Sunday, September 18, 2011

Pink Ribbons, Inc.

Pink Ribbons, Inc. (Canada, 2011) directed by Léa Pool, 98 minutes
September 18, 2011, Scotiabank Theatre 1, 12:15pm
Pink Ribbons, Inc. effectively raises concerns about the increasing involvement of corporations in fundraising campaigns, specifically for breast cancer. Lea Pool, the filmmaker explores this explosion of pink ribbon enthusiasm which, at times, seems to border on hysteria during the various marathons, walks, jumps organized for fundraising purposes.

The book was inspired by the 2006 book by the same name, Pink Ribbons, Inc: Breast Cancer and the Politics of Philanthropy, by Samantha King, Associate Professor of Kinesiology and Health Studies at Queens University. Briefly, the book contends that:

" ... breast cancer has been transformed from a serious disease and individual tragedy to a market-driven industry of survivorship and corporate sales pitch ... in an unprecedented outpouring of cause-related marketing, large businesses have turned their formidable promotion machines on the promotion of breast cancer awareness, while also opposing public health efforts (such as stricter environmental legislation) and stifling investigation into why and how breast cancer affects approximately one woman in 10 in the developed world. ... She also questions the corporate focus on breast cancer, which kills one-tenth as many women as heart disease, the #1 killer of women. More women get skin cancer than breast cancer, and more women die from lung cancer than breast cancer, she notes, but these other diseases do not attract the same level of corporate — or consumer— attention."

Worrisome issues are raised: has the search for a cure skewed the types of research being done over searching for ways to encourage prevention? If brands like Avon or Revlon or Ford Motor Co. have products that are alleged to carry carcinogenic elements do they have the right to position themselves as ambassadors of goodwill in the fight to conquer breast cancer? Dozens and dozens of corporations have embraced the cause but are they whitewashing ("pinkwashing" is the phrase used here) their involvement in creating cancer causing environments? 

It appears that once the marketers switched to focus-researched "pink" ribbons this seemed to trigger a more intense reaction from the largely female participants.

Interesting side note: The writer Barbara Ehrenreich, herself a cancer survivor (a title she abhors by the way) ,picks away at the cheerful, rah rah atmosphere that those fighting cancer deal with and the forced cheerfulness that makes her uneasy. Others with cancer echo the same sentiment: if you "conquer" cancer and become a survivor does that mean you have been successful, are not a failure? Does that  mean that those who die are "failures" and somehow have not tried hard enough?

Thought provoking and disturbing it makes me think twice about donating to the pink brigade but I'm not sure if that's a good thing.


Christine said...

I enjoyed Barbara Ehrenreich'a Bright-Sided: How the Relentless Promotion of Positive Thinking Has Undermined America...where she talked about how she was struck by how she was told "Cancer is not a problem or an illness – it's a gift."

Michelle said...

Oh, that's really alarming ...

Cheryl said...

I feel the same way about pink ribbons. Overkill and commercialism have undone any good they once did. I also want to know how much money actually goes to cancer research when someone plunks down a bundle for a pink kitchen appliance . . . Somehow this kind of marketing trivializes cancer and makes it something that will go away if we all wish real hard.
Sigh. I know, there is no morality in marketing but I wish there were at least boundaries.