Variety’s Pink Ribbons, Inc. Review Is (Mostly) Spot On

By Angela Wall, Communications Manager

Call me biased, but I enjoyed the Variety review of Pink Ribbons Inc. (and not just because it quotes Barbara Brenner and it’s Variety). All the examples highlighted in the review touch upon successful actions mounted by Breast Cancer Action’s Think Before You Pink® campaign. And all draw attention to the outrageous pinkwashing of breast cancer by Corporate America. Here’s what the’ industry’ insider magazine Variety has to say:

“The supposed beneficence of corporate-funded breast cancer campaigns often masks corporate guilt — Yoplait, for instance, of the “Save Lids to Save Lives” campaign, had growth hormones in its yogurt until the company was embarrassed into taking them out; Estee Lauder has carcinogens in its cosmetics; the Ford Motor Co. virtually fills the atmosphere with suspicious chemicals. The single case that seems to outrage everyone in the film the most, perhaps because it’s just so clueless, was a pink-bucket promotion by Kentucky Fried Chicken, in which — as Breast Cancer Action chief Barbara Brenner puts it – ‘the disconnect was shocking’.”

Pink Ribbons Inc. is a game-changing film that pulls back the warm fuzzy pink curtain on the corporatization of breast cancer philanthropy. Or to quote Variety “[the film] resoundingly pops the shiny pink balloon of the breast cancer movement/industry, debunking the “comfortable lies” and corporate double-talk that permeate the massive and thus-far-ineffectual campaign against a disease that claims nearly 60,000 lives each year in North America alone.”

The film is hard-hitting, and unapologetically turns the conventional approach to confronting breast cancer on its head. This makes for some discomfort in the theatre because hundreds of thousands turn to the biggest, brightest, loudest and most readily available resources when they or someone they love is diagnosed with breast cancer. And then in an effort to “give something back,” to “do something,” they join sponsored events that require running, walking, kayaking, sailing, or parachuting for a cure. During the film, audience members may well recognize people they know, perhaps themselves at some point or another, in the walkers and runners included in the film. Variety claims that the juxtaposition of the walkers with scathing critiques and revelations about ‘pinkwashing’ “mock some very well-intentioned activism.”

I disagree. I didn’t see it as mocking. I did see women whose lives are unavoidably entwined with breast cancer and who are deeply motivated to do something, anything, to put an end to a mounting epidemic that is encroaching on and devastating all our lives—and killing 40,000 women a year. I experienced a profound sadness as I watched the film. I was deeply moved by the tenacity pushing all the walkers, whether or not I agreed with the tactics.

But we’re missing the point if we see the juxtaposition between pink clad walkers and corporate exploitation of breast cancer as a mocking comment on women. The women who walk and run are very clear about their reasons for taking part in these events. Let’s be very clear. The film offers a fierce critique not of these women but of the corporate and organizational entities that profit from this disease and knowingly contribute to its proliferation. The sad and ugly truth made clear by Pink Ribbons Inc. and organizations like Breast Cancer Action through our Think Before You Pink campaign is the reality that many organizations that do both are the biggest names in breast cancer philanthropy!

Pink Ribbons Inc. offers mainstream America the opportunity to take stock of the efficacy of the pink ribbon in ending breast cancer and asks us all to examine what motivates pink ribbon cause marketing. This film reveals the uncomfortable truth that the best interests of sick and dying women may no longer be the driving force behind pink ribbons. This knowledge, to paraphrase Barbara Brenner, should really ‘piss’ people off and just might empower women across the country to bring about the real change we deserve.

By real change I don’t mean individuals taking on the burden of responsibility to do what they can to protect only themselves. I mean the kind of system-wide, legislative and regulatory reforms that will drive massive, wide-reaching, mountain-moving change that will start to curb environmental causes of this disease; drive corporate and manufacturing accountability; create treatment approval processes that put patients before profits; and prioritize an end to health inequities in underserved communities.

Calling attention to pink ribbon hypocrisy alone won’t end this epidemic. However, if we can move this pink mountain of distraction out of the way, if we can demand organizational transparency and accountability, if we can commit to putting women’s health before corporate profits, if we can all focus on working together to this end we can create the changes that will make a difference.

If you are feeling motivated to make a difference or simply interested in learning more, download your free Think Before You Pink toolkit here.

This entry was posted in BCA News.