Warning: this will be ranty.
Ok you have probably seen the latest Facebook “craze” about women posting selfies with no makeup to “raise awareness for cancer” right? How many of you have been tagged or had your timeline bombarded with these
posed, primped, lighting just right no makeup pictures? I have had too many. Just too many.
The thing is if you are reading this and are now thinking I am a heartless bitch, it’s only a bit of fun, it’s raising awareness what harm is there? etc etc then read on before you confirm that in your mind.
I am not anti-cancer awareness. Far, far from it. I know only too well that feeling when you hear someone you love more than life itself has been diagnosed with cancer. That utter shock feeling that washes over you as your stomach sinks through your knees and the sobs start to well up at the back of your throat. Images flash through your mind, the past, the present and the future, is there a future? Oh god what if there is no future…
In my case the above feelings were when I heard the news about my Dad’s diagnosis of cancer of the kidney. For those of you that don’t know kidney cancer is one of those bastard cancers, the ones that give out hardly any symptoms until it’s too late and cannot be treated with chemotherapy as the drugs don’t work on the renal cells. Dad was lucky. He had an MRI scan for a completely unrelated reason and the growths were discovered, it turned out that he was eligible for surgery to try and stop the spread. Thankfully the surgery was successful and although he is now down to 1 working kidney he is still with us. If he had not had the scan he would not be, it’s as simple as that. I have always donated to cancer charities throughout my life and fundraised for Macmillan, Cancer Research etc and now I include the James Whale Fund into that fundraising. James Whale is the leading kidney cancer charity working tirelessly to improve early diagnosis of a cancer that is fatal in the majority of patients by the time of diagnosis.
So back to the FB selfies. Why, if my family have been affected by cancer (and My Dad is not the only one, my Aunt and Father-in-Law have all had cancer treatment within the past 2 years) am I against this campaign?
The simple fact is I find this campaign cynical and manipulative, not to mention vacuous and misogynistic. Strong words indeed. Let’s unpick why I feel like this stage by stage:
- A selfie to raise awareness. Well how is this raising awareness exactly? The majority of posts I have seen across the internet are saying to raise awareness for ‘cancer’. The origins of this campaign were for breast cancer awareness and the early selfies were accompanied by checklists for breast examination (I think that is great and useful) but as time has gone on this message has been lost and the breast cancer label has been dropped along with the most useful part in the checklist. What appears to have happened is that people are jumping on the newest craze on FB, tagging all their female friends (and some males too) with no mention of the initial aim. the message is getting more and more diluted as it carries on in this vein.
- A selfie with NO MAKEUP. Seriously? Seriously?! Are we so entrenched in misogynistic culture that the very act of a woman posting a picture of themselves on social media without makeup is seen as shocking and (dare I say it) daring? Give me strength. Now I am fully aware that I am in the minority when I say that my FB profile includes pictures of me sans makeup. There are two reasons for this, #1 I can’t wear makeup due to my eczema, & #2 I CAN’T BE ARSED even if I could wear it. People are friends with me for me not because I have a certain way with a bit o’blusher. I find it distressing that the act of posting a makeup free selfie is seen as a sacrifice for so many, that some illusion will be shattered by doing it that they are really taking a bullet for cancer awareness. If the campaign had been to highlight that beautiful does not have to = makeup then it would make sense and actually have some meaning, as it is it feels wrong and very manipulative.
- The campaign has no direction. If you delve deeper into the UK branch of this campaign (and I use that term in its loosest possible sense) you will see that awareness does not = donation or fundraising. To me personally the two should go hand in hand. There has been a big scrabbling round to set up a Just Giving page after hundreds of UK FB users pointed out the flaws in this campaign. Now a lot of those doing the whole selfie thing will have been donating as they do it etc but there has been no implicit co-ordination, no substantial pulling together in order to raise funds alongside the awareness. Hastags now work on FB, all it would take is to add a tag alongside the selfie pics to get it trending and actually make a difference.
In fact as I type this has just been posted to my status and I wholeheartedly agree with the friend who posted it:
[…]great to raise awareness but where are the links for signs to check for, places you can donate/volunteer. Having lost many family and friends to cancer, I actually find it a bit insulting that someone can take a selfie, post it to FB and then feel like they’ve made a difference to the fight against cancer.
In fact of those close friends and family on my FB that I know have had direct experience with cancer, none of them have followed this craze in the way thousands have. One very brave friend did post a selfie but it was of her during chemo to highlight that a picture of you with no makeup is nothing in comparison to the endurance of round after round of chemotherapy.
Raising awareness has to be good but it also has to be appropriate or you run the risk of mocking the very thing you are trying to raise awareness for. It would be like me starting a craze for posting a picture of your elbow to raise awareness for mental health issues. In fact…