Make No Mistake About Where I Stand

Symbols Are Not Solutions Rant 1

 I’ve never written that one definitive post that lists everything I find wrong with pink ribbon culture. Sure, I have put a warning on my About page: “I am not a fan of the pink ribbon culture, and—warning—my words are going to reflect that quite often.” And I’ve sprinkled various points of criticism randomly in many posts (or maybe just snide remarks), or maybe a post here and there focused solely on dislike of Pink —Take the Mythical Image of the Strong Warrior Breast Cancer Survivor And Bury HER Once And For All is only about one troubling aspect of Pink—it certainly does not take on the marketing, the sexualization, blah, blah, blah.  So while I have not listed EVERYTHING I hate about Pink the way others have, I still think it is pretty clear exactly where I stand to be counted on the topic.

And if it isn’t clear, let me make it so: I reject the Pink Ribbon. It does not symbolize to me what it does to the general public. I only see a bundle of lies when I see it. I may have had breast cancer, but that symbol doesn’t represent me or my cancer experience. My beat up old rock concert t-shirts and rough denim cut-off shorts I wear most days symbolize who I am better than that ribbon.

random find

I currently do not see the need to make my conclusive list supporting the “why” behind my ribbon rejection; there are a few books, at least one film adaptation, and countless essays and blogs that have expressed most of my thoughts on this topic, although I do not agree with exactly everything in the anti-Pink view, just most of it (I’m a Curmudgeon, I’ll always find something to pick on). I write this blog under the assumption that most readers are on the same page in dislike of the pink ribbon, so I’d be preaching to the converted. Since I do not wish to be told how to do cancer, I must respect how others do cancer, and lots of folks do it by embracing the ribbon. So who am I to try to convince anyone differently? So, I’m not gonna preach to the unconverted, either. For those on the fence, see the aforementioned other essays. Those others have written it far better than I ever could.

I’ve been feeling unmotivated, uninspired, and just plain down of late, especially in the area of my continued rants against all that I find objectionable in cancer culture, especially Pink. As Pinktober approached, I saw several blog posts encouraging the need for continued activism, including blogging. In my current state of mind, just writing a blog or letters to local papers about it is simply not enough, because like attracts like. People seek out the sites, essays, and letters that they already agree with, I do it too; leaving little chance for mind-changing to happen. I see lots of blogs and comments on blogs and website that criticize the ribbon, and I get all encouraged, but there must be tons more that are in favor of it, since it is still so prevalent. And like I said above, out of respect for those who embrace it, I just feel unmotivated to bother trying to convince anyone. So what’s the use?

What happened with that Peggy Orenstein article that was published in April? Please tell me it made a difference? Please tell me that people who normally do not give the issues around cancer and ribbons any thought maybe took a chance to read it and maybe learned something? From where I stand, all I can see is a shiny Pink machine that did not even get a dent or scratch, it just keeps rolling. Seriously, if someone can show me that some hearts and minds were changed, please do. I could never access the comments on the article so never got to see any responses to it in which maybe someone said, “oh wow, I had no idea, thanks for the eye-opener”. Races and all manner of events are proceeding, it seems to me, without a bat of the eye.

Back when that Orenstein piece was published I acknowledged the strange timing, about half a year away from October, and I knew that any 2013 Pinktober events were already planned and in motion, so no real change could happen. But here is the thing: I secretly hoped it would. I know my blog comes off as negative and angry, but I consider myself positive, because, get this, I actually expect change, and I think the change could be good, although I know those that embrace pink would disagree. Where I screw up is I expect it to be big and immediate (I lost all patience as a result of my cancer experience-I did NOT improve as a person because of cancer). Change takes a long time, and it happens in tiny, tiny doses. There will be more on this point later.

Some blogs/essays have suggested taking a positive approach, write about what awareness should mean—the real facts of breast cancer, rather than just writing about the awful feelings the ribbon churns up. I’m not smart enough, or have enough understanding of the medical facts to do that. I’ve been recently reminded that I’m a medical idiot, and as much as I thought I had the professional patient thing down, I really don’t. So I leave the imparting of wisdom and discussion of the Big Issues to the more knowledgeable and experienced bloggers. I’d like to not write about my feelings about the Pink too, as has been suggested, because I’m sick of it. But covering my eyes, ears, and mouth won’t make Pink go away either. I mean, I keep trying to ignore Miley Cyrus, and she still persists.

As fall approached this year, my heart began to sink despite my earlier wish to reclaim October as my favorite month. I hope to eventually answer the question I posed a few paragraphs ago—what’s the use?

To be continued.

Author: Cancer Curmudgeon

Oct 2010 diagnosed with Stage 3, HER2+ Breast Cancer. Completed treatment Jan 2012. Waaaaaay over pink. Applying punk rock sensibility to how I do cancer.

8 thoughts on “Make No Mistake About Where I Stand”

  1. I am almost afraid to post as my symbol is a ribbon!! I guess what we are looking for is to be recognised never dreaming that one day like the Pink Ribbon we could become so over commercialised that we become valueless!!… Sadly all other ribbons are buried amongst all the Pink ones!!! Myself I prefer to donate to cancer research in general and avoid anything with Pink!! Especially in supermarkets….


  2. Please DON’T be afraid or anything because of my cynical views…this is just me musing out loud and trying to work through it. Your points about “valueless” and searching for recognition are exactly where I’m heading in the next few posts.


  3. I appreciate your post. I was diagnosed in March of this year at the age of 40 with Stage 111c IDC – I had lumps for years that I kept being told we’re benign – NOT!! I am angry about that but I also could have been more proactive in finding out if that was really the case. I choose to have a positive attitude because it just feels better to me than being angry. I get upset, I cry and then I move on and repeat the cycle. I am not a fan of the pink fest and I never say I am fighting or battling cancer like a warrior – no other disease is full of such stupid platitudes. I have a sucky disease in which the treatment sucks just as hard because I felt fine before the treatments but I know intellectually that if I don’t do the treatments my chances for feeling even worse are far greater. If you saw me you would think I am putting on a happy face – I smile, I laugh, I live my life and don’t go around angry because I generally am happy. But I also don’t go around sugar coating and pretending it’s a walk in the park – ask me why I am wearing a sleeve and you get a brutally honest answer. People are more than one emotion, one state of mind and we are all entitled to our own feelings and to express them how we see fit.


    1. Hi Brooke–please do not blame yourself about not being proactive, although that is not advice I’m qualified to give, I admit, as I still point a finger at myself a bit, after all this time for the shoulda, coulda, woulda.
      Thank you for reading and for your comment–it brings up so many points! Not sure how long or how much of my blog you’ve read, so I’m gonna recommend a few other posts (and the comments can be great for insight too) I’ve done that may better respond to the wonderful points you make. Just copy the titles and paste in the search bar, hit enter and it should get you to the post!
      Take the Mythical Image of the Strong Warrior Breast Cancer Survivor and Bury HER Once & For All
      New and Improved!
      Hamster Wheel
      The Curmudgeon Formerly Known As Cancer Patient
      I’m Allowed
      Ones and Zeros
      I Can Pretend
      Sounds like you are doing what works for you — choosing to be positive, cry, move on, so forth. And that you have a good handle on being honest with people and that you’re in a good place, knowing we all have our feelings and ways of expressing them–kudos!


  4. Thanks – I read a lot of these last night – love your perspective!! Please keep it up – it is important to present the not so popular side. Your humor and intelligence shines through!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: