Support First Things by turning your adblocker off or by making a  donation. Thanks!

Here’s a very interesting review of a book on what all those ribbons and activist badges say about our culture. A sample:

In many respects, Ribbon Culture is an analysis of several apparently contradictory aspects of contemporary culture. The ribbon is, explains Moore, ‘both a kitsch fashion accessory, as well as an emblem that expresses empathy; it is a symbol that represents awareness, yet requires no knowledge of a cause; it appears to signal concern for others, but in fact prioritises self-expression’.

The great strength of this book is the way that it unpacks these different features of ribbon-wearing, in an account that is both sympathetic and critical. Nowhere does Moore mock the intentions or practices of her ribbon-wearing interviewees, though sometimes she must surely have been tempted: ‘When I asked one of the young female interviewees who wore a pink-ribbon t-shirt what made her choose to wear the garment on certain days, I was seeking to understand whether there were certain situations, relationships and experiences that prompted her to show her awareness of breast cancer. Her keen reply took me by surprise: “I think ‘it’s got pink in it, what goes with pink?’ Actually I wear it with this skirt quite a lot . . . ”.’

For Moore, this is not an example of individual silliness, but a reflection of the extent to which ‘the pink-ribbon campaign is a thoroughly commercial exercise’, which carries the risk ‘that the products will fail to communicate anything meaningful about breast cancer’. It is the commercialisation of causes, which both empties them of all content and transmits messages that are negative and misleading, that Moore sees as problematic. In seeking to understand why the individuals she interviewed wear the ribbons or wristbands that they do, Moore’s account stands out through her refusal to pander to the rhetoric of ribbon culture, which emphasises ‘awareness’, ‘caring’ and engagement with a cause. In reality, these positive rhetorical sentiments mask an anxious, self-obsessed, depoliticised culture.

Via Arts & Letters Daily



Filter First Thoughts Posts

Related Articles