You could say that Crabby Old Lady is on a tear this week, what might be called a bitch roll. First Komen, then White House communication and today, awareness junk – the ribbons, car magnets, wristbands and other trinkets that trivialize cultural, political, medical and personal issues that deserve better.
Crabby got herself wound up in this topic coming off the Komen/Planned Parenthood brouhaha. She was interested to learn, from the trailer for the new Canadian documentary, Pink Ribbons, Inc., the origin of the pink breast cancer ribbon; it was the idea of Charlotte Haley, then appropriated by corporate America.
(The full Pink Ribbons, Inc. trailer is here.)
Crabby will get back to ribbons in a moment but long before there were awareness ribbons, there were bracelets. Crabby’s first – um, awareness of them was in 1970, when people began wearing copper and nickel bracelets engraved with the names of American servicemen captured or missing in the Vietnam War.
A lot of effort went into finding names and dates for these bracelets. Here are two of three that are on display at the National Museum of American History at the Smithsonian Institution.
Today, bracelets are usually made of stretchy silicon and are only slightly less ubiquitous than ribbons used, in addition to disease awareness, as giveaways at birthday parties, weddings and as corporate swag. Crabby has seen people whose wrists are covered in half a dozen or more rubbery bracelets, each in a different color.
Crabby assumes the this pink silicon bracelet has escaped a lawsuit by Susan B. Komen For the Cure because the wording – Find a Cure instead of For the Cure – does not match the Komen trademark.
The first symbolic ribbons in the signature foldover shape that Crabby recalls seeing were red ones in early 1991 for AIDS/HIV awareness. Where she lived then, in Greenwich Village, they were suddenly on everyone’s lapel and for a good portion of that 90s decade, the red ribbon was a fashion accessory without which no actor dared show up at the Academy Awards ceremony.
When Crabby began writing this post, she had a vague recollection of having been disgusted back then at seeing some well-known person wearing a bejeweled red ribbon. A quick check around the web shows that her memory is probably intact on that subject. This diamond and ruby red ribbon sold at Christie’s in 2000 for $21,837.
Or, if that’s too rich for your pocketbook, how about this ruby and 14K gold red ribbon to hang on your charm bracelet. It’s a bargain, just $926.10 marked down from $1029 at generousgems.com.
The pink ribbon is trademarked in Canada by the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation so there are probably not as many variations of it there as in the U.S. Crabby’s current favorite piece of cash-in-on-cancer junk is for sale from BodySparkle at Amazon, a pink “jeweled breast cancer awareness ring” for your belly button at $16.99.
There is no mention on any of these websites that the disease organizations get a dime of the price – expensive or cheap.
It is no longer just pink and red ribbons. There are dozens of colors for every conceivable disease and condition. When they ran out of colors, they started combining them into stripes and checks and other designs. Here is a tiny representation of ribbon types a screen grab of part of a long page at Google. There are thousands more.
While multitudes of colors have confused awareness of everything, ribbons are further debased by no longer representing one disease or condition, but many including, now, political issues.
Green is for aging research awareness (did you know that? Crabby didn’t), cerebral palsy, kidney cancer, Lyme disease among seven others.
Orange is for ADHD, animal cruelty, leukemia, multiple sclerosis, malnutrition and – wait for it, self-injury.
Blue now represents at least 15 problems, among them addiction, chronic fatigue syndrome, colon cancer, the Electronic Freedom Foundation for online free speech, von Hippel-Lindau and sex slavery.
Even red stands for more than AIDS/HIV. It represents heart and stroke, substance abuse (not to be confused, Crabby is guessing, with addiction which is blue’s responsibility) and vasculitis.
Gray is for asthma, brain cancer, diabetes and – get this! – zombie awareness. That must be a joke, right?
But how could it be and still take real disease seriously. And that is, of course, part of what is wrong with all this. It’s time to put away all ribbons and bracelets. They have become meaningless.
Now you might think all this puts Crabby in a really bad mood but you would be wrong. It is possible to be angry and not unhappy plus, all this talk of awareness ribbons has reminded Crabby of one of the best practical jokes she ever heard of.
It happened some years ago when Crabby Old Lady’s friend, Neil Thompson, noticed at a mall two identical
SVUs SUVs parked next to one another. In every way but the license plates, they were indistinguishable except for the big, yellow, magnetic ribbon on the back of one.
If you knew Neil as well Crabby Old Lady does, you would easily understand that this was an irresistible opportunity for him. He checked to be sure no one was watching and as he strolled toward the store, casually plucked the ribbon from its mooring, plunked it in a similar position on the second car and continued on his way.
Crabby Old Lady thinks everyone should continue on their way without the awareness junk. It has long outlived its usefulness.
At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Marcy Belson: A Lifetime of Speeding Tickets