Patty Osborne's Blog

Pink Ribbons, Inc

Patty Osborne

The people in this photo are part of a huge and hugely successful marketing campaign that would have us believe that by wearing pink ribbons, walking to raise money, buying Yoplait yogurt, or even making a purchase in order to enter into a draw for a pink Ford mustang ("every warrior needs great gear"), we will move science toward finding a cure for cancer.

If you've ever pondered the question, "wouldn't it be more effective to find the causes of cancer instead of trying to find a cure?" then you should watch the excellent documentary Pink Ribbons, Inc., (an NFB film directed by Léa Pool) that shows us how companies like Avon, Revlon, Yoplait, Ford, Zeneca (part of the largest chemical company in the world) and others have succeeded in turning our fear of breast cancer into hugely successful advertising campaigns. And if you haven't ever pondered that question, perhaps you should.

So you buy a cup of Yoplait yogurt, clean off the lid, and send it back to Yoplait so that Yoplait will donate 10 cents to breast cancer research. The campaign lasts 4 months so if you sent in 3 lids per day for the length of the promotional campaign (4 months), Yoplait would donate $34. I know this sounds like an elementary school math problem but if you do the math you realize it would be better to just write a cheque. And then there's the fact that, when Yoplait first jumped on the pink ribbon bandwagon, they were using milk from cows that had been given recombinant bovine growth hormone (RBGH), a possible contributor to breast cancer.

Then there are the big pharmaceutical companies who make money from the cancer treatment drugs they manufacture through one branch of their operations while through another branch they are producing potentially carcinogenic chemicals. Not to mention the cosmetics companies who are big boosters of pink ribbon events but who may be using chemicals that are linked to cancer—we can't say for sure because the cosmetics industry has no safety standards and companies' safety studies and risk assessments are not made public.

The film also takes on the "warrior, survivor" analogy that is so popular at pink ribbon events by introducing us to a group of women who have stage 4 cancer, which means they will never get to be "survivors." They will definitely "loose the battle," but surely they could have prevented this from happening if only they had had a better lifestyle—at least that's what the simplistic rhetoric of the pink ribbon would have us believe.

Despite the billions of dollars that have been raised by the Pink Ribbon Campaign, treatment for breast cancer is still a primitive and harsh mixture of surgery, chemicals and radiation. It's time that we started to think and ask questions instead of getting out our pink pompoms and parrotting whatever slogans the corporate marketers come up with.

Here's the trailer:

Here's a clip:



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