OK, I HATE that I noticed this mere minutes after learning of Alan Rickman’s death. I even hated making a small note on Facebook about the language surrounding David Bowie’s death:
I didn’t want to gripe about language so soon after #DavidBowie‘s death. But, damn, one UK headline I saw actually said Bowie “lost” his battle to cancer.
Now, it’s bad enough that the people behind the official Facebook announcement used regrettable language about his “courageous battle”, but at least they did not say lose. I cannot blame the media for using “courageous battle” when it was part of the official announcement. But putting “lose” in there–for fuck’s sake!
As I’ve said MANY times I just don’t even buy into this whole battle structure. But if I were to go with that flow for a moment, and concede that perhaps Bowie was framing the last months of his life with cancer as a battle…who in their right mind would say he lost? He released this album–kind of made it all like his art….seems to me he did his death on his own terms. Hardly a loss!
I mean, Bowie just seemed so alien, such an Artist with a capital “A”, that bringing up the old CancerLand semantics quibble seemed silly, petty, small.
But this morning I’m seeing that Rickman “suffered” from cancer, while Bowie “courageously battled” cancer. What the hell? Who is writing this? What idiot editor is approving this?
Why does everything have to be sooooo dramatic?! Cancer is dramatic enough with all the hair loss, fear, vomiting, fear, pain, fear…you follow me. Why do we have to put this dramatic framework around it? Why can the media not just say simply: “had cancer”, “died of cancer”, or “was treated for cancer for the past x number of months”? Why all the drama, drama, drama!
Of course, I have to cool my outrage at the journalists a little. I realize that some of these phrases are taken straight from official announcements—by family members or PR people—so they are merely quoting these awful phrases.
So I guess my bigger issue is with the way society on the whole talks about cancer. We need a BIG overhaul, not in how we talk about cancer—but how we view it, how we think about it. Instead of people getting all riled up, like they do with “politically correct” phrases—think about WHY these phrases are insulting. If there is an understanding of why words like “suffer” and “lose the battle” are hurtful, well, it SHOULD follow that better word or phrase selection would be easier, no? In other words, rather than having cancer patients provide a handy dandy list of “acceptable” phrases for journalists and others to regurgitate, if a little empathy was in practice—maybe people could figure it out for themselves. THINK, people!
Harsh? I don’t give a shit today.
Yes, the issue is with society as a whole, how we think about cancer. But as we tend to pick up phrases from media and pop culture, journalists, and heck, TV sitcom writers could lead the way here. Stop using the fucking battle language, or words like suffer!!
I’m offering free training to change the way y’all think about cancer, in the hopes that your writing about the latest celebrity cancer death will improve. Simple, don’t even have to enroll or sign up.
Just read any post on this fucking blog!!