Saturday, January 9, 2010

THIS is what I was talking about

Two posts in one day?! What?!

This is part of what I was yapping about on Monday. Cancer gets wrapped up in cute pink ribbons or posting the color of your bra in your facebook status. Seriously, WTF? Posting the color of your bra to "raise awareness" about breast cancer? That has absolutely NOTHING to do with ANYTHING. I'm sure it was very well intentioned, but honestly, putting a color in your facebook status does NOT DO ONE DAMN THING ABOUT CANCER, and as the woman in the first link points out, most breast cancer patients don't even wear bras because THEY NO LONGER HAVE BOOBS. How about taking five minutes out of your precious time on Facebook to call your representative or senator and tell them to pass health care reform? You know, something that might actually HELP people. Cancer is not pink ribbons and cutesy facebook messages and bike rides and walks. It is real people going through real pain. Stop making it seem like a trip to Disneyland: The Cancer Ward.

http://toddlerplanet.wordpress.com/2010/01/08/in-the-name-of-awareness/#comment-28736

http://blog.newsweek.com/blogs/thehumancondition/archive/2010/01/08/what-color-is-your-bra-facebook-s-pointless-underwear-protest.aspx

I'm actually in a pretty good mood today. I just wanted to post this to clarify Monday's post.

Now I'm going to bed.

15 comments:

Leesa said...

I didn't read the below post but I want to bring this up since you mentioned it...

First... I have not dealt with cancer in the way that cancer patients have dealt with it so I am not trying to lessen anything anyone goes through... I KNOW it's HELL... but I just don't know how that hell feels..

BUT, I am affected/have been affected with cancer at a very personal level after watching my mom live with cancer for 5 years and then watching her DIE from cancer.. I watched, helplessly, by her side as she got worse and worse... and seeing THAT, makes me think differently about things...
When I saw that bra thing on facebook and got all the messages, I got felt mad inside.. I think I felt something similar Mira.. but I thought WTF does this have to do with cancer or raising an awareness of breast cancer.. other than making something "cutesy" - It made me mad, and so I didn't participate-- I mean WHY? I TOTALLLLLY agree with you on this.. but I think that the "Pink Ribbon" as do the other cancer colors- like those bracelets that people wore for a while-- had special meaning for some of those who wore them.. as in a person they loved or knew that was going through cancer and it showed "unity" in some way..
I think the walks/runs/bike rides things that people do as a group to raise money/awareness aren't to be knocked... just as walks and other "fundraisers" for other things - like MD, etc..... It helps people feel that they are "doing something" when we (me included) feel totally helpless in curing our loved one.. It does get news/media coverage... it does help raise awareness (to some extent) and money-- hopefully the money goes to the cause...
And I think it is a good thing.. that's my opinion, b/c that's how I PERSONALLY felt when I participated in last year's Breast Cancer Walk in Paris.. I saw people united ... and it meant something to me, because my mom died of breast cancer...
I DO agree that writing to your local senator is an important thing to do... along with whatever else people feel right about doing at their own personal level...
I think there can be a cure in the end... but I wonder sometimes if a cure is thwarted because of the millions of dollars the drug companies would lose if a "cure" was discovered... Hmmm... I may sound sceptic but it's what I believe...
Anyhow.. that's just my 5 cents on this matter...

Jennie said...

That facebook crap was driving me insane. I agree people need to actually DO something about cancer instead of just posting messages online. Completely ridiculous.

Amber said...

Thanks so much for the links and for bringing this up. Instead of posting some ridiculous color in my status, I put links to those blogs so that people can get a real idea about cancer and then find some motivation to do something serious about it.

au soleil levant said...

Hey Leesa, thanks a lot for your comment. I really didn't mean to knock the walks, runs, and bike rides that people do to raise money for cancer research - the people who participate in them, like you, are very sincere in their desire to make a difference. I wore one of the Livestrong bracelets for a couple of years while I felt it was meaningful to me, and several people told me that it was a little "overdone" or "cliche" but it meant a lot to me when I was first diagnosed, so I wore it.

I do feel, however, that a lot of people take these things that are very meaningful - breast cancer awareness month, walks, ribbons, etc - and turn them into something really shallow and meaningless. For example, all the football teams in the nation wore something pink on their uniform during October for breast cancer awareness month, including my brother's football team. I believe my brother was very sincere in wanting to wear the pink armbands because he has been so deeply affected by cancer in his life, but for the rest of the immature college kids on the team it was just an excuse to make stupid, offensive jokes about giving girls free mammograms. I fail to see what the meaning is in putting a pink ribbon on the football field when the team isn't going to do anything else, like contribute money to mammograms for underpriveleged women or for cancer research. To me, that kind of thing is just as meaningless as putting the color of your bra in your facebook status.

