I am perplexed. I am saddened. I am angry. I am at a loss for words. I have a million things to say.
It is a crappy day because Chevrolet hijacked activism on World Cancer Day, because twitter is reeling with the shock and horror and reality and sadness of @Jada_FM’s death, and because Pancreatic Cancer Action forgot we need to fight together, and instead bullied a community of people hurting just as much, trying just as dearly to right the cancer-horror that is the world.
Today is World Cancer Day. World Cancer Day might have been visible on your social media feeds because people were changing their profile pics to purple. PURPLE. They were doing this as part of an initiative led by Chevrolet. CHEVROLET. The car company that produced carcinogens. The car company that produces products that produce carcinogens. That company was all up in world cancer day. What the fuck, much?
Chevrolet hijacked cancer-activism. They leveraged the grass-roots-ness of Facebook and Twitter, so not everyone knew it was *them* that started this whole movement that turned things purple but didn’t actually do anything, but then in corporate spheres THEY GET CREDIT! And people also feel like they’ve DONE SOMETHING by turning their profile pic purple, but in the end, Chevrolet capped their donations at $1million, and what was *actually done*? Sorry folks, but this ephemeral “awareness” stuff isn’t doing much. Awareness of what? That cancer exists? Obviously you already knew that if you turned your profile pic purple. But were you aware who was behind that purple movement? Were you AWARE you were supporting Chevrolet? Were you AWARE Chevrolet produces carcinogens? What are you more AWARE of now that your profile pic is purple?
I don’t stand with Chevrolet. I stand for revolution about breast cancer, and all cancers. I stand with revolutionizing our environmental practices, our food consumption, our gender ideologies, our politics, our communities. Chevrolet can get the f*ck out.
As if that wasn’t enough today, the Pancreatic Cancer Action in the UK launched a “hard-hitting” ad that is entirely f*cked. The ad has a sad-looking bald girl who we are obviously supposed to understand as “in chemo” in it, because, apparently, that’s how you always look in chemo- so problematic. And next to her, it reads “I wish I had breast cancer.” It goes on to explain, then, that (we presume she has) pancreatic cancer is deadly. Very deadly. As if breast cancer wasn’t? JUST LAST NIGHT A ENTIRE COMMUNITY ON TWITTER GRIEVED THE DEATH OF A WOMAN IN HER 30s, A WOMAN WHO DIED OF BREAST CANCER. LAST NIGHT. A CANDLE STILL BURNS IN MY WINDOW FOR THIS WOMAN, @JADA_FM.
This ad is offensive. They must have forgotten about women with metastatic breast cancer. They must have forgotten about the scores of young women, dying of breast cancer. Were they so desperate to raise awareness about pancreatic cancer that they had to throw breast cancer under the bus, like any kind of pain is more worthy than another? Like it’s the oppression olympics? Have the producers who made this idea ever felt what cancer feels like? Have they been on this dragons’ back, holding on for dear life? Have their dear ones been singed by the fire, because they stood too close to the fire-breathing cancer-dragon? Do they have any idea? Shouldn’t the point be to fight together against companies like Chevrolet, instead of bullying each other for the same tiny slice of pie, the same itty bitty moment of public attention or coveted funds?
The argument is that no (pancreatic) cancer ad that saves even one life (presumably through early detection or “awareness”) ever goes too far. That obviously, no one would wish any kind of cancer on anyone (which with this ad is not so obvious). The argument is that pancreatic cancer is so horrendous (3%survival) that it’s the worst and deserves something more…. and that, well, because it’s so horrific we can justify wishing breast cancer on someone. Because there’s treatment. Of course, you would be wishing for very early breast cancer, definitely not metastatic breast cancer. And you’d be wishing for particular kinds of breast cancer, and you’d be wishing to have them at a particular time in your life. BUT NONE OF THAT IS MENTIONED. There’s no distinction in this video and article, about what kind of breast cancer we should be “wishing for,” and sadly, they misrepresented the stats (those high survival rates are stage 0 or stage 1 rates). The misrepresentation makes Pancreatic Cancer Action less forgivable and so much less credible. Obviously, we shouldn’t be wishing for @Jada_FM’s metastatic breast cancer, now should we? I guess we forgot to ask women with breast cancer— or women with metastatic breast cancer, or young women with cancer, or women with triple negative cancer– if this was offensive. I have breast cancer. It’s not metastatic. My heart aches.
Dude, this is the wrong framework. The “who has it worse” conversation that conjures up the Oppression Olympics gets us- and by us, I do mean all of us walking this earth- nowhere. By nowhere, I mean places like hurt feelings and internet arguments. How does that change the world? Right, it doesn’t. Let’s not go down the road of wishing any cancers on anyone. Let’s pick a different route, in which we actually listen to each other, act compassionately, breathe deeply and slowly and actually think before we release ads that create massive fissures in communities of people that are so beautifully poised to be supportive advocates for each other. Let’s think about partnerships. Let’s think about attacking the companies, plastics, toxins, policies, and networks that allow cancer to happen before we attack other communities with cancer. Let’s do something that matters, not something that hurts. Please. Do it for @Jada_FM, who’s last tweet was “y se me va la vida,” loosely translated to “and life is leaving me.” Would Pancreatic Cancer Action wish that on us?
Shame on this campaign. Take it down. Now.
No reason, no excuse to lash out at others with cancer. More reason, every reason, all the reason in the world, the most reasonable thing, to lash out at the companies that produce plastics and toxins, to lash out at the systems that make us feel powerless, to lash out at the politics that make this possible. Together, our lash will hurt in such a way it makes a radical difference where it matters.