The Complex Meaning of the Pink Ribbon

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Editor's Note: This week highlighted how complex the message expressed by the pink ribbon can become. In A Closer Look At the Pink Ribbon, Lucy tries to make sense of the complicated meaning of the icon associated with breast cancer awareness. -- AVF.

The ribbon has come to represent an organization's fight for awareness and support, in a culture where even nominal awareness and support of a socially-condoned organization signifies a person's political and social consciousness. We even have a new term coined for this phenomenon: "slactivism." The messages, furthermore, are typically hard to contradict. These seemingly benign messages of support eliminate the possibility for argument and thus demand uncontested support. And yet the message behind the pink ribbon is anything but benign.


Photo by Gloria Bell (Flickr).

The pink ribbon, as well as other ribbons, has secured a position of status and admiration in American culture. When a person wears a ribbon, we are to understand that s/he is dedicated to the cause in a sincere manner. We can just pin a loop of color onto our clothing without much dedication involved and evoke the myth of the pink ribbon.

To refuse to wear these ribbons or support those who wear them is socially unacceptable. Peace advocates experience this reaction when they do not support the yellow ribbon; whether we support the war or not, we are expected to support the men and women fighting the war, and yet this is a slippery slope. It is hard to argue against supporting an eighteen-year-old who is far removed from the political maneuvering of the war, and yet to support that solider is to support the government, ultimately. At the same time that we are expected to separate what we don’t agree with from the individuals that we should support unconditionally, there is no separation in the ribbon. And yet, because the pink ribbon IS politically motivated and complicated, there are organizations, such as the National Breast Cancer Coalition (NBCC), that definitively do not use the pink ribbon because of its complicated meaning.

Read the rest here at Diaries by Lucy.

Read more from A Closer Look at the Pink Ribbon at Diaries by Lucy

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