Pink Ribbons Inc. — Sales For A “Good Cause”

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Pink Ribbons Inc. — Sales For A “Good Cause”

The other day, as I was restocking my toilet paper, I noticed a small section dedicated to breast cancer support on the packaging. Like many other so-called “pinkwashing items,” toilet paper is one of many smeared in pink and pink ribbons around the time of October.

The pink ribbon has become a synonymous symbol with breast cancer in the world. From pink teddy bears to pink household electronics, the trend and labeling of items with pink ribbons have skyrocketed. Pink Ribbon Inc., a documentary released in 2012, gives an insightful look at how the breast cancer movement turned from angry protests to a source of capitalist sympathy in a matter of years.

The documentary opens with a jaunty scene of gatherers eager to join together in the fight against breast cancer. However, the cheery tone does not last long as it shifts to focus on the issues hidden by the joyful faces. The film goes in-depth about the history of the pink ribbon and how capitalism uses tactics of sympathies for added sales. The term “pinkwashing” is defined as —

“A company or organization that claims to care about breast cancer by promoting a pink ribbon product, but at the same time produces, manufactures and/or sells products that are linked to the disease.” — Breast Cancer Action

The documentary further expands on several problems. In order to highlight the disparity in truths, they focus on Stage IV patients who are losing their battle. The realities of life for these patients sharply contrast with the festive scenes from breast cancer awareness runs and walks. Things such as the lack of direction in funds and change in attitudes are not mentioned during these events. This contrast highlights the ignorance of the true battle when fighting a potentially terminal illness.

The documentary spotlights how companies have taken advantage of the movement. Yoplait’s 2008 and KFC’s 2010 campaigns are two examples of this exploitation. Yoplait’s campaign boasted about their 10 cent donation for every bottle cap returned. KFC had the idea of selling their chicken in pink buckets, where each purchase led to a 50 cent donation. Both campaigns did not add up. Mailing a bottle cap in 2008 cost the consumer 42 cents, while fried chicken can have negative health consequences.

Pink Ribbon Inc. does not shy away from the more complex topics often hidden from the public. It goes without saying that the greater population often lacks an understanding of the complexities of breast cancer and funding. In fact, when asked where people thought the donations went, most people believed they went toward finding a cure.

This documentary demonstrated why it is essential to shift the responsibility of the fight from consumers to corporations. They are the contributors to cancer risk by their use of carcinogens and toxic chemicals in their products. The experts lay out several complex solutions on how to combat this social disease:

  1. Organized and transparent funding to institutions and private labs
  2. Change in attitude and tone toward breast cancer in a social and political context
  3. Understanding that this battle is unlike a disease, but rather one with our genetics and our environment

Overall, Pink Ribbon Inc. provides clear explanations of the problems with our economy, the pinkwashing industry, and potential solutions for how to solve them. Even a decade later, the message they impart still rings true, we have not won the battle against pinkwashing or breast cancer, and we need to do something about it.

If you are interested in watching Pink Ribbon Inc., find it on Amazon Prime Video for free if you have a Prime Membership.

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Pink Ribbons Inc. — Sales For A “Good Cause” was originally published in Think Dirty on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

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