I think I am qualified to comment…

I’m going to start with the important stuff. My sister is declining rapidly and has been given months, maybe weeks to live. I am going to set off to visit her in about an hour and I have little idea what to expect. She has been basically comatose for the last few weeks but seems to have improved slightly in the last couple of days. I would just like her to be awake for a little while so I can tell her I love her and give her a big cuddle. Not really much else I can do at this point. Not really much else I can say either.

So I am going to move onto a less important, yet related topic. This ‘Bare Faced Selfie’ Facebook phenomenon. It has caused some controversy and given my own diagnosis, family situation and mutated gene – I feel qualified to comment.

I have always hated the Facebook ‘Breast Cancer Awareness’ games that have been going around for a few years. You know the ones – “Post what colour your bra is in a cryptic cliquely fashion and giggle about it” – etc. Achieve fuck all and making cancer into a game is clearly offensive. That’s not my opinion – it is a fact. This particular social media phenomenon has at least done some good in the end. Money has been raised – I can see the positives. Maybe a few people even checked themselves and who knows – it could even have saved a life. I say ‘in the end’ because that is not how it started. In my newsfeed it started with narcissistic people posting pictures of themselves with an inane comment about ‘awareness’ followed up by a swathe of “ooooh you look fantastic… and for such a good cause too!” comments.

EMPTY. MEANINGLESS. GESTURE.

No mention of donating money. No mention of checking yourself or how to do so. The only thing they were raising awareness of was their own face.

It was only when a few people with brains and compassion responded to this by posting pictures of their donation to cancer research – and pointing out to the hapless social media sheep that their ‘gesture’ just might be a little bit offensive – that the tide turned. Of course now a lot of money has been raised and that is a great thing. I still find the concept of a ‘bare faced selfie’ very confusing though. What are we trying to say here – that going without makeup on means you are showing some kind of solidarity with people who have breast cancer? That you are showing the same kind of vulnerability caused be chemotherapy and having great big bits of yourself carved off? Believe me – it doesn’t even come close.

Now that I look a bit more ‘normal’ I am able to shrug off this kind of thing but for all the people in the middle of chemo this last week must have been torture. Picture after picture of their friends bemoaning how shit they look with no makeup on. Really? Try having no eyelashes, eyebrows, or hair (granted ‘only’ 75% of mine fell out). Try gaining 2 stone in steroid water retention so that when you press on your leg it leaves a massive dent until the fluid fills back in. Try having most of your nails turn black, lift from their nail bed and fall off. Try having a massive swollen red face and big red burns on your hands that then crust over and look like you have leprosy. Try not sleeping for 5 days and see how extravagant the bags under your eyes are then. Try having MASSIVE scars on various parts of your anatomy…

… and now you want me to post a selfie with no make up on? Good job I’ve got all that chemo / surgery experience – I should just about be able to cope with people seeing my ‘bare face’. Tell you what – I think I will just carry on with my regular charitable donations and forget the social media crap.

I can completely recognise the good that has come from this campaign – but I don’t think the end justifies the means. There are also some glaring issues… the main one for me being that this seems to have been a women only event. No indication that breast cancer impacts men too. I don’t just mean because of their partners having breast cancer – no mention that men can get it too. If anything needs more ‘awareness’ it is that fact. No suggestion that men should check themselves and / or donate… nope… just the ones wearing make up please.

I could go on about this but I need to go and see my sister now. I guess what I most want to say is that although giving to charity and raising awareness are good things and people clearly have good intentions – that doesn’t mean you can trample all over people’s feelings to achieve them. Next time one of these games / memes pops up – just stop and think how it might affect the very people you are trying to help.

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One response to “I think I am qualified to comment…

  • Penny

    I couldn’t agree more. There is far too much money and energy spent on breast cancer “awareness” campaigns. Maybe this made sense about 60 years ago when no one talked about it. But there is plenty of awareness now – breast cancer is a very common cancer. Rarer/little understood diseases may need greater awareness, but what breast cancer needs is research and support for sufferers and their families.

    Really sorry to hear about your sister.

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