Pink charities triumph over other colours

February 18, 2007


Most people associate the official advent of the pink ribbon campaign, now legion, with Estee Lauder in 1992.


But the pink ribbon campaign has it’s origins in earlier campaigns and causes, involving red, yellow and peach…Pink seems to have proven triumphant in not only breast cancer charities but in many other charitable endeavours especially those involving women.


In 1991, the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation first thought of the idea of using pink ribbons to raise awareness of breast cancer, but only after noting that AIDS activists had been pinning ribbons on lapels, rather like red Anzac day poppies are to commemorate the Anzacs in Australia.


The AIDS activists had in turn, borrowed their idea from the practice cultivated by those who tied yellow ribbons around trees to support the freeing of the hostages during the Iranian hostage crisis. That effort plays on themes from an old song called “Tie a Yellow Ribbon round the old oak tree” which tells the tale of a prisoners pending release from jail and his fears his woman would no longer want him once freed.  The lyrics “tie a yellow ribbon round the old oak tree, its been three long years do you still want me”. He is released to find “a hundred yellow ribbons tied around the old oak tree”.


The pink ribbons were passed out  by the Foundation to runners in the ‘race to the cure’ for breast cancer held in New York in 1991. 


The following year  Estee Lauder embarked on their pink-ribbon campaign, after an unsuccessful attempt to develop an allegiance with a breast cancer awareness group that had been passing out peach coloured ribbons.


Estee Lauder handed out loops of pink ribbon to raise money for breast cancer.

The symbology of colour is important to a cause, but not nearly as important as the cause itself, something overlooked by those who decry pink for promoting gender discrimination and stereotypes.

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