Pink’s not wrong. It’s just not right enough.

Today’s post is by my partner Ronnie Hughes. Ronnie’s guest post last month about being my carer throughout breast cancer treatment  was extremely well viewed and resonated very deeply for many people. 

Here Ronnie gets into a political persona to discuss the subject of  ‘pink’.

“The United States may not have much of a healthcare system (Hello, American readers) compared to our NHS. But you are brilliant at some things, like music and TV. In fact, for the last couple of years, having finished The Sopranos, Sarah and I have been working our way through the magnificent ‘The West Wing’, really feeling like we know all the major, fictional White House characters. Particularly admiring ace political Democrat strategist Josh Lyman.

After watching an episode a while back, Sarah turned to me and said, ‘You know all this pink stuff, what would Josh make of it?’ And in full-on Josh mode I replied ‘It’s not wrong, it’s just not right enough.’

‘Think about it.’ Staying in Josh mode, bear with me here, ‘Well obviously all the pink products are junk. But what we see here with all this pink activity is both needs and opportunities.’

‘The need to do something, to combine, to help, to empathise. To be with other breast cancer patients, or their carers, or their friends and family. People like you. The need to feel you can contribute something towards sorting this disease out. And the need to celebrate sometimes, all together.’

‘And opportunities? Not such a long list here. Sure, pink provides opportunities for some people and charities to raise money. And for others to simply make profits. It provides an annual PR opportunity for talking and, yes, blogging about breast cancer. But mostly what we see in all this pink stuff, is a great big missed opportunity.’

‘Because these are good people, mostly. All these people wearing pink to the office, racing for life, and so on. Sure, there’s the odd shyster, like you get everywhere. But what we have here is a great mass of humanity wanting to do good.’

‘And this is the great missed opportunity. Because, except for the fun and togetherness of isolated moments, all this pink stuff isn’t really doing any good at all. Sometimes as much as half of the cash raised just goes on the running costs of the charities, on PR and people’s careers. And what makes it through to ‘research’ is having no discernible effect on diagnosis or survival figures.’

‘So, pink, not wrong but not right enough. What could make it right?’

‘Well, in a way, what we have here is a movement in search of a mission. In fact, most of the people involved in pink probably think they’re already on that mission – to end breast cancer. But they’re not. The Pink movement thing has cleverly folded them all into the cancer industry, into the drug companies supply chain, and into maintaining the political fiction that ‘We’ve got breast cancer sorted.’

‘But of course we haven’t. It’s a world-wide epidemic now. An epidemic with a world-wide ‘pink’ audience – with energy to share, with energy to burn.’

‘So just imagine. What if that energy were to turn? Into mass questions and into mass demands. About exactly where the pink money is going and about exactly what good it’s all doing? Demanding, for example, that significant amounts of money and political energy go into prevention. Into finding out exactly what is going on, on this planet, to cause so much disease?’

‘If all that energy, all that pink energy, were to turn, then questions would have to be answered. And big, world-changing answers would have to be found. Then ‘pink’ would be right enough.'”

23 thoughts on “Pink’s not wrong. It’s just not right enough.

  1. Love your posting, Ronnie! I totally agree that pink is not enough, when considering the breast cancer branding and profiteering that’s going on. And people continue to die of breast cancer.

  2. This is such a well balanced and thoughtful post. I find that this month becomes conflicting emotionally and intellectually.

    Interestingly, though I live in a place where there is no pink marketing. Indeed there re conrners where the pink has not reached. In fact, this was the topic of my post today –

    I’m delighted that Sarah has called you back in response to your great post earlier :)

  3. Great and very thoughtful post Ronnie. I think that you superbly touched on both sides of the issue and made a very touching statement, also a very rational statement, about the pink industry.
    I will be sharing.
    Your faithful reader

  4. Good article! Thank you.

    yes, here in the us we have one big movement called occupy wall street where we are addressing all sorts of issues such as funding for cancer research. It is spreading to all parts of the country.

    it won’t be easy. but then neither is cancer. I feel like crap with level 6-7 but I’m going

    (I have the entire boxed collection of The West Wing but only watch Dr. Who here)


  5. Ronnie,
    The West Wing was one of my favorite TV shows, and you have channeled your inner Josh so well. “It’s not wrong.” I’d like to think the majority of marketers have good motives, but “It’s not enough.” How do we create a paradigm shift in the way these marketers and possible do-gooders see the errors of their ways, or can we? At the end of the day, it’s all about money, they might be quiet content to continue to live in the land of denial. That their misguided, unaccountable donations are not enough.


  6. Thanks Josh, er, Ronnie.

    That’s what I keep thinking, if we reach enough people with this message, a tipping point, things WILL change. And I believe it is happening.


