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Ribbon LogoA Case of “Pink Ribbon Envy?”

The Nib by Adam Bessie and Dan Archer, Oct. 1, 2014.

Awareness campaigns have turned diseases into consumer brands, but some illnesses remain invisible. A graphic comic strip takes on serious issues about the commercialization of breast cancer and the way the pink ribbon seems to blast away other important causes. Written by Adam Bessie and co-written and drawn by Dan Archer, the comic features interviews with marketer Brock Greene and Gayle Sulik.

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“Le ruban rose lave plus blanc [Pinkwashing].”

Causette (#44) by Cécile Andrzejewski, Mar. 27, 2014. (In French)

In the United States the fight against breast cancer is huge marketing tool. Yes, marketing tool. You read that right. Companies across the Atlantic use faith and fear for profit. As the symbol of the fight against breast cancer, the pink ribbon has saturated the cause market.

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“The Pink Backlash: Why some breast cancer advocates are seeing red”

Orlando Sentinal by Beth Kassab, Oct. 4, 2013

How could anybody be mad about pink? That’s the question I first asked myself when I heard of the debate within the breast cancer community over whether the ribbon might be doing more harm than good.

Everybody knows the pink ribbon has come to represent breast cancer awareness. Susan G. Komen for the Cure is now one of the best known charities in the country. But there are many organizations dedicated to detecting, treating and curing breast cancer. And not all of them agree. Author and sociologist Gayle Sulik wrote a book called “Pink Ribbon Blues” and keeps a really lively blog by the same name about the topic. “The harms are partly that the awareness itself has been redefined as visibility for the sake of visibility [and] fundraising,” Sulik has said. “A deep awareness of the realities of breast cancer and where we really are in that war on breast cancer has gotten lost in that.”

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“Our Feel-Good War on Breast Cancer”

The New York Times Magazine by Peggy Orenstein, Apr. 25, 2013

Peggy Orenstein’s April 25, 2013 article–the cover story for this Week’ s New York Times’ Magazine, offers an in-depth look at breast cancer in the United States. The 9-page essay is well worth the read, highlighting key issues in breast cancer awareness campaigns, research, advocacy, and the painful realities of her own diagnoses. Officially now a two-time breast cancer “survivor,” Orenstein thoughtfully, reflectively, and directly probes the ongoing tug-of-war surrounding one of the most visible and commercialized social causes of our time. Gayle Sulik’s excerpts as follows:

In “Pink Ribbon Blues,” Gayle Sulik, a sociologist and founder of the Breast Cancer Consortium, credits Komen (as well as the American Cancer Society and National Breast Cancer Awareness Month) with raising the profile of the disease, encouraging women to speak about their experience and transforming “victims” into “survivors.” Komen, she said, has also distributed more than $1 billion to research and support programs. At the same time, the function of pink-ribbon culture — and Komen in particular — has become less about eradication of breast cancer than self-perpetuation: maintaining the visibility of the disease and keeping the funds rolling in. “You have to look at the agenda for each program involved,” Sulik said. “If the goal is eradication of breast cancer, how close are we to that? Not very close at all. If the agenda is awareness, what is it making us aware of? That breast cancer exists? That it’s important? ‘Awareness’ has become narrowed until it just means ‘visibility.’ And that’s where the movement has failed. That’s where it’s lost its momentum to move further.”

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Sexy breast cancer campaigns anger many patients

USA Today by Liz Szabo, Oct. 30, 2012

Many breast cancer survivors say a crop of pink-ribbon campaigns have hit a new low — by sexualizing breast cancer. An online porn site this month has been using breast cancer to increase its Web traffic by offering to donate 1 cent for every 30 views of its videos. The intended recipient for the donation, Susan G. Komen for the Cure, rejected the offer and instructed the site to stop using its name. Yet pornographers are only the most extreme example of a disturbing trend: using sex to sell breast cancer — or simply get attention, say Gayle Sulik, author of Pink Ribbon Blues. Sulik, who recently lost a friend to the disease, notes that magazines and advertising campains now routinely use topless young women to illustrate a disease whose average victims are in their 60s.

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The Perils of Pink

The Daily by Fiona Kirk, Oct. 20, 2012

October is National Breast Cancer Awareness month, and pink products and ribbons can be found everywhere, urging support for the cause. But well-intentioned consumers and potential donors need to look closely before purchasing a product branded with pink, or donating to a non-profit. “The biggest misconception people have is that the proceeds from a product or fundraising event are directly contributed to the cause, or toward progress in ending the breast cancer epidemic, and that’s an assumption which may not be true,” said Gayle Sulik, author of “Pink Ribbon Blues: How Breast Cancer Culture Undermines Women’s Health.” Whether it’s a entering a walk-a-thon or buying a dusky-rose pair of sneakers, Sulik recommended reading the fine print. “If there are not specifics, if it’s a general, ‘All profits go to support the fight against breast cancer,’ that’s a red flag,” she cautioned.

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Komen pink campaign creates breast-cancer blues for some

Dallas Morning News by Steve Blow, Oct. 17, 2012

Just about every type of product known to Americans has joined in to raise money for the Susan G. Komen for the Cure Foundation.  I wouldn’t have had the courage to write this column. Then a female friend said it. “I’m starting to hate pink,” she said. Well, if she said “hate,” surely I can say “weary.” Dallas-based Susan G. Komen for the Cure set out to create breast-cancer awareness, but now we’ve been pushed into something more like breast-cancer exhaustion. I’m pinked out. It’s a touchy subject at the moment because some 22,000 people are expected to turn out at NorthPark Center on Saturday morning for the local Race for the Cure.  I understand that for them, pink is the color of hope. But for others of us, it has become the color of overkill.

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A yellow flag for the NFL’s pink

New York Daily by Maura Kelly, Oct. 14, 2012

The NFL has turned pink again this October, for the fourth year in a row. In nominal support of National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, players, coaches and referees have been wearing pink apparel; giant pink-ribbon stencils adorn the fields and special pink-ribbon balls are even being used. Whatever’s not nailed down (or airbrushed onto the grass) will be auctioned off at the end of the month, with proceeds going to the American Cancer Society. Why else would the league intend to market stilettos in team colors? And as sociologist Gayle Sulik, author “Pink Ribbon Blues: How Breast Cancer Culture Undermines Women’s Health,” notes, “The NFL wanted to soften its image of misogyny and violence off the field — to curb bad press — and putting manly men in pink and having survivor pageants on the field does this.”

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5 Surprising Tips from Breast Cancer Experts

ShareCare.com, Oct. 9, 2012 and on Shine from Yahoo, Oct. 9, 2012

SharecareNow’s Top 10 Online Influencers in Breast Cancer. These journalists, doctors and cancer survivors are making a difference by educating, complaining, comforting and engaging—pushing the conversation about breast cancer forward in crucial ways. As we celebrate their accomplishments, we paused to ask some of them what they wish every woman (and man) knew about breast cancer.

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Top Ten Online Influencers: Making a Difference in the Battle Against Breast Cancer

ShareCare, Oct. 8, 2012

October marks National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, a time to spread awareness about breast cancer and the 210,000 women in the U.S. who are diagnosed each year. It is also a time to remember those who have lost battles with this terrible disease. The courageous individuals identified in “SharecareNow 10: Breast Cancer” are pushing forward vital online conversations about breast cancer and its risk factors and treatment options to patients and caregivers. The list features a mix of award-winning journalists, physicians, cancer survivors and activists, each seeking unique ways to change breast cancer discussion in America.

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