Those Goddamned Ribbons

So I’m reading through my Facebook newsfeed yesterday and I see a Gawker article that piqued my interest: some freaky girl got her asshole tattooed.  She said it felt really good and this is the second guy to have  his name on her exhaust pipe.  What an honor.  (bOb?  jOe?)

Different strokes for different folks and all that.  I just really hope that she doesn’t reproduce.  Her next tattoos should go on the fallopian tubes where they count.   But the freaky-anus-tattoo-girl isn’t what this post is about.

In one of my many random Google breast cancer searches, I came across a wide variety of people who got tattoos either to celebrate victory over the disease, the end of treatment, or in honor of someone who died.  In this age of mainstream body modification, we literally wear our hearts on our sleeves.  And there’s a reason our hearts live deep inside our bodies covered by a rib cage.

They don’t need to be seen.

Traveling the NYC subway system is always a treat, and there’s no shortage of skin honorariums.  Every time I see an honorarium on someone’s body my first thought is never “I wonder who Hakeem was.”  Rather, it’s always “That’s one shitty looking tattoo.”

Pink ribbons suck.  And there’s a new ribbon now: one that honors survivors of breast cancer.  Not just survivors, but uninsured survivors.

Can we just knock this shit off, please?

Thanks to The Google I found a nifty graphic of a slew of awareness ribbons (sans the new one).  Look at this mess:

The Ribbon Cluster Fuck

You’ve got your purple ribbon for gynecological cancers (which is hogging a color since ovarian and uterine cancers already have their own ribbons), white for multiple hereditary exostoses, not be confused with the pearl for lung cancer.  Orange gets shortchanged and has to share four things:  ADHD, self-injury, leukemia, and kidney cancer.  And the effing “cloud colored” ribbon for congenital diaphragmatic hernia is not to be outdone by the cool puzzle awareness ribbon for Autism.

Ever hear of overkill?   There’s so many ribbons for so many awareness campaigns, they are no longer meaningful.  Anyone wearing a ribbon should be legally obligated to give the above graphic to everyone they meet so that the unsuspecting public is made aware of what they should be aware of.

With regard to breast cancer ribbons and tattoos, there is quite the variety; though little that is unique in the grand scheme of things.  That which is unique can really be appreciated; a lot of artistic and original people out there–both client and artist.  And especially given that they are truly a personal statement and likely stay that way for subway rides and business.  Beautiful artwork and some interesting statements.

It’s those bloody pink ribbons.  Here is a piece of fabric that has allowed corporations a nifty way to co-opt breast cancer to increase their own profits.  To look women-friendly.  You know, not like that blood-red AIDS ribbon.  That’s nasty and threatening and its about “those gay people.”   But the pink is feminine and the girls love it.   And now that you have it on your skin, you have become a shill for whatever is exploiting breast cancer in a given year.  Think about it: what will all those Komen folks do for a living when a cure is found?

I love to wear pink; it takes ten years off of you.  And every decade I go up, the more pink I get in my wardrobe.  But pink ribbons with birth and death dates, angel wings, wrapped around crosses,  words like “Hope,” “Will,” and “Survivor”?   Yes, I definitely want a constant reminder of the cancer that was in my body now on my body.  If you want a constant reminder of the cancer that was in your body, then grab a container of baby oil and spend some time on the beach or in the yard.  You can get it again!

Tattoos fall into the spandex and belly shirt category.  There is no law preventing anyone from wearing them, but there should be.  Take these, for instance:

Care Bear Chic

A Care Bear?  What the hell was she thinking?  I guarantee it was a “she,” because no self-respecting gay man on the planet would stoop to this level of yikes.  I mean, honestly, if you just got out of hell, why invite it back to live on you?  (I like cuddly Care Bears.  Really.  But not on skin.)

Bad DiVinci

I don’t have a tattoo, but I’m just going to venture that not every tattoo artist is a bloody DiVinci. Choose your artist of permanence wisely.  And if it’s this bad, don’t post it to the interwebs.

And one more for shits and giggles.


I don’t have too much to say about this, but it would have been an awesome choice for freaky-anus-tattoo-girl.  Amirite?


So here’s the thing, we’ve gotten so carried away with these ribbons that they’ve become a surrogate for real action.  There are tattoos with the word “hope” in pink with the whole ribbon motif.  Why the hell do I want “hope” written on my body?    “I sure hope they find a cure.”  “I’m gonna pray that they find a cure.”  “My hope tattoo is going to make a difference and there will be a cure someday.”  See the passivity here?  Why should women settle for hopeWish for a cure?  Madness.  Throw pennies in a fountain for all the good that will actually do.

Fuck that!  DEMAND that women’s healthcare be taken seriously by the imbeciles you elect to throw out immigrants and check presidential birth certificates.  DEMAND.  There’s a tattoo with some action behind it.  Or  CURE.  If your tattoo is going to spread hope, then why not spread CURE?  How about ACTION?  I DEMAND ACTION FOR A CURE.

Now, that wouldn’t be cute enough.  Hard to weave a pink ribbon around the demand for real action with real money.  It’s easier to hope.  Then you don’t really have to do anything.  Plus, pink is for girls.  And girls are sugar and spice and everything nice.  That’s what little girls are made of.

