Wednesday, November 14, 2012
"Pink Ribbons, Inc.": "cause marketing" and breast cancer
“Pink Ribbons, Inc.”, a 2011 documentary by Lea Pool from First Run Features, shows the dichotomy of the way breast cancer research is sold as a charitable cause. There is the epidemic nature of the disease, now striking one in eight women (up from one in 22 in the 1940s), which can affect almost any woman (and sometimes men). There is also the opportunity for “cause marketing”, where retail companies launch their public visibility by connection to the cause.
More or less the same might be said about prostate cancer for men, but the public sympathy is less. Prostate cancer is often very slow-growing, and men usually die of something else (although my own father died of it just before his 83rd birthday, rather suddenly, after only a short illness).
The film does show support groups (such as a Stage IV support group in Austin TX). It also shows the two sides of the emotional hype over breast cancer, which is sometimes as put down women who don’t survive. With a disease so common, “doing all the right things” doesn’t guarantee success for everyone.
It is hard for me to get emotional about a cause so “common” like this. The reproductive systems of both genders are susceptible to cancer simply because they contain cells whose job is to divide and reproduce more rapidly than those of other organ systems.
Of course, though, I get involved in issues that come closer to me: AIDS in the 1980s, where there was a preoccupation with both the clinical issues and the politics, but not so much with the people who at first simply could not live long with it. (Compare to “How to Survive a Plague”, June 24, 2012).
One speaker says that many women are alienated by the over-optimistic approach and the “tyranny of cheerfulness”. It’s not normal; it’s horrible. Often women with no particular risk factors develop it. Maybe it is something in the environment, like the plastic we wrap our processed foods in (plastics sometimes emit compounds resembling estrogens). Maybe its hydrocarbons. I get it.
The film makes an interesting point that women use personal care products (possibly with carcinogens) a lot more than do men.
During the closing credits, some women note that the use of the color pink conveys a sense of comfort that is misleading, when not enough is done for prevention.
The song “You Raise Me Up”, which Josh Groban has adapted or written, is used in a different version here.
The official site is here.
The “Susan G. Komen for the Cure” site is here.
Much of the film is shot in San Francisco (also Montreal). Wikipedia attribution link for conservatory picture is here. I last visited the city in 2002.