Culture

"Who Doesn't Want to Wear the Ribbon?!?!"

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Via Arts & Letters Daily comes this interesting Spiked review of the book Ribbon Culture, by Sarah Moore, which looks at the "the relentless rise of awareness-raising ribbons—kitsch fashion items that express the wearer's fear of disease or empathy with victims."

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….

The increasing orientation towards the self has been theorised by several influential thinkers, including Christopher Lasch in The Culture of Narcissism (1979), Anthony Giddens in Modernity and Self-Identity (1991), Ulrich Beck in Risk Society (1992) and Frank Furedi in Therapy Culture (2004). It is understood to be a product of the breakdown of traditional institutions and relations of solidarity, which lead to a more fragmented, risk-conscious society, in which the quest for meaning takes on a more individualised, uncertain form. Critics such as Lasch and Furedi view this process as a predominantly negative one, leading to a fearful, isolated outlook that rests on a diminished sense of the individual and society, while the Giddens school of thought presents it in a rather more positive, liberatory light.

Put me in the Giddens school to the extent that I think the breakdown of traditional institutions is both overstated and generally liberatory and the turn toward the individual to be a good thing. I find Lasch generally unpersuasive as a social critic and am a disagreeing admirer of Furedi's work. But the review (and I presume the book it's based on) is certainly worth checking out.

More here.

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33 responses to “"Who Doesn't Want to Wear the Ribbon?!?!"

  1. All the ribbons and wristbands and stickers remind of that John Prine song Your flag decal won’t get you into heaven anymore

  2. Do flag pins worn by politicians counts examples of kitsch?

  3. Is that Rimmer from Red Dwarf on the left?

  4. The guy on the left is John Paragon, who played “Jambi” on Pee-Wee’s Playhouse. Completely serious.

  5. It’s all flair to me.

  6. Ribbons for “The Troops?”, “Breast Cancer Awareness?” and god only knows what else are one more reason to despise Tony Orlando.

  7. I think the breakdown of traditional institutions is both overstated and generally liberatory

    Of course the breakdown of institutions in civil society has been paralleled by the growth of the state. I’m not sure its entirely a coincidence. After all, in “a more fragmented, risk-conscious society,” too many people fall back on Mama State to coddle them, having, thanks to the breakdown of civil institutions, no one else to turn to.

  8. Isnt it just a concrete example of “wearing your heart on your sleeve”?

    Or lapel.

    People like to show off that they’ve got a caring compassionate soul. Thats so vapid that they need to advertise it. But that part goes over their heads, obviously.

    The things that get me are those plastic wristbands of varying shades that are supposed to indicate sympathy for one cause or another.

    Also reminds me too much of that thing involved with big gay sex-parties, where like a pink hanky meant one thing, and yellow another, and brown… well, look it up, because it isnt really my area of expertise.

    here you go. Probably an urban myth, but hey, it’s on the internet. That makes it .00001% true

    http://www.pendorwright.com/faqs/hankies.html

    I’m picking mustard-colored. It’s my running gag now.

  9. “As a libertarian, I hate public financing of health care research. I also hate privately-promoted PR campaigns intended to spur charitable donations to health care research. I guess what I really want is a pony.”

  10. What, no mention of US flag lapel pins?

  11. Casey, are you feeling ok? You managed an entire comment without calling someone gay.

    Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

  12. Best headline ever!

  13. The most annoying ribbons I have seen are the “autism awareness” puzzle piece ones. Many of actual autistics find it offensive.

  14. The guy on the left is John Paragon, who played “Jambi” on Pee-Wee’s Playhouse. Completely serious.

    That’s crazy. My only semi-interesting Pee-Wee fact is that the chick who played Miss Yvonne now plays Charlie’s mom on It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. Who knew that Pee-Wee’s Playhouse would be such a launching pad for future television success?

  15. Many of actual autistics find it [the ribbon] offensive.–Dallas

    One of the more irritating things about notoriety must be the fact that one cannot screen one’s supporters, particularly the enthusiastic ones.

  16. Two magnetic ribbons I’ve seen lately were a green one reading “Legalization Now” and a black and red one “Support Lap Dancing”.

  17. I bought some clothing on Radley’s site with orange ribbons that say ‘support dissent’

  18. Who knew that Pee-Wee’s Playhouse would be such a launching pad for future television success?

    You do know that Laurence Fishburne was Cowboy Curtis on Playhouse, right?

    My only semi-interesting Pee-Wee fact is that the chick who played Miss Yvonne now plays Charlie’s mom on It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia.

    Philadelphia is my current favorite show. Un-fucking-believable.

  19. BTW, if I wear a ribbon showing in a totally trivial way my support for something, does that actually hurt anybody?

  20. Casey, are you feeling ok? You managed an entire comment without calling someone gay.

    I think John Paragon might be gay… the character he played on Seinfeld certainly was. 🙂

  21. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

  22. I prefer my “LiveWrong” black wrist band.

  23. Warning:

    The following link is to the Wikipedia entry for Cowboy Curtis. Before clicking, please finish swallowing any liquid in your mouth and be sure your boss is not around.

    Cowboy Curtis

  24. ed | April 10, 2008, 1:07pm | #
    It’s all flair to me.

    Good one!

  25. I must be the only person who has never seen “Pee Wee” in any medium, nor had any desire to.

    Oh, I agree with the narcissism theory of “ribbon culture”.

  26. “I think the breakdown of traditional institutions is both overstated and generally liberatory and the turn toward the individual to be a good thing”
    I think that trad. institutions are positive, unless they’re forced on individuals by the state. It seems to me that a truly free society has to have a tradition-based set of voluntary relations to replace the welfare state: a lot of our social problems were caused by the shredding of the family unit by the ‘War on Poverty’. There has to be, imo, a middle-ground outside of Rand’s individualism, without resorting to the Paleocon let’s-bring-back-the-middle-ages mindset.

  27. From the same issue of Spiked, I found another very good article about the elitism of the current Democratic party:
    http://www.spiked-online.com/index.php?/site/reviewofbooks_printable/4926/

  28. I always decline any attempts to get me to wear an AIDS ribbon or a breast cancer awareness ribbon (but don’t get me wrong, I like breasts. a lot.). I do offer to instead wear a brown ribbon to raise colorectal cancer and prostate cancer awareness. No one ever seems interested in taking me up on that.

  29. When Livestrong became a fashion thing and everyone had one, its charity meaning was totally eliminated. But when copycats made hundreds of serious and parody designs, a few charity-minded people still bought Livestrong and didn’t wear it.

    I know it’s not the most effective way of protesting/giving to charity, but it did prove a point to the idiots who saw them do it.

  30. I think that trad. institutions are positive, unless they’re forced on individuals by the state.

    Some good, some bad. Whether an institution (whatever you mean by that) is traditional or not has no bearing on whether it’s a positive thing or not. Racism and homophobia, or generally any fear of the different, are two traditions that have existed without needing the state to enforce them.

    Anywho, I agree with your sentiment about people treating each other right and not being extremist nutjobs.

  31. Of course the breakdown of institutions in civil society has been paralleled by the growth of the state. I’m not sure its entirely a coincidence. After all, in “a more fragmented, risk-conscious society,” too many people fall back on Mama State to coddle them, having, thanks to the breakdown of civil institutions, no one else to turn to.

    I think it works the other way around. Institutions used to be important because they provided social services. The government stepped in to provide these services “free,” either driving the civil institutions out of the business or co-opting their efforts through grants and regulation.

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