Seeing The World Through Rose Coloured Ribbons

Cans, jugs, knockers, melons, headlights

Now that I’ve got your attention, you know this is clearly not just a random string of words. It made you think of breasts, didn’t it? Of all the body parts, a woman’s breasts have arguably the most nicknames, incite the most sheepish giggles, and often garner the most attention. Yet, when attempting to have serious discussions about the cancer that affects this body part, those giggles turn not only into embarrassment, but also into a self-conscious shame. This leads to an unwillingness to speak about a form of cancer that, in recent years, has seen advancements in terms of both detection and treatment. So what can be done to create more open discussions about the type of cancer that an estimated 25,000 women will be diagnosed with this year?

The answer that has often been turned to has been a play on words, and a splash of pink. One of the many efforts of this kind came from The Keep A Breast Foundation, whose “I Love Boobies” campaign was immensely popular, particularly among the younger generation. This organization’s initiative seeks to “remove the shame associated with breasts and breast health”. Also, “the program resonates with young people, encourages them to be open and active about breast cancer prevention.” A great deal of the funds that this organization raises is done through the sale of merchandise, specifically their “I Love Boobies” bracelets and t-shirts.

On the surface, this seems like an excellent program, and it may very well be, as young people certainly need a way of feeling more comfortable with having these important discussions. But while pink ribbons and t-shirts are being sold left, right, and centre, the question that has been frequently raised is this: has supporting breast cancer awareness and research become nothing more than a marketing ploy? The phenomenon has been called “pinkwashing,” and claims the only reason this cancer has received such attention is because of the female breast’s sexualization, and therefore, its marketability. A compelling, yet certainly sobering argument, wouldn’t you agree? I’ll leave it to you to make up your own mind about the claims, but first, stop and ask yourself this: what other cancer also has October as its awareness month? Bet you don’t know the answer.

Written by Stephanie McLoughlin


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