Sunday, June 24, 2007

Appropriating a color for a cause

Below is a detail from a Linens-n-Things advertising insert in the June 24 Sunday edition of the San Antonio Express-News. The Homedics Mini Massagers are interesting themselves, and they caught my eye. But what held my interest is the color selections they come in.

The text from the ad says the massagers come in "brights or Breast Cancer pink." Let's leave aside the ambiguous color description of "brights" and concentrate on the specific color named.

I realize that pink ribbons have become the symbol of the fight against breast cancer, but is it right to take possession of the color pink itself and to claim it stands for breast cancer? If so, can the other colors generally associated with ribbons also be actively enlisted in the various causes they represent?

Can I paint my car AIDS red? Or my kitchen ovarian cancer teal? Do fabrics come in lupus purple? How about self-injury awareness orange? Or even hippo attack awareness blue?

And when did the marketing people putting together this advertisement decide that it would be proper to capitalize "Breast Cancer"? Horrible diseases, especially cancer, deserve our attention as we seek to eradicate them, but they hardly deserve honorifical capitalization in the English language.

My suggestion: Keep "breast cancer" lower case, and change the text to read something else, like "Also comes in pink to promote breast cancer awareness". It's longer, but more apt.

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