You’re Not Raising Awareness. You’re Just Being an Asshole.

October, my favourite month, is coming up and you know what that means!

That’s right. It’s time for those highly annoying, misogynistic, and cis-supremacist bullshit “breast cancer awareness” games to make the rounds on all your favourite social media sites.

It’s also the month I’m not allowed to leave the house with a lighter, because then I’ll burn all the bras they string across the grocery stores.

There are so many problems with the pinkwashing of breast cancer I don’t even know where to begin. There is no beginning; it’s just a clusterfuck of oppressive, awful, bullshit.

How about the gross sexualization focus in raising awareness — “Save the tatas!” shirts proclaim, because heaven forbid we focus on ending cancer to save lives, no it’s all about the worth of the patient as a sexual object.

How about the fact that buying those pink pieces of crap actually gives very little money to breast cancer research and really just lines the pockets of the companies promoting it?

How about just the use of a gendered color in general for this? Breast cancer is not a gendered disease. It does not discriminate. It affects everyone. Pink, unfortunately, has become a gendered color (which is a stupid idea in general, that colors are associated with gender, but it’s what we’ve got to work with right now so this is a valid point to make); associating it so strongly with the disease makes it clear — “breast cancer is a woman’s disease.” And then men die from it, because that lump in their chest? couldn’t possibly be serious. Only women get breast cancer. Only women have breasts, right?

(ARG. LEARN YOU SOME BIOLOGY — WE ARE MAMMALS, WE ALL HAVE TITS, SOME ARE JUST BIGGER FOR FUCK’S SAKE.)

How about the games themselves. First, they’re sent to “girls only~! tee hee” (thanks for erasing my gender identity, multiple people who have sent me these FB messages), and said “girls” are told “don’t tell the men! it’ll spoil the fun! remember this is for breast cancer awareness!”

HOW THE FUCK DOES THAT WORK?

If you’re not supposed to tell anyone what your vague post means, how the FUCK does it raise awareness of anything? And keeping the men locked out like it’s not a disease that affects them? Are you kidding me?

This is total bullshit already. But it gets worse.

Sometimes, the things we’re urged to say are fairly innocent: “I like it on the table,” for example, referring to where you like to put your purse. Ok, not clever, but not too terrible (except as being in the context of this horrible game).

But then there are the ones that are directly related to pregnancy. Those really get my goat, because guess what many breast cancer survivors suffer as a result of their ordeal? Infertility.

So you’ve got a bunch of people who don’t have breast cancer “raising awareness” about the disease by lying about being pregnant on Facebook. Maybe they’ve got friends who have survived, for whom that sort of message is painful, but they still want to be happy for their friend — so they post “congratulations!” and get in response that it’s just a game, you guys, to raise awareness of this horrible disease.

If I were a breast cancer survivor suffering infertility and I saw that? That friend would be gone, and something would be getting a punch.

Cancer is not a game. Games do not raise awareness.

What does help? ACTUALLY RAISING AWARENESS. Reminding your friends — OF ALL GENDERS — to go get checked out on a regular basis. That goes for all cancers that are screenable, by the way, not just breast cancer. Urge your friends to get screenings for colon cancer! That’s the cancer my mom survived, and had the Canadian gov’t not offered screenings to people over a certain age, she would have missed it. They caught it early, lucky for us.

oh, wait, are butts not sexy enough? we can’t have sweatpants saying “Save the bum bums!” on them? are they not sexy because everyone has bums and we can’t continue to turn women into sexual objects in the name of raising awareness for something? Only sexy cancers get awareness, is that it?

No, that’s not it. If you really want to raise awareness about cancer, then raise awareness about cancer. Don’t play these stupid games (and while you’re at it, refuse to participate in that pernicious pinkwashing bullshit). Share actual facts, statistics, talk about cancer — hell, share the shirts that say “FUCK CANCER” on them. Any of these things are better than playing those games.

Those games are not helping you raise awareness. Those games are just making you into an asshole.

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Katje

Author. Poet. Menace to society. I live in BC with my husband and our collection of books, DVDs, and video games. Hobbies include knitting, baking, and pixel homicide.