  7. ‘Ok, Josh here, let’s see what we’ve got. Well, ‘well balanced’, that’s not a place I get to occupy more than once in a presidential term, so big thanks for that. But this ‘paradigm shift’ thing’s what I keep thinking about. Am I wrong, or is it feeling a bit like hard work getting to this particular tipping point? Because if it is, we might be looking at some wrong strategies, wrong messages, here. So what can we do? Well, me and Donna always used to say ‘If it’s taking too long, hit the phones, hit the media, hit anyone you can think of – and if the message is still not getting through – hit the message’. So, do we need to hit the message?

    Give us the heads up, here. Is ‘Pink’s not wrong, it’s just not right enough’ strong enough to run with? Strong enough to raise the debate and maybe turn the pink energy. So it starts to make a difference in the world, at long last?’

  8. Can I get out of my Josh suit now? And thank you all for your comments.

    I love writing on here, and will be back several times this month – mostly writing as myself – probably.
    Because publishing a blog a day, as Sarah is doing, especially when you’re not a highly staffed national ‘charity’, is quite an undertaking. But I think the quality of the conversation will be higher here!

  9. Glad to see this reposted. I was out of town and steadfastly ignoring pink when you first posted it.

    Actually, I do think pink is wrong. And here are two older posts (of many) about why I think so:

    I think the color itself as a symbol for breast cancer has contributed to how badly the movement has lost its way.

    Love from your fan & friend,
    the old, cranky feminista,

    • You’re right of course Kathi. The whole pink stereotyping and pink-marketing of breast cancer so it’s attractive is more than sickening. It is of course a particularly invasive and abusive form of social control. And more so than ever now, we see girl babies being socially controlled from birth. Little gurgling, drooling product placement packages. The social controlling just gets even stronger when the little girls grow up and get diagnosed with this disease that everyone knew was coming to one in eight of them.

      That and the recent activities of Komen (the Brinker Self Aggrandisement Fund) were what prompted me, when re-posting this, to say ‘so pink wasn’t right enough?’

      But what I still believe, from my original post is what ‘Josh’ says about the ‘good people’. People taking part in all of these pink activities are, I would have thought, all good people. Dreaming of better, healthier lives for themselves or their loved ones. And they’ve been let down, badly and cynically, by the people they put their trust in. But we still do need somewhere for their trust to go, for all of their energy to go. ‘Pink’ and ‘awareness’ had some roots in feminism – but invaded, commodified and perverted by corporate, patriarchal power. But imagine if all that energy could be gathered up and turned round to demand and get good science, proper research, real prevention and an intense ‘race’ for better metastatic treatments, leading to, who knows, even a cure? That’s what the Josh in me wants. Ditch the t-shirts, don’t ditch the people. Love from me xx

  10. You are so right, Ronnie. I think about that, too. It is, and will continue to be, quite a slog to try to get people to realize all this, and to redirect their energies. Have been having an interesting discussion with a blog commenter about whether or not it’s possible to get some of the organizations themselves to turn around, or whether we need to focus on all the folks who just want to put their sincere energies somewhere, but don’t know where to put them. And yet, I still find that there are so many of these people who see nothing wrong with some of this pinkification, so they still invent groups and fundraisers based on some cutesy notion of breast cancer because they think it ‘sells’ well. Sigh. And if it’s not the color, then it’s the names they use to organize to ‘save the tatas,’ but forget the women themselves.

    We all have our work cut out for us. Is it any wonder so many of us get a little snarky??

    Our work on real awareness is never done…

    Still crabby, but not misanthropic,

    • So it must ‘pink’ itself we need to raise awareness of. Because, as we’ve all said before everybody’s well enough aware of breast cancer.

      And we have Gayle’s book as a resource for that ( And of course the Breast Cancer Action toolkit (

      Also, we have this moment. The collapse of Komen’s credibility, certainly with a lot of the people who might have already been in two minds about ‘the pink.’

      I know when Sarah’s book came out, we worried about doing too much ‘pink-bashing’ in the initial PR. But I can feel a bit of pink bashing coming on now!

      And adding to your blog’s list of slang names for breasts. A couple of years ago Sarah and I went on holiday to a heart-meltingly beautiful Scottish island called Jura. It’s main feature, two gently curving mountains – the Paps of Jura. Sexist Geography!

  11. As someone who has only just finished active treatment and starting to feel up to exploring the ‘politics’ of breast cancer – and as a dyed-in-in-the-wool West Wing tragic – I think that this post is absolutely brilliant. I expect to use your title phrase (with attribution!!) during many conversations from this point on.

    • Thank you Liz, really good to hear from you. The ‘politics of breast cancer’ is, as you’ve already noticed, a strange place to explore. Full of good people, with dreams, hopes and energy – raising money for a ‘cure’ that the bigger cancer charities are not even attempting to find. Don’t know if you saw yesterday’s post on here and on Pink Ribbon Blues – – where ‘Steve Jobs’ follows up the good work suggested by ‘Josh’?

      • Have just read – and greatly enjoyed – your piece at Pink Ribbon Blues, Ronnie. Can we put in requests?!? Snark on, my good man!!!!

      • Thanks Liz, snark is on permanent tap around here. I’m sure there’ll be more!

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