Everywhere you turn this month, people, businesses and communities are displaying their support for breast cancer by sporting pink. October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and everyone from football players to garbage collectors are wearing pink with pride.
These days, the pink ribbon is easily associated with breast cancer awareness, but that hasn’t always been the case. This got me thinking about the history of the ribbon and color, so I decided to do a little research.
According to Wikipedia, the first known use of the pink ribbon was in the fall of 1991, when the Susan G. Komen Foundation handed them out to participants in a New York City race for breast cancer survivors. The ribbon was inspired by the red ribbon for AIDS awareness, but the pink color was used because of its association with femininity.
In 1992, the ribbon was adopted as the official symbol of National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Sometimes, a blue and pink ribbon is used to symbolize male breast cancer, which was designed in 1996.
This means the famous ribbon has been around for over 20 years, which makes sense as to why it’s such a familiar image these days. And, it seems like every year the pink extends to further reaching locations (such as the aforementioned garbage trucks), bringing awareness to the attention of more and more people every year.
Despite the positive message behind the pink ribbon, unfortunately some see it as a distraction, and say that it represents the commercialization of the disease. Most often, when corporations showcase the pink ribbon or color their products pink, they are not just bringing awareness to the cause, but actually donating money to research and support as well.
Those that highlight the pink color without actually fulfilling the promise of support are considered to be“pinkwashing,” a term derived from “whitewashing.” If you see someone sporting the pink color, don’t be afraid to ask them how they are supporting the cause! While awareness is certainly a plus, it’s good to have an action behind the message as well, especially if that’s the claim.
Regardless, raising awareness and highlighting the cause is always a good thing. According to the American Cancer Society, the percentage of women getting annual breast mammograms and clinical breast exams has doubled over the last decade. So even if you’re just wearing pink to remind people of the cause or in memory of a loved one, kudos to you!
You can learn even more about the internationally famous pink ribbon here. In the meantime, show your support as often as possible this October!