon to increase awareness of the need for meaningful social activism.


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Breast Cancer, Social Activism, Pink Ribbon

The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.




Find us on Facebook!
  • Happy birthday Barbra Streisand! Our favorite Funny Girl turns 72 today.
  • Clueless parenting advice from the star of "Clueless."
  • Why won't the city give an answer?
  • BREAKING NEWS: Israel has officially suspended peace talks with the Palestinians.
  • Can you guess what the most boring job in the army is?
  • What the foolish rabbi of Chelm teaches us about Israel and the Palestinian unity deal:
  • Mazel tov to Idina Menzel on making Variety "Power of Women" cover! http://jd.fo/f3Mms
  • "How much should I expect him and/or ask him to participate? Is it enough to have one parent reciting the prayers and observing the holidays?" What do you think?
  • New York and Montreal have been at odds for far too long. Stop the bagel wars, sign our bagel peace treaty!
  • Really, can you blame them?
  • “How I Stopped Hating Women of the Wall and Started Talking to My Mother.” Will you see it?
  • Taglit-Birthright Israel is redefining who they consider "Jewish" after a 17% drop in registration from 2011-2013. Is the "propaganda tag" keeping young people away?
  • Happy birthday William Shakespeare! Turns out, the Bard knew quite a bit about Jews.
  • Would you get to know racists on a first-name basis if you thought it might help you prevent them from going on rampages, like the recent shooting in Kansas City?
  • "You wouldn’t send someone for a math test without teaching them math." Why is sex ed still so taboo among religious Jews?
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.