Pink Ribbons Inc.

Pink Ribbons, Inc. is an exposé showing the real story of breast cancer, as this film explores who really benefits from the pink ribbon campaigns — the cause or the company. It documents how some companies use pink-ribbon-related marketing to increase sales while contributing only a small fraction of proceeds to the cause. Some companies manufacturing products that may be cancer-producing (carcinogenic) use pink ribbons to improve their public image. The pink-ribbon movement thus far has done more for marketing than for medicine. The film starts with an old newsreel speech of President Reagan about decreasing government spending and increasing private donations. Charlotte Haley began the first peach-colored ribbon campaign more than 20 years ago to pressure the National Cancer Institute to increase its research budget for cancer prevention from a mere five percent of the total. When Haley was approached by Self magazine and cosmetics company Estée Lauder in 1992 to use her ribbons in a breast cancer awareness campaign — she refused — because she had no desire to be part of a commercial effort. So they stole her idea. To circumvent Haley’s efforts trying to stop them, the company changed the color from peach to pink, after using consumer focus groups to help select the most soothing and reassuring color. Breast cancer is the most common form of cancer that afflicts mostly women (a few men also get it.) That prevalence partially explains the rise of the pink-ribbon movement. Each year, the month of October is recognized as National Breast Cancer Awareness Month by many governments, the media, and cancer survivors. The film features interviews with critics of the pink ribbon campaign, and researchers and cancer patients, as well as cancer fundraisers such as Nancy Brinker who is head of the organization “Susan G. Komen for the Cure”. Brinker’s group has channeled $1.9 billion to breast-cancer research. While that’s an extraordinary number, the results are less impressive — 59,000 people die of this affliction in the United States annually, and the number of cases has dramatically increased here and worldwide. In the end, a tiny percentage of money raised goes toward research (a.k.a., finding a “cure”). The disconnect between research and results is one of the film’s keenest protests. On-screen commentators contend that breast-cancer research is poorly coordinated and badly focused. Some of the pink-ribbon sponsors may even be implicated in rising cancer rates. Avon is a major supporter of the cause, yet certain cosmetics contain suspected cancer-causing agents. Polluting industries try to buy public goodwill by publishing advertisements emblazoned with pink ribbons — rather than stopping their pollution.  This documentary is eye-opening, especially with regard to companies having pink ribbon campaigns while simultaneously contributing to environmental and health factors that cause cancer. Sad to think this cancer funding propaganda is just another way for companies to turn a dollar by exploiting a disease they help to create. Some companies manufacturing products that may be cancer-producing (carcinogenic) use pink ribbons to improve their public image in a way that has been labelled “pinkwashing” (a combination of the words pink ribbon and whitewash). Marketing campaigns for products linked to the development of breast cancer — such as alcohol, high-fat foods, pesticides, or the parabens used by cosmetic companies — have been condemned as attempts to improve their public image. Such promotions generally result in a token donation to a breast cancer-related charity. They take advantage of consumers’ fear of cancer and grief for victims to drive sales. Critics say these promotions do little more than support the marketing machines that produce them, such as fundraising powerhouse organization “Susan G. Komen for the Cure”, which nets more than $30 million each year. Fewer than 30 percent of patients have a genetic proclivity for the illness. Considering the fact that the majority of women with breast cancer have no risk factors other than sex and age, the Environmental Breast Cancer Movement suspects pollution as a significant cause, possibly from pesticides, plastics, and industrial runoff in ground water. This may indicate most cancer cases stem from environmental causes — yet relatively little attention is paid to prevention. Large organizations, such as Susan G. Komen for the Cure and the American Cancer Society, are not part of the Environmental Breast Cancer Movement. Those organizations benefit the most from corporate sponsorships that critics deride as “pinkwashing” —  polluting industries trying to buy public goodwill by publishing advertisements emblazoned with pink ribbons, rather than stopping their pollution. The pink ribbon campaign always sounds like an advertising gimmick, and this film provides damning testimony to that effect. This is an outstanding exposé of the duplicitousness of corporate America and the “breast cancer awareness” phenomenon — attempting to bolster their profits by simply emblazoning their wares with pink ribbons, while pocketing the lion’s share of the revenue raised from them. The president of the American Cancer Society makes a seven-figure salary. I was a professional fund-raiser for local chapters of major non-profits, and when it was all over with, I would cut the target organization a check amounting to roughly 6-8% of the funds raised. That’s the best way to explain the commercialization of breast cancer, a money-making venture for the non-profits that push fun-run activities as a “Race for the Cure”, and also for these manufacturers and retailers jumping onto the bandwagon. For the Cancer Establishment! I had a feeling that all these big companies where not in it to be Good Samaritans — after all they’re all about making a buck. Yoplait Yogurt’s manufacturer General Mills sponsors an annual “Save Lids to Save Lives” campaign, a fundraising