I'm all for charity. I donate to many over the course of a year. Usually I'm a guaranteed
donater when friends hit me up because they're running/walking/pogo-sticking to protect endangered species/prevent cancer or stop brain clouds. I feel like these charity events work on two levels, and work well - not only do they raise money for good causes, they get people to pay attention to these causes. Usually because one is often reluctant to part with cash until they know exactly what they're donating to
. So, money is raised, people are informed, there's cake, and everybody wins. Yay.
However, I'm a bit more dubious of the idea of the whole notion of "raising awareness" for its own sake. Sure, it's fine on its surface - you're explaining to people what something is and why it's good or bad. In my experience, it's generally bad, as "raising awareness" has been a cover for "I'm going to scold the living shit out of you" for many things. Or sometimes, it's even worse. Sometimes things are done in the name of "raising awareness" that make no sense whatsoever. The perpetrators claim that they're "raising awareness," but usually it's just an excuse for bad behavior and property destruction. For shock and awe. I'm sure you can think of a few organizations that are famous for this, but I'm leaving them off the table for now.
No, right now my annoyance crosshairs are firmly centered on the flabbergastingly dumb meme to circulate on facebook yesterday. In said meme, women were advised to post the color of their bras as their status (in place of such witty one-liners as, "Work is boring," or "I want a sandwich."). In doing this, they were told they'd be "raising awareness" for breast cancer. Some immediately complied. Many others (myself included) balked. Especially because one has nothing to do with the other. Worst of all, we were told to not tell TEH BOYZ, and make them guess what we were being all mysterious about. *facepalm*
A few issues:
1. How does it raise awareness if we don't tell anyone what we're doing? I understand that there are many out there who live their life like an eternal 6th-grade slumber party, frilly bedsheets and all, and if it makes them happy, more power to them. (Even though I am certain that was one of Dante's circles of hell in The Inferno
.) If I've learned only one thing from being in a relationship with a real!live!person!, it's that you can only benefit from clearly communicating your problems, wants, needs, and/or desires so that the both of you can work on an effective solution together. It doesn't come from an article in a magazine or on the web of how to determine what your mate is thinking by the way they hold their beverage or contort their eyebrows. Similarly, announcing our bra colors to the world without telling anyone why won't really help anyone cure cancer. However: giving money to scientists is known to work - foundations to!
2. We're not talking about cancer, we're talking about bras. Announcing your bra color to raise awareness of breast cancer is like raising awareness about poaching by talking about your collection of Beanie Babies.
3. And, oh, by the way? MEN CAN GET BREAST CANCER TOO. Shocker. Even though their bewbs are not as spectacular as ours, they have the equipment and can therefore contract the disease. So how can not telling men about something that could have as much of an effect on them as it does on us accomplish anything whatsoever?
I have a lot of people on my f-list here that are tireless supporters of the cause, and something like this really takes away from how hard they bust their asses to raise staggering sums of money. If curing cancer was as easy as announcing your bra to the world, I'm sure laughingirl
would have been perfectly happy to do so, go to brunch and about her weekend, rather than spend months busting her hump fundraising and days walking for the Avon Walk for Breast Cancer events she's involved in every year. If Facebook had said to post that if you were in favor of stopping breast cancer, post this as your status with a link to make a donation to a worthy cause, that would have been entirely another matter. I would have done it! But post my bra color? Nope. Sorry. (for a worthy cause: click here
Is breast cancer a problem? Hell yes. Has all of these walks and talks and pink kitchen-aid mixers brought attention, money, and energy to stopping a terrible disease? Yes. That's wonderful. I just worry sometimes about the way it's perceived and represented - people treat it like only women can get it, and it's the only disease that can kill us. (Although the "red" campaign people are getting the word out about heart disease). Women get all kinds of cancers, and they're just as deadly. I also wish all this "awareness" didn't have to be all cute and twee. Although the contrarian in me kind of wants to start raising awareness for colon cancer (which runs in my family) by wearing a brown ribbon and baking chocolate starfish cookies. Think that might work? We're more than aware of breast cancer. What we need to do is fight it through education, through science, and through medicine. Not through flashing strangers on the internet.
There's a great essay in Newsweek
that also makes a great point: "what we need is not a context free reminder of the disease, but a cure, as well as some scientific clarity about how best to prevent the disease."