The awareness-industrial complex
I hate cancer. I hate it so, so much. I hate it to the depths of my soul and back again. I have never been diagnosed with cancer, but it’s taken plenty away from me all the same–the hole in me isn’t from a surgeon’s knife or a radiation beam, but from what my dear friend Liz took with her when she died of colon cancer in 2007.
Cancer is everywhere. Members of my family have it, friends have it, neighbors have it. Just before Thanksgiving, I learned that YET ANOTHER person I care about is under attack from the demon cancer. I HATE IT.
You know what else I hate? These:
A few months ago, a feminist lawyer of my acquaintance contacted me in my role as Minnesota NOW president to let me know about a suit being brought by a local girl against officials at her middle school, who disciplined her for wearing one of these godawful things. This was a feminist/free speech/women’s health issue, she suggested.
Bullshit, I said.
As the mother of a middle schooler, I have been familiar with this bracelets for some time. Perhaps the best way to explain my position on the matter is to dramatize what occurred when Elliott expressed interest in getting one for himself.
MOM: No way are you getting one of those. They’re sexist.
ELLIOTT: But Mom, they’re for cancer.
MOM: Oh yeah? Did you know that men get a very serious form of cancer themselves? It’s called testicular cancer.
MOM: Are there kids at your school wearing bracelets that say “I heart nutsacks”?
ELLIOTT: (giggling uncontrollably)
MOM: I didn’t think so. These bracelets aren’t about cancer, they’re about making fun of women’s bodies with cancer as a cover. Until men’s bodies get in on the joke, no bracelets for you.
I planned to write a post about this lawyer’s request back when she made it, back in the thick of the “is it or isn’t it feminist” debate swirling around SlutWalk. This lawyer, as it happened, hinted that SlutWalk might not have been her feminist cup of tea. I invited her to share the issue with a future meeting of Minnesota NOW officers, state board delegates, and members, all of whom could debate the issue more intelligently than me, a person who attempts to fill the Liz-shaped hole inside of her with WHITE HOT RAGE directed at ANY AND ALL CANCER “AWARENESS” CAMPAIGNS.
Because that’s where we’ve arrived in the cancer “awareness” movement. We are aware of cancer every day. We run in races, we walk for three days, we wear rubber things on our wrists. We are granted freedom to make as many boob, ta-ta, knockers, bazooms, and/or tit jokes that we want to. We paint everything pink for “awareness,” yet the dollars are not reaching the scientists in the labs who need them. More and more of the money is kept by the pinked-out corporations and enormous foundations who exist to make you feel good, not do good. Think about it: ever since the Empire State Building started glowing pink during the month of October, have breast cancer rates gone down? NO. In the most egregious example of pinkwashing yet, Susan G. Komen For the Cure actually commissioned an “awareness” perfume that contained toluene, a neurotoxicant, and galaxolide, a hormone disruptor.
You read right: CANCER AWARENESS IS GIVING US CANCER.
That’s a feminist issue.