In this present political climate, the National Breast Cancer Coalition (NBCC) faces a real uphill battle to get real traction on their 2020 deadline to find a cure for breast cancer.  Honestly, we could if we really wanted to.  But how can pink ribbons compete with politicians at the national and state level whose only concern is focusing on sidestepping federal laws on abortion, demonizing immigrants of all stripes, and pushing voter suppression over the health of 50.9% of the population of the United States?

When we think about where women have fit into society, they have generally assumed roles of passivity and, when they weren’t passive, were expected to defer.   It’s that whole patriarchy thing again and it’s so deep in the culture (nay, the world) it happens when you don’t even think about it.  Ever catch yourself raising your voice to almost bell-like tones when asking something of a man in a position of authority?  (You will.  Try and catch yourself.  You will be surprised.)  So it’s not like it’s a conscious thing that we do–but to push against the passivity inherent in our political and economic systems we must be conscious of it.  This is why the pink ribbon gnaws at my very soul.

Before you put a pink tattoo on your skin that is meant for public consumption and that will last a lifetime  think about the message you want to send.  I’m not talking about what you choose to do with your body; that is your choice and none of my business.  I am talking specifically about the message you communicate with that ink.

Are you going to be part of the passive background noise hoping to find a cure?  Or are you going to DEMAND ACTION TOWARD THE GOAL OF A CURE?

She might be completely whacked, but I’ll say one thing for freaky-anus-tattoo-girl, she put her money where her . . . uh . . . well . . . where something was.

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20 Responses to Those Goddamned Ribbons

  1. I get pissed when I think about the real reason for the pink ribbon push however, I do have 1 tattoo, pink (darker) and teal ribbons (HBOC colors) that form the figure of a woman in motion. BRCA1 positive here and that news, along with the bc really knocked me on my ass for awhile. The woman in motion is me, moving on with life, albeit slowly and ungracefully, the best I can.

  2. Gina says:

    The most recent South Park episode was absolutely brilliant about something similar: those rubber bracelets. I highly recommend catching the episode if you can. Also? I know someone who got a tattoo that covered the entire top half of her back, consisting of roses, pink ribbons, and angel wings (where her shoulder blades are) in honor of her mom who died from breast cancer. Tattoos are not cheap, and if they look half-way decent (as this one did) then the price goes up exponentially. I’d say that tattoo cost her $1500. How about donating $1500 in your mom’s name to the American Cancer Society instead?

  3. diplomom08 says:

    Hate, hate, hate the pink…and that care bear…ugh.

  4. The ribbon clusterfuck. Freaking hilarious!

  5. BlondeAmbition says:

    I’m sending this to De-Fund Komen on FB … they will LOVE this! XO

  6. Acacia says:

    Fantastic! I did get tattoos after my first round with bc, but never wanted a ribbon. Cancer has inscribed itself on my flesh enough already, why give it more space?

    Love your blog!

  7. buckwheatgf says:

    After quite a few swear words and some crying, the next thing that came out of my mouth after the radiologist told me it was almost certainly BC was, “..and I hate pink and now I’m going to have to look at effing pink sh1t everywhere. f&%k.”

  8. Take pity on the bear, she looks really embarrassed to be there!

    Great post. There is such a malaise about breast cancer at the moment. Many people think that it is cured, or the best type of cancer to have?! I think that nearly quarter of a million deaths a year proves this ain’t so.

    Too many organisations are making too much money out of Pink and they aren’t giving much to the research that can make a difference. About 2% of breast cancer research funding is devoted to treatments for metastatic breast cancer! Komen may have given over a billion and a half $ but where the hell has it gone, and what has it achieved???

    • Scorchy says:

      Hahahaha. I hadn’t thought of the poor bear. Perhaps the poor thing is embarrassed. There is am emphasis on treatment and an emphasis on early detection. Very good. Now what about an emphasis on a cure? Well, without government grants the only funding stream is going to come from non-profits or Big Pharma that exist to, in one form or another, perpetuate themselves. And being early into this scenario myself, I’m beginning to read more and more from women who are Stage IV and feel abandoned by the whole “movement.” Five years! Yay! After that you’re on your own.

  9. Ramona says:

    Brilliant post! I used to love the color pink, until about 10 years ago. I’m now so sick of it–and the call for action instead of placating women and our health issues-also brilliant.

  10. tamoxinhater says:

    hate those ribbons, too, and I refuse to wear one of any color. Why would any woman want to be defined by breast cancer?

  11. teacher says:

    They have given me 2 of those darn pink ribbon pins when I go to my breast care center. I throw them in the trash. Send your money to the research dr,
    who has developed a vaccine for breast cancer but needs 6 million dollars for the clinical trials. I have 3 grown daughters, I don’t want them to live with the fear.

  12. Great post except the pink care-bear tattoo made me me bang my head agaisnt the wall and now the drywall is dented and I have a headache …

  13. Brilliant! (seriously, get out of my head). I despise the pink ribbons. I haven’t seen such an obnoxious display of any of the other colors or I would despise them as well.

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