No, posting a fruit in your status does not raise awareness for breast cancer.

Last year a whole bunch of people decided that to raise awareness for breast cancer by having women would post the color of bra they were wearing as their status. Then women were asked to post where the “liked it” – “it” being their hand bag. So “I like it on the floor” or “I like it on the couch” – these status supposedly were raising awareness about breast cancer, or showing that you supported this cause. However, the whole time the thing that was constantly repeated was similar to what you might expect 13 year olds to sound like at a slumber party: “HEHEHEHE! *giggle* don’t tell the boys! Haha, the boys are going to be so confused!”

So I had to wonder, was this really about raising awareness for a deadly disease that one in three women can expect to get in their lifetime? Or was this about confusing the boys? I got invited to another event purporting to be about raising awareness. This time you were supposed to post your status as a fruit that best explains your relationship status. I commented thusly on the wall of the event:

Is this really for breast cancer awareness? Or is it to “confuse the guys” – that is all I keep seeing, is “don’t tell the guys!” or “we need to leave the guys wondering!” – if you really want to help with breast cancer awareness, donate to a research center or hospital. Volunteer at a center. Also, why do people need to know relationship status? How does that help promote breast cancer awareness? I sort of got the bra thing, because women with breast cancer usually cannot wear a bra. However, I am baffled by how relationship status is related to breast cancer awareness.

Also, why can’t men be involved? I feel like men are just as allowed to be involved in breast cancer awareness as women. After all, there are men who are married to women with breast cancer. There are men who are fathers to women with breast cancer. There are men who are sons to women with breast cancer. There are men who are brothers to women with breast cancer, and there are actually men with breast cancer.

If you really care about spreading awareness about breast cancer, donate, volunteer. Don’t just post some facebook status so you can “confuse the men”

This form of slacktivism really gets under my skins. A few people wrote angry responses saying that “men don’t go through what women go through, they might be family, but they don’t have all the worry. So don’t come on here yelling at people who are trying to make a difference. Shame on you.”  This person has never spent a day volunteering for anything, and I am the one trying to prevent people from making a difference? I march. I volunteer. I escort. I donate. I spent the last three months organizing and volunteering and letter writing and protesting to save Planned Parenthood. How is PP related to breast cancer? They provide screenings and affordable mammograms. They are helping women detect breast cancer early on so it can be treated.   And I am supposed to feel bad about pointing out the fact that posting a fruit in your status does nothing?

I was thoroughly disappointed in the fact that these people kept talking about how breast cancer does not affect men. Some of them flat out denying that men do not get breast cancer (they do), and usually it is detected too late to do anything, if it is ever detected at all.

Yes, the majority of people who get breast cancer are women.   Yes, this is a disease that must have people who support research and treatment. Yes, more people should be aware of it.  But posting a silly facebook status and then giggling about how “it leaves men wondering what is going on for days!” does not raise awareness. If men don’t understand you are raising awareness, than 49% of the population has no clue what is going on.  That man you might have told could have a mother dying of breast cancer. But because you want to be silly and “confuse” the boys, he will never know you also support the cause.

Posting a facebook status is easy, it is a quick way to make yourself feel better about yourself. Oh, yeah, I helped raise awareness for breast cancer today by putting in “cherry” as my facebook status! But it does nothing to actually help a cause. If you care about breast cancer, you should care about Title X, Planned Parenthood, and funding for the sciences, ALL of which are on the Republican chopping block. I think you should probably be doing more than writing a silly facebook status. You should be writing letters, writing blog posts, writing checks.

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8 Comments

  1. Posted March 28, 2011 at 4:48 pm | Permalink

    I had breast surgery last year shortly before my local Race for the Cure, and I didn’t attend because I was too afraid I would physically assault someone wearing a “Save the Ta Tas” t-shirt. I know they mean well, but I was NOT IN THE MOOD.

  2. Posted March 28, 2011 at 5:11 pm | Permalink

    Very good article.

    I am curious why there is so much emphasis on breast cancer. Given that breast cancer is the 5th leading cause of death in women after heart disease, stroke, lung cancer, and lung diseases (according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention), I would have figured the main women’s health campaign would be heart disease.

    Kudos for your involvement in addressing breast cancer. Why did you choose this health issue for special emphasis?

    • Posted March 28, 2011 at 8:55 pm | Permalink

      Why did you choose this health issue for special emphasis?

      I’m not going to try to put words into the OP’s mouth, but I would posit that this issue warrants the emphasis because it is both common and easily treatable if caught early. It is also much more common in younger women than the other four leading causes of death.

      Unlike heart disease, stroke, lung cancer and lung disease, prevention of death by breast cancer doesn’t require massive lifestyle changes; it just requires being caught early. Awareness is therefore much more significant in terms of preventing deaths caused by breast cancer compared to deaths by other causes.

      • Posted March 30, 2011 at 6:45 pm | Permalink

        Thanks for the reply. I would sure like to hear from others too.

        I think heart disease does have some of the same characteristics you mention. High blood pressure, a key early symptom, can be diagnosed and treated with some relative ease. It does tend to impact older women, though.

        The key question, I guess, is if the ribbons, races, and yogurt ads emphasized heart disease rather than breast cancer, would that benefit more women and more people?

        I’ve heard it argued that men need a prostate cancer awareness campaign. I usually argue that, though this may be good, a better health campaign would encourage all to live a heart healthy lifestyle and get their blood pressure checked.

    • Posted March 31, 2011 at 12:30 pm | Permalink

      Sorry it took a few days to reply, my university schedule got a little hectic! I chose to write about this for two reasons. 1.) I want to go into the women’s health profession, not be a doctor, but be an advocate. I want to make sure that women are getting breast exams, pelvic exams, getting the pre/post-natal care they need. At my college I have given sex talks to the incoming freshman and the likes. And breast cancer is treatable, and it really annoys me when people say they are raising awareness about this, but not telling people how to give them selves self breast examinations. Giving yourself a self exam every time you are in the shower can save your life. 2.) I hate slactivism. I find this form to be ineffective, and think if you want to raise awareness, post a link in your status to a site that shows you how to perform a self exam.

      Thanks unequivocal, you basically got what I wanted to say!

  3. Posted March 28, 2011 at 9:03 pm | Permalink

    Thanks for posting this—-I hated that bra colors campaigns (and so did a lot of breast cancer survivors, great blog on that here: http://toddlerplanet.wordpress.com/2010/01/08/in-the-name-of-awareness/) and I’m disappointed to hear that there’s a new waste-of-time-dressed-up-as-activism.

  4. Posted March 29, 2011 at 2:07 pm | Permalink

    “If men don’t understand you are raising awareness, than 49% of the population has no clue what is going on.”

    Indeed! It sort of defeats the purpose of “awareness-raising” when one *intentionally* obscures the message to exclude a significant portion of the population.

  5. Posted March 29, 2011 at 5:15 pm | Permalink

    @Jenny: Furthermore, titillating that 49% on false pretenses is probably harmful to men’s attitudes about women, at least if/when they “figure it out.” Sexual “teasing” is annoying enough, but when it used for something as obnoxious as advertising (even if it is for “a good cause” that is not particularly lacking in awareness), the reaction is at best an eye-roll.

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