In the last couple of days on Facebook I've noticed a few people (women) posting pictures of themselves without make-up, purportedly for "Cancer Awareness". Like most people my life has been affected by cancer, I've lost my mum, two grandparents, two aunts and an uncle to the disease. However, although I appreciate the goodwill behind the act I won't be joining in.
Firstly I'm not sure what it really achieves. Nobody woke up this morning, logged into Facebook to see an unmade up friend and thought, "Oh yes! I'd forgotten that cancer exists!" Yet that's all several of these photos are doing, mentioning the word "cancer". Not enough seem to have any point to them beyond that, with no links to fundraising or symptom guides. There is the argument that people like me (and I've noticed several of my friends) rant about these supposed awareness posts with specific links therefore raising true awareness and that's true but I'd still prefer to see less of the vague and more of the actual.
Secondly so often these posts or games are female-centric, particularly those that involve secrets, "Post your bra size" or "State where you keep your handbag" but "Don't tell the men." Why? Are men not affected by cancer too? Even if we're just talking breast cancer it's not a women only cancer, men get it as well. And of course plenty of men see their loved ones with the disease, it's not just us women who suffer that.
There is also something a bit unsettling about the notion that a cosmetic free face is somehow shameful, that it's brave for women to post bare-faced photos. I did see a suggestion on Facebook that women don't buy make-up for a month and donate the money saved to a cancer charity instead and that makes more sense to me (although personally I can go several months without visiting the cosmetics counter!) Likewise being sponsored to go make-up free for a certain amount of time is more proactive.
I don't want to be critical of the people who do take part in these viral games, I do believe they join in with the best intentions. I'm just not convinced it's the best use of their time, "for Cancer Awareness" is just too vague.
Know your body, recognise the signs and symptoms of cancer and visit your GP early.
Donate to Macmillan Cancer Support
Update 20th March 2014
Since I posted this blog something wonderful has happened and over one million pounds has been donated to cancer charities. So I've been forced to reconsider my stance on what these Facebook games achieve and I'm happy to concede that in this case I got it partly wrong. I stand by my opinion that just posting a photo isn't really enough and I saw several instances where that is all people appeared to do. Perhaps they did donate but I'm still of the opinion that if you're going to post something regarding "cancer awareness" you need to make it more proactive or it just looks to be empty words.
I wrote my post early in the day when it just appeared to be yet another game, it turned out I was wrong, it became much more and if I caused any upset I apologise. I hope this will mark a permanent change and people will realise the vague statuses about bra sizes or handbags really aren't enough.
In memory of my mum, Mollie Adlem 1952-1994