drive where people collect Yoplait yogurt lids supposedly to help raise money to support women affected by breast cancer. For each lid redeemed, Yoplait donates 10 cents to the national breast cancer foundation Susan G. Komen for the Cure. Since 1997, Yoplait has donated more than $34 million to the cause through Save Lids to Save Lives. My friend mailed yogurt lids for breast cancer, so I calculated the cost of mailing the lids — the stamps she used cost more than the total amount of money being donated from those yogurt lids. Yes, people need to read fine print on these promotions, and instead of wasting postage on mailing lids for a 10 cent donation each, just donate money. I used to collect Pink lids –until I realized that if the yogurt guys really wanted to donate money for breast cancer, they could have just done so by themselves — instead of using expensive TV advertisements to make us buy, and then donating only 10 cents of what we buy. These well-established companies involved in “fighting” breast cancer make billions, so why not donate the profit? I personally feel they should donate ALL profit, and also write some personal checks. People that really want to help others should give time and money to those in need, not to charity “collection agencies” that just pad their own pockets. So where is the money? My doctor put me on a chemo pill that is really expensive. He gave me a list of agencies that are supposed to help, but all the agencies I contacted (at least 20) said they were out funds for the year and to try back next year. Where are the millions of dollars donated? If you’ve ever been in real need and have gone to one of these Charities for help, you learn quickly that the money is NOT available like you’ve been lead to believe. First you have had to deplete your bank account, your insurance…and have NO assets at all…nothing. Then you have to apply to Public Assistance (Welfare) to see what they will pay for. When you can finally put in an application, then you find you have to qualify by being the right ‘age’, ‘ethnic group’ or at a certain stage in the cancer — not too far gone, but not too early, you have to be ‘just right’….yeah right! This film is based on Samantha King’s book, “Pink Ribbons, Inc.: Breast Cancer and the Politics of Philanthropy”, and King is one of the movie’s main voices. In addition to the interviews, the film also features animated sequences, vintage clips from news programs and public-service announcements, and coverage of pink-ribbon events: like walks “for the cure” in D.C. and San Francisco, a pink-lighted Niagara Falls and Empire State Building, and a jump by “Aerial Pink Force” skydivers. I remember seeing pink ribbons everywhere, on cars, on people, on food. Everywhere. It was so trendy. And I immediately became suspicious because so much effort was being made into making pretty ribbons that they can plaster everywhere. And I thought, well, how much money is left over for breast cancer research? I never told anyone what I thought because I didn’t think anyone else had the same view. Or I thought other people would attack me for being “uncaring.” I’m glad the documentary mentions the exploitation by large corporations that I felt was there all along. What this film does is give voice to a different point of view that gets drowned out under all the “pink”. The film exposes many things I discovered myself about pink ribbon B.S. You should start to question everything that you have been told and brainwashed into believing about where the money actually goes. Is it right for them to play on the sympathies of emotion for profit? Given the millions of dollars raised for breast cancer research by the campaign, the film argues that not enough of the money goes to preventionor exploring possible environmental causes. Surprised? Interesting there is no documentary on prevention! For all the benefits of early detection and treatment alternatives, the real best practice always starts with trying to not having the disease occur in the first place. Two significant campaigns against pink consumption are the National Breast Cancer Coalition’s “Not Just Ribbons” campaign, and Breast Cancer Action’s “Think Before You Pink” campaign, which encourages consumers to questions pink products (e.g., to find out how much of a donation is being made). Here it is in full documentary form. The results of decades of privatization. Look for a magic pill that will be profitable. Give to the “CURE”, ignore the CAUSE. Western medicine as a whole is in the business of prolonged illness. With all this money going to research, why is it that cancer medication costs so much? If a pill’s development is paid for by donations, why is it then charged for by pharmaceutical companies? Cancer for sale is a good way to describe what is exposed by this film. It does a good job of peeling away the pink cover of different companies that profit from breast cancer awareness. Like anything, just “follow the money”. This is a real honest, comprehensive look at where the money goes. From now on, the companies listed in the documentary will not get a penny more from me (including Komen) until they fund more research on prevention. I had no idea how deep this goes. A really great exposé on this industry of cancer. I’m soo glad someone is speaking out against the publicity and marketing role of the Pink Ribbons. This documentary is excellent — shocking and eye-opening. A must-watch for anyone who gives a damn about what actually is or isn’t being done for the millions of women who live and die with breast cancer every year. Everyone should think about this. Women of all ages need to watch this and tell others too. It is incredibly important to share this with as many as possible. Anyone who has breast cancer, knows anyone who has it, or is concerned with cancer, really must see this film. A must-watch for all. The whole world needs to see this!!! Documentary National Film Board of Canada (NFB) 2011 NR 1hr 37m.

