Can we get beyond pink?

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We all know about the colour pink nowadays.

The pink ribbon has become the symbol of the fight against breast cancer. Each October we’re awash in a sea of pink: from perfume to footballs to fried chicken. Thousands “run for the cure” with the best of intentions.

Meanwhile, more and more businesses are “pinking” their products, and profiting by piggybacking on this goodwill.

Did you know that Charlotte Haley, in 1992, had the ribbon idea first, and her colour wasn’t pink?

Incensed that only 5% of the U.S.’s National Cancer Institute’s $1.8 billion budget went towards prevention, Haley hand made cards with five peach coloured ribbons on them to raise awareness about the causes of breast cancer.

Twenty years later, cancer prevention advocates are still trying to shift the awareness to prevention.  Like Charlotte Haley, we are deeply concerned that the overwhelming focus on the cure – which has still not been found, despite the billions spent – continues to divert us from the important work of looking for causes and preventing the disease.

The new National Film Board film, Pink Ribbons Inc., is a brilliant documentary how the breast cancer movement has moved from activism to consumerism in the decades since Haley made that card. Inspired by the book Pink Ribbons, Inc.: Breast Cancer and the Politics of Philanthropy by Samantha King, this film challenges us to rethink our assumptions about the meaning of breast cancer in our society. It also challenges us to imagine: What would happen if all that amazing energy of those who “run for the cure” was put toward prevention?

Read the review by activist Helen Lynn, Pinkwashing, Incorporated

Another book about this issue is Pink Ribbon Blues by Gayle Sulik.

Learn more about the pink campaigns – and what they actually do – with the Think Before You Pink toolkit by Breast Cancer Action (San Francisco).

Find out why we need more than the cure! 

Why are we talking about breast cancer prevention? 

Breast cancer and your workplace: What are the links?

Who’s supporting breast cancer prevention? Get involved!