Casual Crusade Against Cancer

Critique and Illustration by: Chris Talbot-Heindl

As with all awareness months, breast cancer awareness month has attracted all sorts of super-clandestine, super-exclusive, shake-and-bake style social media slacktivism activities that we can all (ahem…I mean all of us with vaginas, according to some of these memes) casually participate in from the comfort of our computer chairs and/or beds.

This year, the “I <3 Boobies” campaign has conveniently shrunken into the “<3” campaign, proving that our language is indeed deteriorating at a rapid pace and apparently our ability to type nine extra characters (including spaces) is just too much to do for awareness of cancer.

This year’s new hip thing is to post a heart on your Facebook wall, completely out of context. Somehow, magically, this heart raises awareness of breast cancer this month. I don’t know, maybe if I click on it, it will give me a factual lesson on the disease and how to combat it. *click* *click* No such luck. Last month, my sister-in-law posted one all on her own to indicate that she was happy that day. This month, it’s about breast cancer.

While that action is completely useless and inept, oddly enough, it isn’t the part that gets on my tits. What does is the boilerplate message that accompanies this fun activity which says, “It’s for breast cancer week…No men…Peace & Love.” How fucking incompetent is that? It’s 2013, people! We all know that men have breasts too, and that these men with breasts also get breast cancer in their breasts. Albeit, not as often as women, since it has been found that estrogen promotes cancer growth. But men are at risk as well.

And beyond that, for the sake of argument, let’s say that breast cancer only afflicts women. Does that mean that women are the only people affected by breast cancer? Don’t even answer that. I don’t want to bring this conversation down to that level.

The second slacktivist activity running rampant on my social media pages is the meme about not wearing a bra on October 13. No information, just, “set the tatas free.” Since there’s no information, I’m going to have to assume that this is based on the misinformation that bras cause cancer. I remember hearing that in my early 20’s, which is why I never wore one. Science has since proven that the risk of breast cancer is the same for women who wear bras and those that don’t. That myth has been busted.

To compound the fact that these campaigns do little, if anything, to circulate information about breast cancer, it has come to my attention that these activities are quite harmful to survivors of breast cancer. While I was in the final revisions of this article, my smarty friend, Chris, posted an article written by a survivor who emphatically spells out that these actions hurt her personally by belittling the affects of the disease.

She says, “I do my best not to judge others or their beliefs and ideals. I have a pretty good sense of humor and am usually the first to poke fun at myself. And I make light of breast cancer and my struggles, treatments and their side effects, lack of breasts, fear of death, etc. fairly frequently. It is how I cope…But if you haven’t been there or taken care of someone who has been there, then you should think twice before you publicize a day that jokes about putting the first body parts we usually lose to this disease ‘out there’ on display even more conspicuously and then labeling it as an activity that helps our ’cause’.”

To read more of her article, please visit the CancerInMyThirties blog post.

For breast cancer awareness month, instead of casual crusades, encouraging shake-and-bake activism, of hearts and bra-free days, spread information. For instance, disseminate websites about things you can do to reduce your risk of breast cancer (like quitting smoking, starting to exercise, keeping at a healthy weight, eating right, checking for lumps, and getting a yearly physical:

Or, if you want some tangible activism, maybe participate in or sponsor a breast cancer walk this year to raise money for research, support for those who have breast cancer, and access to mammograms (

And always be sure to check for lumps, every month. Maybe do it with your partner of either gender. Maybe it’s a fun thing to do with the person you love EVEN if they have a dick and not a vagina, because, as all know, everyone is born with breasts.