Link to Breast Cancer Awareness & Pink Ribbon Corporate Sponsors Conflict of Interest

Breast cancer awareness is an effort to raise awareness and reduce the stigma of breast cancer through education on symptoms and treatment. Supporters hope that greater knowledge will lead to earlier detection of breast cancer, which is associated with higher long-term survival rates, and that money raised for breast cancer will produce a reliable, permanent cure. Breast cancer advocacy and awareness efforts are a type of health advocacy. Breast cancer advocates raise funds and lobby for better care, more knowledge, and more patient empowerment. They may conduct educational campaigns or provide free or low-cost services. Breast cancer culture, sometimes called pink ribbon culture, is the cultural outgrowth of breast cancer advocacy, the social movement that supports it, and the larger women’s health movement. A pink ribbon is a symbol of breast cancer awareness. It may be worn to identify products that a manufacturer would like to sell to consumers that are interested in breast cancer. Some national breast cancer organizations receive substantial financial support from corporate sponsorships. Critics say that the feel-good nature of pink ribbons and “pink consumption” distracts society from the lack of progress in curing breast cancer. The goal of breast cancer awareness campaigns is to raise the public’s “brand awareness” for breast cancer, its detection, its treatment, and the need for a reliable, permanent cure. Increased awareness has increased the number of women receiving mammograms, the number of breast cancers detected, and the number of women receiving biopsies. Overall, as a result of awareness, breast cancers are being detected at an earlier, more treatable stage. Awareness efforts have successfully utilized marketing approaches to reduce the stigma associated with the disease. Some corporate sponsors are criticized for having a conflict of interest. For example, some of the prominent sponsors of these advertisements include businesses that sell the expensive equipment needed to perform screening mammography; an increase in the number of women seeking mammograms means an increase in their sales, which has led critics to say that their sponsorship is not a voluntary act of charity, but an effort to increase sales. The regulated drug and medical device industry uses the color pink, positive images, and other themes of the pink ribbon culture in direct-to-consumer advertising. This is particularly evident in advertisements designed to sell screening mammograms. The term “she-ro”, derived from hero, is used in discussions of breast cancer to refer to women who have been diagnosed with breast cancer, and sometimes to those who have survived breast cancer. The term describes an “idealized” patient who combines assertiveness, optimism, femininity and sexuality, despite the effects of treatment. The breast cancer culture celebrates women who display the attitude deemed correct, which implies that their continued survival is due to this positive attitude and fighting spirit. While cheerfulness, hope, and good social support can be advantageous to health outcomes, it cannot determine survival rates. Women who reject the she-ro model may find themselves socially isolated by the breast cancer support groups that are nominally supposed to help them. Support from “the sisterhood” favors the “passionately pink”, and tends to overlook those whose response is incompatible with the pink ribbon culture because it is angry, unhappy, or afraid. The breast cancer culture is ill-equipped to deal with women who are dying or who have died, and their experiences may not be memorialized, validated or represented as part of the movement, instead being ignored or shunned as failures and as hope-destroying examples of reality. Similarly, the culture is also ill-equipped to deal with the news that a previously hyped treatment or screening procedure has been determined to be ineffective, with women advocating the acceptance and promotion of ineffective treatments and inefficient or even sometimes harmful drugs.  (From Wikipedia)

The pink ribbon encourages individuals to focus on the emotionally appealing ultimate vision of a cure for breast cancer, rather than the reality that there is no certain cure for breast cancer, and no guarantee there will ever be such a cure.

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