Saturday, January 9, 2010

guest blog: bra colour vs. ACTUAL awareness?

another great guest blog from hans on this bizarre facebook "awareness" blitz:

"Because every wave of collective ridiculousness should be followed by a bit of sober reflection...

Here are two links to contextualize why “harmless awareness-raising” gimmicks like the ‘name your colour’ game which swept across facebook yesterday actually aren’t so harmless.

Once I figured out people were posting bra colours as part of a chain-mail game that said it would raise awareness about breast cancer, I thought about posting some colours myself, just to poke fun at the trend and to hope some people might realize they were just buying into heavily gendered marketing which brackets breast cancer as a women-only issue, while simultaneously serving sexually objectifying ends (the wave of sexist jokes and comments I saw in response to colour posts on the majority of my friends’ pages just confirmed that). But turns out the ‘gimmickers’ had already thought of that – threads on discussion boards either poked fun at guys who were posting colours and therefore must not understand what it’s all about (hello? Way to marginalize anybody who doesn’t subscribe to your narrow binary-gender world) or they said it was fine because guys were encouraged to post their underwear colours as well (uh...okay).

But the more I thought about it, the more it concerned me.

While many people were participating out of a genuine sense that it was a good thing to do, and genuinely care about breast cancer, and while many people probably feel a certain strength in engaging in a collective action – especially those who have been touched by cancer in some way – the cavalier way in which this game is playing itself out must also be causing a world of hurt to many survivors and people who have been affected by cancer. Here’s a very insightful, and moving, blog post by one of the many survivors who have found this ‘awareness gimmick’ to be extremely painful and hurtful:

The other thing to bear in mind, is that these sorts of marketing gimmicks have a very strong impact on how our society conceptualizes important issues like breast cancer.

The following is a very insightful exploration of how corporate control of breast cancer ‘awareness’ has done that. Researchers and fundraisers hoping for a cure have been so influenced by the corporate sponsors who provide their research money that they’ve abandoned very important research directions, are ignoring some of the front-and-centre products and activities that contribute to breast cancer, and have re-branded breast cancer as a matter of private responsibility (“only YOU can be responsible for your health”) instead of the public health issue which it is (where government’s failure to regulate carcinogenic products, provide adequate care and research support, and to support primary prevention initiatives play a much bigger role in spreading this disease, than individual activity will ever play in preventing it).

Fact is, individuals CAN’T prevent breast cancer; only responsible action as a society will enable us to actively fight it and reduce its incidence. As she explains more eloquently here:

The only thing missing from these two blogs is the exclusionary ethnocentrism involved in this game.

Posting your underwear colours is fine – for those who are comfortable enough with their bodies and their sexuality to do so. But many people from many cultural and religious paths would not feel so comfortable doing so. And so are excluded from playing a role in this ‘collective effort’ to raise awareness and fight a common enemy in breast cancer. Wearing a pink ribbon is one thing. Talking about your underwear and opening yourself up to sexual objectification by all your misogynistic sexist friends? Something totally different. And I should note that I don’t in any way endorse “cultural” or “religious” practices that constrain the sexuality of their members. In my opinion, it’s the 21st century and it’s about time the human species was comfortable with its bodies and its sexualities. In fact I’m actually one of those people who supports banning the display of religious symbols in public space (not just burqas, but crucifixes and all other symbols of oppression and genocide). But that aside, it doesn’t change the fact that millions of those people who are affected by breast cancer are part of cultural or religious traditions which would make them uncomfortable talking about their underwear in public. An awareness-raising gimmick that excludes millions of those who are affected by the very disease it purports to be raising awareness of, is no sincere awareness-raising initiative. Furthermore, it just underscores the growing perception among many racialized groups that breast cancer campaigns are designed to focus on and support white women in the western world, and white women alone.

Anyhow, the above links provide some interesting material for reflection."


Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing this link, but unfortunately it seems to be offline... Does anybody have a mirror or another source? Please answer to my post if you do!

I would appreciate if a staff member here at could post it.


Anonymous said...

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