First, there was a commercial for Breast Cancer Week a couple years ago that showed a lot of cleavage and caused a bit of a media storm. Then, this summer, all the prudish girls I went to high school with started posting on Facebook that they liked it on the stairs, and in the kitchen, and in shower. Turns out that was for breast cancer, too. Yesterday, I saw a gaggling group of girls sporting moustaches on my way home from school – I assume it was part “Movember” fever, which is a campaign raising awareness for prostate cancer. Today I spied on a girl in front of me in class who was on Facebook. She was checking out an album for the “Fuck Cancer Fundraiser” at some club where everyone was wearing black T-shirts that said in big, bold, colourful letters, “FUCK CANCER.”
Notice a trend? To put it in cultural studies-speak, the subversive has been incorporated into the norm. All this sexy, gender-bending, potty-mouthed, usually morally suspect junk has been deemed morally acceptable because it’s in the name of the fight against cancer.
To be honest, I find all of it really nauseating. Then I feel like I should feel guilty or something. Even writing this article, am I doing something wrong criticizing the fight against cancer? But it just makes me feel weird, in the same way that campus charity has an all-you-can-drink club party to raise money for kids in Africa that don’t have any drinkable water makes me feel weird.
I know I’m not the only who feels weird about this stuff. Someone asked my boyfriend, “Did you shave off your moustache for Movember?” (He had been growing it for Halloween, so it just worked out that shaving it off post-Halloween meant shaving it off at the beginning of “Movember.”) When he said, “Yeah, I guess,” the person responded (without sarcasm), Good for you! Something isn’t working right if people are turning against the fight to cure a disease.
There’s this Seinfeld episode where Kramer participates in the AIDS walk, but he doesn’t want to wear a ribbon. He gets beat up. It’s really funny – but it also makes you think. Making these causes trendy works to mobilize people and raise awareness. That’s a good thing. But they also do other things, like in Kramer’s case: they dictate that there’s only one way to be a part of the movement. That’s a bad thing.
Whitney Mallett, U3 English Literature, is a former Daily Copy, Culture, and Features editor. She’s currently a member of the DPS Board of Directors. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.