Library Journal Reviews “Pink Ribbon Blues”

Library Journal, in its 133rd year of publication, is the oldest and most comprehensive publication in the library field and serves 100,000 library directors, administrators, and staff in public, academic, and special libraries. I’m very pleased that the journal has featured Pink Ribbon Blues in its 2010 breast cancer awareness month round-up. With the title Tough Questions, Hard Choices, Bette-Lee Fox writes this about Pink Ribbon Blues:

“Sulik…considers the pink ribbon more of a noose around women’s necks than its ubiquitous identification with self-awareness and empowerment, with branding and merchandising usurping the need for greater recognition of the breast cancer experience. ‘Pink ribbon culture is geared more toward encouraging people to feel good about the cause than to acknowledge the often difficult and un-pretty realities of breast cancer diagnosis and treatment.’ Provocative, to say the least.”

My hope is that Pink Ribbon Blues will indeed provoke–not an us/them tug of war about whether or not to pink it up, but a thoughtful and introspective discussion of how far we’ve come in the war on breast cancer, where we want to go next, and what we might do to get there.

Though Pink Ribbon Blues thoroughly dissects the pink ribbon culture to show both its intended and unintended consequences, I join a long and reputable line of provocateurs in the call for meaningful action on the breast cancer front. Fran Visco, for instance, is the first president of the National Breast Cancer Coalition, and member of its Board of Directors and Executive Committee. She has explained in the past that her own remarks about the limitations of the pink ribbon have often been misconstrued. After the NBCC launched a “Not Just Ribbons” campaign in 2002 to shift attention away from simple awareness messages and toward substantive policy issues, Visco commented in the NBCC’s Call to Action Newsletter:

“Not for one moment would I ask our members to throw away their ribbons. My concern is focused on those who simply wear one—without the concurrent commitment to do the heavy lifting. I believe they are deluding themselves if they believe a symbol is all it takes to eradicate this disease.”

And this is really the point. The pink ribbon has become a common symbol for breast cancer…so common in fact that the symbol blends in with the broader cultural landscape. Pretty. Hopeful. Innocent. Reassuring. Breast cancer, on the other hand, is none of these things. But because the ribbon fits seamlessly into the tableau of American popular culture and mainstream advocacy, the realities of breast cancer –along with the consequences of society’s actions to fight it– are overshadowed by a giant pink monolith.

Two decades or so ago, the pink ribbon worked to remove the stigma of breast cancer. Today, the ribbon hides the disease in plain sight. It’s time to take a closer look.

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“Pink Ribbon Blues”

Paperback includes a new Introduction on fundraising controversies and a color insert with images of, and reactions to, the pinking of breast cancer (2012).


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* GAYLE IN THE MEDIA *

"Seeing clearly through the pink haze" Toronto Sun

*Sad face*: Being happy does not help you live longer" New Scientist

How should we address breast cancer when norms continually change? The Guardian

Your Fun 'No Bra Day' Photos Are Overshadowing Terminal Breast Cancer Patients Broadly

Backlash against “pinkwashing” of breast cancer awareness campaigns BMJ

Breast Cancer to Rise 50 Percent by 2030? Hey, Not So Fast! Health News Review

Breast Cancer: The Flaws in the Cause iafrica.com

How to Make the Biggest Impact With Your Breast Cancer Donations Money

The Very Pink, Very Controversial Business of Breast Cancer Awareness Racked

NFL, Pink Ribbons Not Enough to Win over Women CNN

3 Questions We Need to Answer for Breast Cancer Awareness Month Chronicle of Philanthropy

The problem with National Breast Cancer Awareness Month Women's Health Magazine

Pink Ribbon Envy: Living with an Uncool Cancer The Nib

A Year After Bombings, Some Say 'Boston Strong' Has Gone Overboard NPR, All Things Considered

Canadian Mammogram Study KCRW, NPR Affiliate

Time to Debunk the Mammography Myth CNN

Breast Cancer: Awareness, Activism & Pinkwashing NPR Charlotte

Buying Pink Al Jazeera's The Stream Watch »

The Pink Backlash Orlando Sentinel

Why Jolie's Test Costs So Much CNN

Preventative Mastectomies: Disease and Deception BlogTalkRadio

Angelina Jolie and the 'Breast Cancer Gene' KCRW

Our Feel-Good War on Breast Cancer The New York Times Magazine.

The Story Behind the Pink Ribbon Campaign Sisters Talk Radio

WISH Interview Women's International Summit for Health

Making Cancer About The Patient, Not The Body Part CBS Pittsburgh

Sexy breast cancer campaigns anger many patients USA Today

The perils of pink The Daily

Komen pink campaign creates breast-cancer blues for some Dallas Morning News

A yellow flag for the NFL's pink New York Daily

Gayle Sulik named #7 in SharecareNow’s Top 10 Online Influencers in Breast Cancer

Breast cancer cancer causes so easily derailed Philly Inquirer

Komen Charity Under Microscope for Funding, Science Reuters

The Fight Against Cancer - And Abortion? Salon.com

Susan G. Komen For the Cure defunds Planned Parenthood. In Deep with Angie Coiro

Amid Breast Cancer Month, Is there Pink Fatigue? NPR's All Things Considered

How is Breast Cancer Culture Undermining Women's Health? America’s Radio News Network

Pink Ribbon Culture and Breast Cancer The Kojo Nnamdi Show

The Big Business of Breast Cancer
Marie Claire

Does Breast Cancer Awareness Month Crowd Out Other Diseases? Slate

Pink Inc. Has Many Starting to See Red The Sacramento Bee

Get Your Pink Off Ottawa Citizen

Komen Pink Ribbons Raise Green and Questions USA Today

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