Wearing a ribbon or bracelet has become a quick way for us to show our support for a cause and hopefully raise awareness for that related cause. In a society that is so attached to social media and quick bursts of information it has become increasingly important to catch someone’s attention quickly. These little symbols of color are certain to do just that very thing. The ribbon, whether a digital image or an actual piece of fabric, shows all that see it our stance in support of a cause in our attempt to bring awareness to that issue.
Our use of ribbons to represent a cause began in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s when Penney Laingen tied a yellow ribbon around a tree while waiting for the safe return of her husband who was being held hostage in Iran. The yellow ribbon also saw resurgence in the early 1990’s during the Gulf War and is now often associated with military causes. Also, in the 90’s the red ribbon gained overnight popularity when many actors and actresses wore one to the Tony awards in support of AIDS sufferers.
The pink ribbon is currently the most recognized ribbon. Most of us know the pink ribbon as a representation of breast cancer awareness, but I also discovered that birth parents and nursing mothers groups use pink to signify awareness for their cause. According to Barbara Davis a Yahoo contributor, “When Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation wanted to increase awareness of their organization, they chose pink ribbons partly because it is a very feminine shade, and partly because pink is a color often associated with good health (pudgy pink babies, for example).” I would imagine that the delicate image that pink brings to mind is also the reason that other groups have chosen it to represent their cause.
Over the last 10 years I have worn a purple ribbon in support of domestic violence awareness. Many times, people assume that my ribbon is for cancer awareness. Although I have often been annoyed at the assumption, I am also grateful that people talk to me about my ribbon. It offers me the chance to speak about domestic violence awareness and encourage them to get involved with a cause that affects 1 in 4 women. Knowing that domestic violence is one of the most chronically underreported crimes based on statistics from the US Department of Justice I hope that my speaking about it encourages others to stand up for themselves or those close to them. I hope that by bringing awareness to domestic violence I can help stop the cycle because children who witness violence I twice as likely to perpetuate it as adults.
Due to the often made assumption about my ribbon representing cancer I finally took some time to do an internet search regarding the purple ribbon. Surprisingly, I was bombarded with the amount of causes that purple represents. Along with thyroid cancer and pancreatic cancer the purple ribbon also represents Alzheimer’s, lupus, ADD and victims of 9/11 just to name a few. When I started wearing my purple ribbon I didn’t realize it had such a broad representation of so many meaningful causes. I only knew that purple represented my cause. I have since come to learn that the color purple has a much deeper meaning within the domestic violence community. According to oral records, purple was the favorite color of Lisa Bianco, a woman who escaped an abusive relationship and became the director of a battered women’s program. She was later killed by her batterer when he was released on a temporary furlough. To honor her memory family and friends wore purple.
I have many causes that are important to me and I have learned that there is a ribbon color to represent just about every one of them. For now I will continue to proudly wear my purple ribbon, but might start mixing a few other colors in later. The next time you see someone wearing a ribbon, take the time to inquire what it represents, they will appreciate the opportunity to give their cause a voice.