The pink ribbon has long been recognized as a symbol of breast cancer awareness. While the idea of a ribbon started with great intent, it quickly became used to profit organizations, normalize breast cancer, and create the pink-washing movement. Here’s the story:
The original ribbon was actually peach in color. Charlotte Haley (who had breast cancer) introduced the ribbons to raise awareness about the lack of money used for cancer prevention research. She handed out peach ribbons locally, with cards that read: “the National Cancer Institute’s annual budget is $1.8 billion, and only 5% goes to cancer prevention. Help us wake up our legislators and America by wearing this ribbon.” Her efforts were astounding and Self magazine took note. The magazine reached out to Charlotte and asked to work with her; however, she said no because their initiative was too commercial. Unable to replicate Charlotte’s peach ribbon for legal reasons, Self magazine and others joined together to promote the pink ribbon. Quickly picked up by the Susan G. Komen foundation, Estée Lauder Cosmetics, and others, the pink ribbon adopted a new meaning: breast cancer “awareness.” Since then, the pink ribbon has turned into the pink-washing movement. Businesses that make and support toxic products and foods, “go pink” for breast cancer; luring people in to “supporting the cause,” when most (or all) of the money is kept and profited from. The most well known breast cancer charity, The Komen Foundation, profits over $200 million per year, only 20% of that actually goes to research, and virtually none goes to true prevention. The rest pays for enormous executive salaries, and untrustworthy education & awareness campaigns (that promote cancer-causing chemicals and radiation-filled mammograms). In summary, the message behind Charlotte’s ribbon has been erased, and the new pink ribbon stands for exactly what she was trying to prevent.