Activism means more than paying lip-service to a cause
According to various experts on the Internet, I’m eight weeks and craving cherry Jell-O.
Allegedly, by letting you all know this, I am spreading an important message about breast cancer. What that message is, I’m not entirely sure.
At this point, most female Facebook users have gotten a message from a fellow woman urging her friends to “keep men guessing” and to help spread breast cancer awareness through cutesy games involving their birthdays, where they put their purse and the colour of their bra.
There is already enough of a problem with this — one cannot spread awareness through a message that is intentionally cryptic.
The exposure of these silly games just serves to prove that no one truly understands what awareness actually means.
While some may debate this, awareness is just as relevant and important as fundraising. However, the point of awareness — real awareness — is not to simply let the world know that you think breast cancer or autism is a bad thing.
Let’s face it: anyone with a conscience thinks that breast cancer, autism, depression, homophobia and world hunger are bad things. Affirming that you feel this way via a Facebook status — yes, even if you make a message your status for a whole hour — does not do anything to solve that problem.
If anything, it only appears self-serving and makes the person posting look painfully naïve.
In December of 2010, I was just as annoyed as the next sensible person at the amount of friends changing their profile pictures to images of Pinocchio, Rainbow Brite and Scooby Doo as part of a “campaign to end child abuse.”
As it was proven, there was never any campaign and the original attempt to get users to change their pictures to those of cartoon characters had nothing to do with child abuse.
When I witnessed people who kid themselves into legitimately believing that these actions were helping (including some who thought, for some reason, that money was being raised), all I could do was shake my head in disbelief that grown people could be so easily swayed by the hive-mind.
True awareness means spreading facts about the problems and showing people
ways that they can help. Awareness is relevant because it leads to more people taking an interest in that particular subject and can lead to more fundraising campaigns and support for research.
In the most recent case, it means letting people know that one in eight women will develop breast cancer in their lifetime and that regular breast examinations are the most effective way to detect and treat tumours early.
The fact is, many of these truths are unpleasant and will make people uncomfortable. Unfortunately, that is often the best way to get people to take action. When someone truly understands that something like cancer, abuse or poverty could affect them then they can become motivated to help, even if it’s through small actions.
In a couple of months, Movember will kick off and hundreds of men will sport mustaches to support research for prostate cancer. Last year, a very small team of Laurier students managed to raise close to $5,000 in support of the cause.
These young men deserve applause for actually getting out and making an effort to contribute to something they cared about.
Unfortunately, a large number of males chose to use the month as an excuse to grow an ironic mustache free of judgment and then proceeded to tell others that they were “doing Movember.”
Individuals who do this only insult those who have actually put in the time and effort to raise funds and increase public engagement.
This is another example of people hiding behind the “awareness” label when in reality they have done nothing.
If you are truly interested in helping a cause but don’t necessarily have the funds to support it directly, there is still plenty you can do. You can volunteer with an organization which raises money for a cause. You can attend fundraising events and encourage your friends to do the same. You can be the change that you think is necessary.
The goal is to get more people involved in a cause, not to alienate and annoy people while you giggle in front of your laptop.