The “Pink Ribbon” Elicits My Gag Reflex

Dear Women of the Natural Healing for Women Community,

 I couldn’t keep it down anymore! I needed to let you know how “Breast Cancer Awareness Month” has ruined the color pink for me.

And let me be transparent. I’m writing this post to help myself answer the question of  ‘why’….why do I find the pink ribbon so viscerally offensive? So much so that I have the urge to defile public property.

Let me explain. This is my second Autumn living in Northampton, MA and for both of the years that I’ve been here, there’s been an outdoor exhibit that runs in October (otherwise known as Breast Cancer Awareness Month) for a mile stretch along the main road in town, from the local hospital down through the Smith College area.

Large pink bows decorate oak trees, and at their base are signs citing statistics about breast cancer…. and screening.

I want to rip those signs out of the ground, and spray-paint the ribbons black!  So I have to ask myself, why would this seemingly innocuous exhibit, created in the name of bringing “Health Awareness” to women, awaken my inner vandal? It must have something to do with the fact that my inner bull-sh*t meter is ringing off the charts.

And this is what it’s telling me: the pink ribbon extravaganza has NOTHING to do with empowering or educating women. Rather, it has everything to do with selling a product and promoting fear.

To quote Karuna Jaggar, executive director of Breast Cancer Action, in her 2013 article in the Huffington Post:

Few people realize that Breast Cancer Awareness Month (BCAM) was launched by Astra Zeneca, a pharmaceutical company that sells cancer treatments on the one hand and carcinogenic pesticides on the other. So BCAM has all along been one big marketing campaign — arguably the most successful marketing campaign of the 20th century.

Upon closer inspection of the above-mentioned exhibit, what becomes clear is that it is sponsored by the Mass General Cancer Center, and is little more than an advertisement for their mammography services, with messages such as,

1 out of 4 women treated at Mass General Cancer Center is under age 50

These “facts” are worthless when it comes to empowering women with knowledge about how to deal with or prevent the very terrifying reality of breast cancer. Rather, with a lack of substantive information promoted by the “experts”, the underlying message is that there are no answers to the epidemic of breast cancer, so your only hope is to get your mammogram.

And let’s not forget the campaign, “Early detection is your best prevention” which has been very effective in cementing the notion that mammogram equals prevention.

The problem is, it isn’t true! Detection isn’t prevention. Prevention is prevention. AND NOBODY IN THE MEDICAL MAINSTREAM IS TALKING ABOUT PREVENTION. It’s been erased from the discussion, and there’s a thick, pink fog around the real questions of cause and prevention.

And while we’re in the process of waking up, let’s not forget that mammograms are ionizing radiation. This is one of the few known substances that we definitively know causes cancer. I’ve been intrigued to hear medical experts in other countries voicing concern about the cumulative effect of the radiation in mammography over many years.

Now, the American Cancer Society is finally caving into the studies that have clearly demonstrated that the risk of yearly screening mammograms outweigh the benefits. (Predictably however, the governing body of obstetrics and gynecology (ACOG) in this country is sticking with the yearly recommendation in light of the evidence.)

There’s a mass, collective UN-consciousness around the very real issues of the epidemic of breast cancer, and I believe that it’s been nailed into place and perpetuated by women’s very understandable fear, and sense of helplessness. To me, the pink ribbon is the symbol of this mass unconsciousness, this bait and switch of the real issues for the distraction of races and pretty pink ribbons.

To have a real discussion about breast cancer, let’s talk about what’s really going on. For instance, why are record numbers of younger and younger women being diagnosed? Why is no one talking about this?

And mostly, let’s talk about the CAUSE, because without that, how do we have a meaningful discussion about prevention. Understandably, cause and prevention aren’t on the agenda of the pharmaceutical companies and the mammogram industry, so let’s not look to their campaigns of “awareness” for real answers.

A real discussion about breast cancer would focus on the carcinogenic BPA in plastic water bottles, xenoestrogens in the environment, the toxic pesticides polluting the food supply, and the myriad of industrial chemicals that have been isolated from human breast milk.

Show me a pink ribbon, and I’ll help you trace it back to an advertisement for an organization that’s profiting off of the cancer industry. The pink ribbon of Breast Cancer Awareness is more aptly the symbol for a Breast Cancer Industry that profits from the lack of a real discussion about prevention, while the majority of money raised gets funneled into “awareness” campaigns that do nothing to eradicate this very real epidemic.

For more provocative reading, here’s a great article about mammograms and prevention:


The “Pink Ribbon” Elicits My Gag Reflex — 8 Comments

  1. Thank you Carla! I have always had the same response to “Breast Cancer Awareness Month” a/k/a Shop for the Cure. I had lymphoma many years ago and at every information session and workshop I’d ask what they were doing about prevention and they’d look at me like I was not speaking English. It was infuriating especially since even mainstream medicine admits that lymphoma is connected to environmental issues. Didn’t know you had left Brooklyn. Hope you’re well.

  2. Thanks for your comments. I totally agree. I also abhor the phrase, “fighting cancer”, losing, winning the fight. I refuse to have anything to do with the “Pink” campaign. I do not walk or run for “The Cure”, the entire deal is a money making opportunity for the pharma, radiation, medical and manufacturing segments of our culture.

  3. Thank you, Carla! I am already well aware and very afraid of breast cancer. I have read the outrageous claim that mammograms prevent breast cancer. Sadly, good people buy into the campaigns. Why are kids (and others) asking me for a few extra bucks to find the cure for cancer? Really? Shoppers? Children? Survivors and Friends of those who died participating in walkathons are responsible for the cure? Where is the Big Science money going? Why are Pharma Investors and executives allowed such big profits and tax breaks?

    • Thank you Janet for continuing this conversation and intelligently adding to it! Cure? Really? Or the next best drug that does nothing to address the epidemic.

  4. Where does the money for research go? Less than 10% actually goes towards the research for a cure that already exists and the other 90% provides an income to those corporations creating the cause. Pretty sickening, if you think about it.

  5. such a refreshing article and THANK YOU for sharing the research you’ve done. i’m circling up to a year now since i was told i had breast cancer. frankly, i don’t know how people survive the treatment–i barely did. the only way i survived was by writing (see blog link above) and i could never ever call it a battle, a fight, because it surpassed that language a million-fold. now that i’m done with the chemo, the mastectomy, and radiation (well, as much as i could stand), i’m supposed to do hormone therapy. since i’m but a number in the cog, and no one has called to check up on where i’m at in my therapy, and since i can’t bear another sub-set of side effects, i’m calling it quits.
    i may die. maybe i’ll live. at this point, if i had it to do over again, i would not have gone through the brutal treatment.
    again: thank you for having the courage to buck the pink-ribbon system and speak out!

    • hi emma,

      thank you so much for sharing your story. and i look forward to seeing your blog. one of my main goals is to empower women to let them know that they have options. many blessings to you.

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