It’s that time of year again, folks: the time when my Facebook inbox starts to fill up with messages like this:
Hi beautiful, so here it is the time of year again when we try to raise awareness of breast cancer through a game. Its very easy and I was hoping you would participate.
Last year we had to write the color of our bra’s on our status. Men wondered for days what was going on with random colors on status’s. This year we make reference to our love life status as a flavor.
Do not answer to this message just post corresponding word on your status and send this message privately to all the girls on your friends list.
Blueberry is single
Pineapple is its complicated
Raspberry is I don’t want to commit
Apple is engaged
Cherry is in a relationship
Banana is married
Avocado is I’m the better half
Strawberry is can’t find Mr right
Lemon is I want to be single
Raisin is I want to get married to my partner
Last time the bra game was mentioned on T.V. let’s see if we can get there with this one.
Please resend this to all your girl friends then update your status with your answer ONLY!
DONT TELL ANY GUYS!
[Apostrophe abuse and typos courtesy of the original author, whoever s/he may be…]
I’ve received three separate copies of this message in the last week. Now, before I go any further here, I just want to stress that I’m not writing about this in order to call-out any of the well-meaning people who’ve sent me it: or anyone else who’s circulated it, thinking they were doing something good. No, I’m writing it because, as some of you know, cancer – of any kind – is a subject very close to my heart.
My mother-in-law is currently living with it.
My grandfather died from it.
I spent part of yesterday morning with a friend who managed to beat it, but who now has to live with the constant terror that it might come back – to say nothing of all of the follow-up surgeries and various complications she has to deal with on a daily basis.
I don’t think I know anyone – not a single person – whose family hasn’t been touched by this horrific disease… so when I start getting messages telling me that, actually, there’s something I can do to help raise awareness, and it simply involves posting the word “banana” as my Facebook status, and then smugly refusing to tell any OMGMEN why I did it, then naturally my curiosity is piqued. But I have SO MANY QUESTIONS. Like:
How does posting a random fruit as a Facebook status help raise awareness of breast cancer?
Answer? It doesn’t. It just doesn’t. In fact, it doesn’t raise awareness of anything AT ALL, other than the fact that some women enjoy being part of “secret” Facebook memes.
If you want to raise awareness of breast cancer, you have to actually mention breast cancer – and tell people WHY you’re mentioning it, and what you’d like them to do about it. Facts would be good, here. Links to organisations which are actually helping people live with cancer, or attempting to help find a cure for it, would be handy, too. I mean, don’t you think?
Memes like this one, on the other hand, go out of their way NOT to mention cancer. They don’t provide ANY information about it, and they actively encourage the person “raising awareness” to withhold any information they might have on it to almost 50% of the population – i .e. the big bad men, who aren’t allowed in on the “joke”. (Because cancer is SUCH a joke, amiright?)
Which brings me to my next point:
Even if posting a fruit as your status DID somehow raise awareness of breast cancer, how does excluding men from this information help with that?
Again: it doesn’t. Not at all. Because, here’s the thing: men get breast cancer, too. Yes, it primarily affects women, but it doesn’t SOLELY affect women, and, even if it did, keeping the men who are the partners, friends and family members of the women who might one day get breast cancer in the dark about it, isn’t remotely helpful. In fact, reducing what should be a really important discussion to a, “Tee hee, all girls together, not telling those stupid MEN what we’re talking about!” Facebook meme is… let’s just go with the word “puzzling”, lest I cause even more offence than I already have, here.
To be honest, I’m not a fan of Facebook memes in general, but, in this case, it genuinely confuses me why so many women seem to think that excluding men from their important “awareness raising” activities is a good idea? (This is a genuine question, by the way: if you take part in these memes, please tell me what good you think it’s doing, I would really like to know!) In fact, the more I read the chain message, in all its typo-ridden glory, the more it starts to feel like the MAIN aim is “getting mentioned on TV” – not because you’ve helped raise awareness of cancer, but because you managed to get a whole lot of women to buy into a Facebook meme.
(It’s worth mentioning here that none of the news articles I’ve seen about this fad have provided any factual information that could actually help raise awareness of breast cancer itself: they’ve all just focused on the LOL-worthy idea that, OMG, women are posting about the colour of their bras – or whatever that year’s meme is based on – on the internets!” I’m not saying there haven’t been any, or that there’s no possibility of some ACTUAL awareness being raised from this – I’m just questioning how effective it really is, and whether there might not be a better way to go about it…)
And there’s the problem: I have no evidence to back this up, so please take this post purely as the personal opinion it is, but my main concern with things like this is that they manage to convince people they’ve done something to help, when, actually, they’ve done nothing at all. I really hope no one has sent this message to my mother-in-law, for instance, because I’m pretty sure that if I asked her what she felt would be most helpful to her right now, as she battles a terminal cancer diagnosis, she would NOT say, “If you could possibly just write the name of a fruit as your Facebook status, that would be golden.”
So: if you’d like to help raise awareness of breast cancer – or any other form of cancer – here are some organisations that are actually doing that, and who’ll be able to provide tons of information on the various ways you can get involved:
If, on the other hand, you simply want to broadcast your relationship status to a small number of your Facebook friends who probably know it anyway, and you want to use fruit to do it, go for it: just please don’t expect me to join you…