Monday, October 25, 2010

What Color Are You ?

To be "aware" means you have knowledge of something.  In today's  culture, the term "awareness" is generally tied to having knowledge or being cognisant of something that you probably don't want to think about in your everyday life.  Luckily we now have "Awareness Ribbons" to remind us all of those things that we don't want to think about.  And to make things even simpler, a system of color coding has evolved so that different colors represent different horrible things that we don't want to think about.   Seeing a ribbon today is supposed to immediately trigger a kind of Pavlovian response that in turn should immediately make us feel guilty (even if we're not sure why),  with the ultimate reaction being that we dig into our pockets to help that horrible thing we didn't want to think about,  all in the name of the holy colored ribbon.

Is it really that simple ?

Did you know this Cloud Ribbon symbolizes Congenital Diaphragmatic Hernia ? That sounds particularly horrible, although I'm still not sure what it is.

The Periwinkle Ribbon symbolizes Esophageal and Stomach Cancer Awareness.  The symptoms of these awful diseases dovetail very nicely with the fact that the the Periwinkle Ribbon also symbolizes Eating Disorder Awareness.  Although maybe this is a little confusing and I hope that I never accidentally tell a Stomach Cancer patient to just shut-up and eat their dinner already.

The pretty little Pink and Blue Ribbon apparently stands for Pro-Life Awareness, Infertility Awareness,  something called Genital Integrity Awareness and apparently Inflammatory Breast Cancer Awareness, amongst other things.   Again this multiple use of the ribbon creates some strange parallels.   In some cases, one of the prescribed treatments for breast cancer is removal of one's ovaries which will make you infertile and by default unable to create new life. Hopefully your genitals remain intact though, unless of course you opted for nipple reconstruction in which case you may want to consider touting the ribbon for Genital Integrity as well.

Now the Black Ribbon is displayed for Melanoma awareness.  Fair enough.  It's also tied to mourning and remembrance of the Virgina Tech massacre.  And the Anarchist Black Ribbon Campaign.  Once again I hope never to find myself yelling belligerently at a Melanoma patient to "Get a job !".

Aside from the obvious Environmental Protection cause, the Green Ribbon also means that you are "aware" of  a) the 2009 Iranian Election Protests b) Lyme Disease c) Bipolar disorder d) Aging e) Pedestrian Safety f) Gastroschisis g) Organ transplants and donation h) Mitochondrial Disease and i) Kidney Cancer.  Confused yet ?  And where do you stand on all of these issues ?  Just wear your green ribbon and it's all good.

Now the Teal/Turquoise ribbon seems to be the most popular color of all, standing for some twenty-four different awareness campaigns.  Take your pick.  From Ovarian Cancer, to Batten Disease, to Myasthenia Gravis, to Panic Disorder, to Native American Reparations, to Dissociative Identity Disorder, to Food Allergies and Anti-Bullying, to name but a few.  Teal has it all and something for everybody.  Join the club !

I think the Gray Ribbon might be my favorite.  Aside from the usual suspects like Mental Illness, Diabetes, Asthma and Brain Cancer, most importantly the Gray Ribbon stands for Zombie Awareness.  That's right !  This is good.  Because if you happen to die from any of the above mentioned conditions that you are now completely aware of,  rest assured, you can still wear a ribbon and rally your support team with pride, even if you are undead.  

At this point, if you haven't heard enough about Ribbon Awareness and want to know more you can click here to get a full list of Ribbon color meanings.  I make no claims as to the accuracy of the list but it's an interesting and entertaining read nonetheless.

As for the color pink and the associated Pink Ribbon which has been claimed by breast cancer since the early 1990's and is not shared with any other horrible diseases, causes or events, I have this to say.  Breast cancer is so much more than stupid dumbed-down pink ribbon awareness.   Yes, at one point we did need awareness to get the conversation started and it worked just like the Red Ribbon did for the AIDS awareness movement.   But we need to move the campaign on now.   Ribbons as symbols of causes have had their day.  As you can see by the listing above, the cause-related marketing space has become cluttered, and with all the noise that surrounds every campaign touted by a colored Ribbon,  we get a little more tired of it all.  And when we get tired we become a little more complacent.   Be "aware" by all means, but make sure you look a little deeper and don't sit back and think that a colored Ribbon is the ultimate answer.  It's not.

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