I find, very unfortunately, that the breast cancer movement has become cheapened in the US. When you walk into the store and everything is pink (including McCormick spice jars), when major sports teams wear pink during October, these are the kinds of things that make people stop thinking about what cancer really is and what patients really go through and create this "cancer lite" mindset, a mindset where people aren't actually suffering and dying and where we don't need more money for research and even treatment, but an alternate universe where you can buy pink things and look at posters for breast cancer walks and watch football players prancing around in pink uniforms and feel good about yourself for "making a difference" or "raising awareness," without thinking critically and fully about what you are really doing - without doing anything, in fact.

I definitely DO NOT mean to say that everyone who buys pink stuff and does the walks is being insincere. I have bought pink things, I've worn the bracelet, I contribute money to LLS and ACS. But I think may people have forgotten the real reason WHY these things exist. That we still need more money for research, for free screenings for the underpriveleged, for treatment for people who don't have health insurance. THAT is why there are walks and bracelets and ribbons you can buy. Not to make some kind of fashion statement or be up on the latest facebook meme.

Hope that clarifies things, and again, I meant absolutely no offense to you or anyone else who participates sincerely in cancer fundraising and awareness campaigns. It was more a rant against the "cancer lite" movement.

au soleil levant said...

Jennie and Amber - thanks, glad to see it irritated other people too! Amber, I especially appreciate you posting the links, thanks.

Leesa said...

Gee, and I thought that I wrote a lot!!

Thanks for the long response... I understand what you mean.. I think when I saw that FB thing bra color going around.. I felt the same that you just wrote...
" that the breast cancer movement has become cheapened in the US." I can agree with that, even though I don't live there anymore..
You know the U.S. - always trying to "commercial everything.." It's a business.. you know.. Even "selling cancer!" GOD that sounds really awful, but true...
I agree with you full-heartedly, and I think that the other football team players should not take those things lightly.. obviously they're immature and have not been affected by breast cancer/cancer the same way that others have...
Well, I think that there really should be more money put into research for all cancers... other diseases because I don't really know if it's really true that we can "prevent" it ... but we really DO need cures.. things that are effective so that people can be RID of cancer and other diseases for good...
I'm going to check out the links you posted b/c I want to check it out..
By the way.. Try to watch V the new series.. I just watched the 4 shows that have already aired.. WOW!
Pretty intense.. and weird!!! If you like modern sci-fi!
Take care.... and more ice cream to ya!

au soleil levant said...

And of course the irony is that most of the companies that support all of these breast cancer things are major environmental polluters or contribute only a small pittance of their income from pink breast cancer products to any kind of research or awareness.

http://www.pinkwashing.org/site/home/home.html

And how strange and bizarre is it that the NFL chooses to support breast cancer awareness when they could talk about male cancers? If they really cared about cancer awareness they would be talking about prostate and testicular cancers, which are definitely in need of more "awareness." I guess balls and prostates just aren't as interesting as boobs.

Zhu said...

Gosh, I love when you are mad!

In a non-creepy way obviously. :-D

I was afraid I was becoming too cynical. I admit it: the people who think standing for a cause means displaying a color or saying things like "I have a lot of gay friends", or "today, I'm against racism and AIDS" annoy me.

I don't want to discount everyone who does that. Taking part in a rally, protesting, running, participating in charity events is different, it's great and it does brings a lot of focus to a number of issues. But I sometimes think we tend to forget the big picture. Turning off the lights one night to show that we could save power blahblahblah: sure. Now, putting a special theme for your blog about that: not so sure. Forgetting ways to save energy the rest of the year: er... kinda miss the point, doesn't it?

Anyway, the whole thing reminds me of interviews with stars: "I'm like, you know, against racism, I hate wars and I'm pro-peace".

No kidding.

I admire people who stand for what they believe in. I'm glad others bring issue to the frontpage. I hate when the rest just follow like sheep without any additional insights.

au soleil levant said...

Zhu, I think this article is for you:

http://neteffect.foreignpolicy.com/posts/2009/05/19/the_brave_new_world_of_slacktivism

I learned a new word: slacktivism. The internet is wonderful, but has created this phenomenon of people making meaningless gestures on the internet rather than actually doing something about real problems.

yaeld said...

Slacktivism is absolutely brilliant, Mira. Slacktivism is the new apathy. I love it. I mean I hate it - but I love that you've given me this great name for it.

