Hayley is a Ghost

I like it… to be a little bit realistic.

Posted on: October 7, 2010

So, another round of women updating their statuses on facebook to be cryptic has begun and I find it rather annoying. The message being sent around says:

Hi girls,

It’s crazy to think it was a whole year ago since we fooled the boys with the colour of bra you were wearing as your facebook status.

The purpose was to promote Breast Cancer Awareness month throughout October. It so successful, it made it to the news and (once again) we had men wondering for days what was going on!

This year’s game is about your handbag / purse and where we put it the moment we get home, for example “I like it on the couch”, “I like it on the kitchen counter”, “I like it on the dresser”

Just put your answer as your status and cut and paste this message to all your FB female friends to their inbox. The bra game made it to the news. Let’s see how powerful we women really are!!! REMEMBER – DO NOT PUT YOUR ANSWER AS A REPLY TO THIS MESSAGE- PUT IT IN YOUR STATUS!!! Pass this to all the women you know and help fight breast cancer xxx

Here is the issue I have with this whole thing, it says in the message “The purpose was to promote Breast Cancer Awareness month throughout October.”

This is bullshit. I have a copy of the original message that got sent out and it stated this:

We are playing a game…… silly, but fun! Right the colour of your bra as your status, just the colour, nothing else!! Copy this and pass it on to all girls/Females …… NO MEN!! This will be fun to see how it spreads, and we are leaving the men wondering why all females just have a colour as their status!! Let’s have fun!!

It said NOTHING about the status updates with the colour of your bra being about breast cancer. In my mind that whole idea was tagged onto the end of the whole thing to provide some meaning when the story started getting some attention.

That’s great, I mean, we need to raise as much awareness about cancer as we can, but the original status update meme was originally sod all to do with breast cancer.

Not to mention that you don’t need to wear a bra to get breast cancer as men get it too. A bra and a handbag have nothing to do with breast cancer, so it’s a little bit sexist really.

In the past I have run the Cancer Research ‘Race for Life’ to raise money for them and the last time I did so it became very apparent that there was something deeply wrong with the public perception of breast cancer as something that is girly. The dressing up in pink and feather boas and fairy wings is all very nice and brings a sense of belonging and the messages written on peoples backs are very touching – but a male friend of mine wanted to run and he wasn’t allowed.

Men get breast cancer, women get breast cancer, men get other cancers, women get other cancers. There is nothing feminine about cancer, there is nothing girly about it – cancer is an aggressive disease and it kills people in the most brutal unforgiving and often humiliating of ways.

The picture above is of my brother Charlie (on the right) and his friends Daryll, Matt and Sammy who took part in a fundraising day at the College they attend and that I work for. I think it’s safe to say there was a strong girly theme encouraged by the staff who organised it, and for no good reason.

Though the guys in the photo above raised really good amounts of money for really deserving cancer, it just comes across as too much of an assumed theme for breast cancer.

Breast cancer = pink, boobs, ribbons and girly stuff like feather boas?

I think it’s time that we all got a little bit realisitic about raising awareness for cancer. Sure, I understand that fundraising should be fun and silly and that is fine, but nearly everything I see regarding breast cancer awareness has a pink ribbon on it, or includes wearing pink or a picture of a bra or something to do with a bra or a handbag or cleavge and that, to me, downgrades the seriousness of a disease that isn’t selective about the gender of the person it effects.

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24 Responses to "I like it… to be a little bit realistic."

Wait? The bra colour thing was about raising awareness for breast cancer?

Apparently so. However, like I posted, I wasn’t told that originally and neither was anyone I know. To us it was just a funny prank.

In internet vernacular, that is what is known as an “epic fail” – I had *no* idea that the bra colour or handbag jokes were anything to do with breast cancer until I read this…

What a marketing catastrophe.

I agree.
I’ve wondered about this many times.
The idea that a man would not be allowed to take part in a fundraising race for anything is stupid. The fact that it was a breast cancer race that he wasn’t able to run in is offensive. It suggests that breast cancer is a disease that only affects women. Even if it was, to not allow someone to fundraise for them seems ungrateful.

Around 300 men a year get breast cancer in the UK. That a tiny percentage of the number of women; about 1% I think – but it does not make it any less alarming, or depressing. I’m with ya Hayley on this one.

cj x

I often wonder how many of those men feel that they’ve got a womens disease?

Probably quite a lot.
I remember watching a programme a while a go about it. (Sorry can’t remember the name or where it was) But it was about men with breast cancer and their emotional state. If I remember right (and this is near Wild speculation) the majority couldn’t understand why they had breast cancer and deemed it quite a girly disease.
I’ll have a look for it and if I can find it, I’ll reply with the link. Might have been on Channel 4?

Unfortunate one, this.

I understand the desire to brand their event in some way to get more exposure, and the girly-paraphernalia and pink theme has been very effective.

The problems start when the branding becomes more important than the cause it should be promoting. To disconnect the bra colour from the campaign so obviously feels really awkward. Stopping men from running is wrong for all the reasons mentioned, and just plain short-sighted.

Great post, Hayley, I agree.

My GF ran in one of the races you talked about a couple of years ago. I would have loved to run with her, and was very disappointed that I couldn’t.

How does that help breast cancer, exactly?

It raises a shitload of cash for Cancer Research UK which is very good.

Yes, but wouldn’t it have raised more if men had been allowed to join in too?

I hearty hear, hear.

I’m not going to put my own opinion forward here. I’d like to play devil’s advocate, if I may. I wonder whether it can be seen as a good thing for women to use femininity, in its various guises, as a way to battle breast cancer. Don’t shoot me down just yet.

