This is Lilipop and today I wanted to talk a bit about tokenising of women and women based campaigns because I think it a thing that happens a lot without us even realising it. I thought it would be particularly relevant because this is Breast Cancer Awareness Month and there has been a lot of prominent tokenising recently, not just of breast cancer, and I think we need to recognise it. Breast cancer and Malala Yousafzai are two perfect examples of how our patriarchal, capitalist society tokenises, particularly, women and women’s campaigns. Both get incredible amounts of media coverage and public sympathy, the news and internet has been full of breast cancer awareness campaigns like “Save the Tata’s” and people talking about just how amaaaaaaazing and inspirational Malala Yousafzai is but what are we actually doing about either of these?
Although breast cancer is of course a very serious disease and I send all of my best wishes to anyone suffering with it, how is “raising awareness” of an extremely well known and publicised disease actually helping people who suffer breast cancer? And may I just say, “Save the Tata’s”?? I THINK WE SHOULD BE MORE WORRIED ABOUT THE PEOPLE NOT THE BOOBS and what kind of word is tata anyway. This reminds me a lot of when Angelina Jolie very bravely got a double mastectomy because of her very high risk of breast cancer, which is a thing many women have to go through and it was great to see a celebrity talking about it publicly however then the vulture misogynist descended. People were mourning the lose of her boobs and saying how they think she is selfish for “taking her boobs away from them” – I’m sorry what? I was under the impression that women are actually people and we should be worried about saving them rather than the lumps of fat on their chests? Also for fucks sake, those are Angelina’s boobs to do whatever the fuck she wants with them, it is none of your fucking business what she does with them, they are not yours to admire so shut up. We make such a song and a dance about raising awareness for breast cancer but wearing pink for a day or not wearing a bra for a day does not actually do anything for people with breast cancer. We tokenise breast cancer as this women’s disease and all the campaigns and ads and (capitalist, profitmaking) charity to make ourselves feel better like “look at what we are doing for all these poor poor women folk who need our help, aren’t we great” but actually the survival rate for breast cancer is actually 90% which is exceptionally high but the next most common cancer in women, lung cancer, is almost completely ignored. Lung cancer has a 16% survival rate which means that an estimated 95 people a day die from lung cancer a day compared to the 32 from breast cancer. It is awful that anyone is dying from these disease but tokenising them with pointless campaigns and universal media coverage to make ourselves feel better that we are doing something to help them, is not actually helping anyone.
Something similar can be said about Malala Yousafzai’s campaign for education for girls in Pakistan. Malala is an amazing girl and the work that she and hundreds of other girls around the region is invaluable. The work Malala has done is freaking amazing but the way we in the west are treating her and marketing her to a western audience is sickening. We are making her into this symbol, celebrity almost. As a she is a Girl of Colour, our society is used to hyper-objectifying her. We listen to her speeches, read about what she is doing, our politians and media outlets hold her up as a hero but, again, what are we actually doing to help? Nothing. In fact we are doing something much much worse than nothing, we are sending drones, bombs and violence over there that not only actively stops girls going to school because it is dangerous but it kills them as well. We are holding Malala and her work up on a pedestal, patting our selves on the back for saving the poor little girl from her terrible terrible life. We ignore all of the other girls that are just as radical and brilliant as Malala who are also campaigning for education, as well as a myriad of other things like child marriage, childbirth mortality rate, crippling poverty and corruption. We already have our trophy girl, Malala, to CARE SOOOOOOOO FUCKING MUCH about and make us feel fab about ourselves so why should we give a shit about the other stuff? I can just see the Malala merchandise now.
I would like to stress that I think Malala is amazing and breast cancer is definitely a worthy cause to support but I just hate the way that they are tokenised and held up by our media and politicians to make us feel good about ourselves. The way that our society markets both of these makes me feel sick and especially the way people are capitalise on causes such as these. The point I’m trying to get across is that these things should not be taken in isolation, and that to fully help people with breast cancer, or people who are suffering from the war in Pakistan, we must not ignore the wider issues and take these ‘trendy’ people as tokens for the much wider struggle. People are getting shit even when it’s not fashionable, shock horror!
A good link: cancer is not sexy