And, double props, you've inspired a legit debate on your blog which is pretty cool :)

Now, of course, I'm possessed to share my two cents on the issue:

I agree that at times we need to incentive people to help via a walk/run/nose-picking contest that encourages participants to provide free word-of-mouth marketing for a given cause that ultimately leads to, yes, them feeling good about themselves - but more importantly, to real $$ accrued for causes that need them.

If people want to wear pink, dress up like farm animals or meow while simultaneously raising money for a valuable cause - my personal view is that the end justifies the means (so long as the means are silly or narcissistic rather than truly detrimental). And, of course, without events to generate awareness and raise funding, its hard to get people to keep causes top of mind.

However, there is a distinction to be made between awareness and actionable awareness. I suspect it appears less important in action than in theory.

With the exception of sociopaths and other non-desirables, most people would prefer for cancer not to exist. Now its great not to be a sociopath and all, but if you are merely 'supporting the eradication of cancer', I think you may lose the right to quack like a duck and claim to be doing some sort of altruistic deed. You're actually just an idiot quacking like a duck.

There are a lot of reasons why this is the case and I don't think I need to list them all, but here's one from a purely utilitarian perspective: I think this sort of behavior actually lowers the bar on what 'offering support' means.

If people are self-interested, and do good works for the sake of feeling good ( whether or not its conscious, this is to some extent just what human beings are wired to do), its important to have continual motivation to get them to link their self-interested need to be a good person to doing something to actually help other people - otherwise, if people come to believe that a ribbon on their facebook page is a legit charitable contribution - they'll do that because its easier than raising money for a walk or writing a congressman.

Without a distinction between what does and doesn't constitute support, we ultimately risk diluting the criteria for getting to feel like a good person - and that's a very dangerous place to be.

Eileen said...

Correct me if I'm wrong, since I'm not all that well-informed on this, but I thought the differences between prostate cancer and breast cancer were more numerous than just the sex of the people they happen to, and that explains the difference in awareness. I was thinking e.g. age at diagnosis and survival rate. And likewise with testicular cancer, I thought it was not as common as breast cancer.

I think I have these impressions from asking the same question (re: your NFL question) years ago and getting some such answer.

I know this was not really the focus of this little discussion but I was curious about it.

au soleil levant said...

Yael - a very thoughtful response. It is true that people are basically lazy and basically self interested. Slactivism seems to combine the two in a perfect mix of uselessness - you look good to your friends for posting a breast cancer ribbon on your facebook page and you can feel good about yourself for five seconds, but unless you use that ribbon as motivation to do self exams, get mammograms, tell your friends to do the same, do the runs, etc, you really haven't done anything. Having all of these social media outlets creates more opportunities for people to have the illusion of "making a difference" than they otherwise would have. Good points.

Eileen - men are actually 35% more likely to develop prostate cancer than breast cancer. Testicular cancer is much more rare. Both cancers have higher long term survival rates than breast cancer and are more treatable. Testicular cancer, however, is the most common type of cancer among males aged 15-34, ie the guys out playing high school, college, and pro football. Lance Armstrong has said that part of the reason he didn't seek treatment earlier for testicular cancer, despite having known for about THREE YEARS that there was a problem, is because he was a big tough athlete and didn't think he could have a problem like cancer, and he turned out to have a very, very serious case with mets to his brain and lungs and is very lucky to be alive today. So I think a little awareness for the meatheads about their own health risks would do more for them than meaningless breast cancer "awareness" gestures. I don't cancer activism isn't a zero sum game; giving time to other cancers (like let's say, oh, maybe leukemia) doesn't take anything away from breast cancer.

Animesh said...

Quick question: What if the status updates on facebook were:

"[Colorname] :: Click here to know more about this status http://bit.ly/link.to.breast.cancer.awareness.site/"

?

Would that be proper? In my opinion, yes, since it would satisfy the poster's need for helping out/intrigue/exhibitionism/whatever, but also lead to a lot of people actually clicking the link to that breast cancer awareness site.

What say?

au soleil levant said...

I think that would be fine. If they turned it into a meaningful campaign with links to donation sites or how to give yourself a self exam or something like that I think it could be valuable for a lot of young women who probably don't know how to do a self exam or who want to get involved with the 3 day walk or what have you. My issue is that this was exhibitionism, pure and simple, that they tried to wrap up in the guise of "awareness."

Animesh said...

hey, it was awareness alright. Now all their friends are aware that they have breasts! How can you expect those not aware of breasts to be aware of breast cancer? One step at a time.

:)

/end-of-joke
//hey, someone has to take the jerk's side, no?