Wednesday, September 22, 2004

Ribbons and lectures

Ribbons. Do you remember when ribbons were the intellectual property, as it were, of the left? Red ribbons for AIDS awareness. Pink ribbons for breast cancer awareness. Purple ribbons for domestic violence awareness. Remember all that? Now I know that some of these things have been slightly controversial. Particularly, I know that the pink ribbon has a lot of baggage. It's PINK. And we're trying to avoid stereotypes, for heaven's sake. There's also a sort of anti-ribbon breast cancer activist community. "There is a value to awareness, but awareness of what, and to what end?" asks Barbara Brenner, activist and executive director of Breast Cancer Action (BCA) in San Francisco. "We need changes in the direction the research is going, we need access to care - beyond mammograms - we need to now what is causing the disease, and we need a cure. The pink ribbon is not indicative of any of that."(1) The red ribbon for AIDS was originally from some gay rights group. They were a reminder that gay people were dying. It was only later that straight people on the street and celebrities on the red carpet started wearing them. Some argue that the red ribbons have been around so long and are so ubiquitous in our society that they have stopped meaning anything any more.

But still. These ribbons are OURS. The left deserves some symbols of its own.

I guess the right has a certain claim to the ribbon. With the yellow ribbon. You know. Tie the yellow ribbon 'round the old oak tree kind of stuff. Although this song was written in 1972, there apparently wasn't any real use of the yellow ribbon business until 1980. And wasn't it right about then when the AIDS ribbons were coming out? The first time the yellow ribbon was used in big was was the first Gulf War (2). And, walking around my neighborhood earlier this week I saw a yellow ribbon on a tree.

But don't, please don't, please, please, please don't coopt our damn ribbons.

This is brought on by my disgust at the magnets folks are putting on the back of their cars right now. They are red, white, and blue and say crap like "Support Our Troops." There are the yellow ones, too. My father bought one while we were on a family vacation, road trip style. I had to ride in a car with these stupid things. Across multiple states. Imagine my agony. Yeah, you guys have already stolen the flag and now you're taking our ribbons for your stupid war. Yeah. I support our troops. I want them to live. Please bring them home. And bring us back our ribbons.

So I lectured today for Professor Flaky But Easy To TA For. I don't know where he was. Me, dressed in my most authoritative-looking outfit, attempting to control 120 unruly undergraduates. The lecture went well. I made them nod, laugh, and shout. And even if they don't remember a damn word I said, they will remember that I said shit in front of them. And that's all that matters. I'm young. I'm fairly cute. I'm semi-coherent. They will remember the young girl swearing in front of them.

(1) Fernandez, Sandy M. "Pretty in Pink." Mamm June/July 1998.

(2) Emery, David. "Yellow Ribbon 'Tradition' Is of Recent Origin, Folklorists Say." Urban Legends and Folklore.

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