Saturday, September 3, 2011

When Facebook Strikes: My Ranting Reactions to the 'Breast Cancer' meme

I'm a pretty regular Facebooker. I use it to keep in contact with family, share photos, make jokes with workmates current and past, and post links to news articles I'm pretty sure only two people other than me care about.

I understand the pitfalls, most of them related to people I went to high school with, and usually I just ignore and move on. Unfortunately, the latest one was a little like a hefty kick to the stomach, leaving me feeling depressed and then angry.

It's one of those ridiculous 'Breast Cancer Awareness' memes, that in actual fact have nothing to do with Breast Cancer or awareness. Like the colour of your bra or posting your shoe size in inches to make people cast aspersions on your partner's penis. This delightful little number gives you the sentence '_______ weeks and craving ________', and gets you to fill in the blanks with a little reference chart based on your birthday.

I saw this for the first time yesterday morning as the status of someone rather close to me. I had no idea that it was a meme, so was absolutely shattered when I saw it. Shattered that she was obviously pregnant, shattered that she had chosen Facebook to tell me and everyone else, shattered that I still had another week of the two week wait and in every single way I was over it. I cried before I went to work. I opened up to a colleague and almost cried some more. I spent the day in a deep funk.

I came home and found another message from her assuring everyone that she wasn't pregnant, it was just something else. It wasn't until later, when I saw another one, that I twigged to what it was about. Then the anger set in.

Not at the friend who posted it first. English is her recent second language, and there's a very real possibility she didn't understand the full meaning of what she posted. But at the sadistic bastard who came up with the self serving meme in the first place.

Pregnancy, just like breast cancer, is not a joke. Not something to 'keep men out of' (as the email that sets up the meme implores you to do), not something to play around with. Pregnancy is a deeply personal thing for so many women, who might be infertile, worrying about how they're going to afford to raise the child they're carrying, recovering from a miscarriage, unsure if they'll ever be in a position to carry a child safely, grieving for a stillborn child. Not to mention, the treatment for breast cancer can leave women infertile, making the whole thing even more nasty.

By turning the process into a joke, the meme basically says that it's okay to hurt people (and judging by the blog posts I read this morning, there is no way I am the only one who feels this way), okay to remind them of what they cannot have.

But what about real pregnancies? That was a comment that I saw on one forum this morning. A woman who was 'super fertile' (she complained that she had a hard time not getting pregnant because they couldn't afford protection all the time and loved each other too much not to have sex. I did not leap through the screen to kill her, but I'd be happy to send her some condoms) whinged that she was tired of having to be 'super careful' of whatever she said so she didn't upset people. The difference between real pregnancies and this, in my mind at least, is that real (wanted) pregnancies are wrapped in the most wonderful joy. You're so pleased for the friend or acquaintance who is having a baby that any kind of sting is immediately softened. A joke 'pregnancy' has no kind of joy attached, no balm to take the sting away.

There is so much we can do to raise awareness for cancer and other diseases. There are hundreds of support and research groups out there doing everything they can to find causes, support treatment and discover cures. If we want to raise awareness we can link to them, encourage people to have check ups, encourage people to get behind charities we're passionate about. We don't need to exclude and hurt to make a point.

Edited to add:
Here's a couple of links to people who have also blogged about this, sometimes much more eloquently than I can:
Regarding the Facebook "Breast Cancer Awareness Games" by C. G. Ward Photography
It Does Not Raise Any Awareness, I Swear by Tales From This Side of the Mamahood
Pretending You're Pregnant Isn't Cute  from Yolk

Photo from Flickr

1 comment:

  1. you've expressed this so articulately. i've shared it with my facebook friends - hopefully some people will think twice about how hurtful their (no doubt well meaning) but thoughtless posts can be.