Slacktivism

31 Aug

I need a moment to vent. I’m going to try my damnedest to not come off as preaching here, and if I do, I sincerely apologize. But I just feel like this needs to be said.

I have been busy the last couple of weeks. So much so, that I have literally only been home to sleep and shower, sometimes not even that. I spent the weekend at a friend’s apartment drinking beer and waiting out a “hurricane.” So I am behind in returning calls and answering e-mails. Tonight, I finally had a free night to myself to catch up. I open up my e-mail and am pleased to see that I have a number of messages from facebook. “Oooooh,” I think to myself. “Someone posted a funny animal video to my wall? A friend from Seattle is visiting? There’s a fun event to go to this weekend?”

No. Some girl that I briefly worked with in Seattle sent out a mass message to all of her female “friends” asking them to post some cryptic thing on their walls about an amount of time and a food their craving. I didn’t read the entire explanation, because I was so pissed off by being bombarded with these e-mails, but this was somehow supposed to raise awareness for breast cancer. There was a similar campaign launched last year where women had to put in their status updates where they like their purses. BUT, you say it cryptically. “I like it on the kitchen counter.” or “I like it under my desk.” This is supposed to be fun for the ladies and inspiring for men. From what I could gather, the thought process of men was theorized to go. “Is she talking about sex?…Boobs make me want to have sex…Breast cancer happens in boobs…Breast cancer is bad…I am now aware of breast cancer.” Mission accomplished! Everyone is aware of breast cancer.

Here are my issues with this.

One. Does anyone honestly believe that men think like that? I’m no expert, but I do feel like I have a decent understanding of the male brain. From my years of research, I have discovered that often when men think of sex, it consumes most of their thoughts. Cancer is usually not a next step. Thinking that a provocative post is going to make men jump to cancer is like thinking a porn movie is going to make men think about cinematography. Even worse, I am bombarded with updates saying “10 weeks and craving skittles.” What the fuck does that mean?

Two. Are people unaware of breast cancer? Is there some huge segment of the population who have never heard of it? Is it stigmatized? Are we really putting the goal at raising awareness? I understand Autism Awareness, because it is a commonly misunderstood condition. I understand raising awareness of genocides in Africa, because in America we get so wrapped up in our own stuff, we forget there are real problems in the world that need to be addressed. I think it’s safe to say that most people have heard of breast cancer and know what it is. Maybe we should focus on prevention and treatment instead. Which brings me to my next issue…

Three. How is that post helping anyone?! I recently read an amazing blog post on http://www.justatitch.com about the term “slacktivism.” Doing things like these posts is useless. It’s a bunch of facebook addicts wanting to show their friends how much they care about the issue by doing these little projects. But really, what is that doing? Is it helping research? Is it encouraging women to do self-exams or to get their mammograms? Is it encouraging people to donate, to volunteer? OR, are we sitting in front of our computer doing silly things? I’m really not trying to get up on a soap box here, because I don’t donate or volunteer nearly as much as I should, but I also don’t go around trying to pretend like I do by sending stupid e-mails.

Last year when this stuff was popping up, I was annoyed. Now, I’m offended. In the last year, my mother had a really scary couple of months where it looked like she had breast cancer. After a dozen doctor visits, mammograms, and biopsies, it turned out she was okay, and we all thanked our lucky stars. I started buying anything with aย  pink ribbon on it, even thought it is such a small gesture, because I was so happy that my mom was okay, and I couldn’t imagine how other people cope with actual diagnoses and treatment.

To get even more personal, a couple of months ago, my doctor found a lump in my breast. I spent months listening to specialists say they didn’t know what it was. Young, alone in the city, broke, and uninsured, I went from doctor appointment, to sonograms, to biopsies, to needle aspirates. Each step more terrifying than the last, because they just couldn’t say with confidence that it wasn’t cancer. It was one of the scariest things I’ve ever experienced. Months later when the doctor told me it was benign, I couldn’t stop my eyes from welling up with tears. The nurse coordinator put her arm around me as I put my face in my hands and cried. Even though my life was unreasonably difficult at the time, and it took every ounce of strength to just get up and go in the morning, I was so relieved to have my health, and to have the opportunity to have a long life.

Breast cancer is a serious thing and should absolutely not be used as an excuse to write cutesy messages and giggle with your friends. There are plenty of fundraisers to get involved in, as a woman it’s liberating to donate that 10 inches of hair to locks of love (and the salon will often not charge for a haircut, fyi), and there are other very pressing issues in our world that we should all take the time to make ourselves more aware of.

I definitely defriended that girl.

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One Response to “Slacktivism”

  1. Danguole September 1, 2011 at 10:09 am #

    AAAAAMEN.

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