I believe that breast cancer affects women in a different way to men. I don’t mean that men don’t get it, or that breasts are somehow girly. But I understand that the idea of surgery and possibly even mastectomy can seriously affect a woman’s body image and sense of self in a different way to a man. Given that we, culturally, do a lot with boobs*, it’s not a surprise.

To a woman with breast cancer, it might seem like some essential aspect of their womanhood is under threat. What’s the tool you can use to fight back? Well, why not celebrate with the epitome of girliness and female-dominated cultural symbols? What’s the harm?

I think that a light-hearted fun theme to a serious subject can be more powerful than a sombre take on it. But it’s horses for courses. Maybe not everyone wants to take a light look at a serious subject. Maybe for some, it appears to disrespect that subject. Fair enough. I for one can see why some would take ownership of boobs in the fight against breast cancer.

* Do a lot with boobs – I mean that they’re paraded at men and women via photography, fashion, art etc etc. This is possibly some primal instinct turned into a cultural manifestation. And it’s not just men’s magazines that like to form and thrust a cleavage at the reader; women’s magazines can be just as blunt, often brutal with the way they treat the boob.

This is a valid point and one of the reasons why, contrary to my usual self, I really have a hard time forming an opinion.

True, men can get breast cancer (and the same genetic mutations are likely to be involved, including the dreaded BRCA mutations) but the incidence is even less than 1% of all the cases of breast cancer. But as Ashley points out, breasts and body image are psychologically strongly intertwined. On the other hand, as Hayley points out, men who come down with breast cancer probably are psychologically severely affected because they have a “women’s disease”.
However, I wonder what would happen if we set up men-only campaigns for truly man-only forms of cancer, like prostate and testicular cancer. Would it readily be accepted? I think not… but I might be wrong.

When it comes to the women-only races, I can definitely see the benefit: we still live in a society where a lot of women still spend most of their lives in the shadow of men. Racing, even a fun run, can be quite an intimidating event when you have to compete with fast, male runners (looking at the stats it shows that men perform better the shorter the distance: women overtake the men in ultras). For any self-confident female this wouldn’t be a problem, but I would argue that for many women who otherwise would be sitting on the couch, those fun-runs for charity can be an empowering experience, exposing them to some healthy exercise. All the better, right?

I think the bigger problem here is the way our culture dictates what is feminine and what is masculine, and how men and women should behave. Let’s just hope we can dispose of the false male-female dichotomy and perceive others as individuals and not just in a specific gender-based role.

And might I use this opportunity to blatantly plug my run for Tenovus, the cancer charity that is funding my PhD? Donate!

It is a good point you raise, however, I have heard of men who have been diagnosed with breast cancer and think of themselves as worthless because they have a “womans disease”. They loose all self respect and don’t see themselves as manly because breast cancer = boobs, pink and girls.

Maybe the question is this: in which direction lies the greatest benefit to the most people? I suspect that laughing and celebrating girliness in the face of cancer is much stronger a benefit than the relative detriment of some men treating breast cancer as girly.

We would probably need data, rather than anecdotes to support such a claim either way.

I’ve seen an awful lot of pink ribbons around but no pink and blue ones yet….aren’t we all supposed to be trying for equality these days?

It’s not about equality or sexism. It’s about broadening the world’s awareness of breast cancer. It’s a good thing, stop trying to make it into a controversial topic. PLEASE.

I’m not making it a controversial subject, it already is, and I’m not the only one who feels this way.

I wasn’t personally attacking you, or any others who felt the way that you do. I respect your opinion, I just hate hearing that the whole breast cancer awareness thing on facebook is about sexism and what not. I think it would be best to let it be and appreciate that more people have become aware of breast cancer, it could save a life right?

I don’t think letting sexism be is productive in any way, shape or form. No matter how miniscule it may be.

I’m on the fence again.

1. Perception is reality, so if it looks like sexism, it’s as bad as sexism.
2. What one person can interpret as sexism might actually represent other intentions.

This debate surrounds the question of sympathy vs empathy. Breast cancer affects women one way and men cannot empathise as they don’t, broadly speaking, have the female experience of life. Conversely, breast cancer can affect men, and some of what happens to support women with breast cancer might appear to make male breast cancer sufferers suffer more. It’s tricky.

If we use a “live and let live” policy for a minute, what would we do to support all the non-oppressive behaviours that are going on here? I might say that the women can do caricature girly stuff if it takes their mind off of a scary condition and sticks one to the potentially de-gendering threat it represents. I would also consider raising awareness for men with cancer of the breast. I might even rename the condition for me. Men don’t think they have breasts (I’m overweight, so I do). Maybe it needs a different name when a man has it. Moob cancer? Pectoral muscle cancer?

I’m not a supporter of oppressive behaviour that enforces gender divisions and stereotypes. However, I think it’s good to celebrate the differences between genders. Maybe this can come across as sexism if done insensitively.

Hayley – I’ll repeat my question from above. What’s the “live and let live” approach that can support all non-oppressive behaviour here?

true, but is this really sexism at all. yes, men can have breast cancer as well as women. but it’s more common in women to have breast cancer, that’s why they have women do it instead of men. I’m pretty sure no one ever tried making it into a ‘female’ thing, to exclude men, or the men who actually have breast cancer.

today on a news brief there was a little girl who had breast cancer. a little girl. i was shocked. i didnt see it. the report was broadcasted later on. little girls are being diagnosed with breast cancer, i would have hated to see what insensitive marketing crap they would come up with this year.

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Hayley is a ghost

Hayley Stevens is an advocate for science-based research into seemingly paranormal experiences and occurrences. With a background in the pseudo-scientific research into ghosts, Hayley offers a unique insight into the strange world of ghost hunting through her experience.

She describes herself as 'a ghost hunter who doesn't hunt for ghosts' and this is her personal blog where she writes about ghosts, people, and other interesting things. Read more here.

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