I wasn’t fond of catch phrases or slogans before cancer, but after I was done with treatment (in my white-hot angry phase), I came to HATE them. Oh no, is that a cancer lesson? (Yes, that’s sarcasm.)
I’ve eased up a little bit in my loathing of catch phrases. That has little to do with cancer/health advocacy and more to do with my foray into political activism. I now spend time trying to create catchy phrases—if not outright slogans—to make into short tweets or Instagram quotes. What can I say, there is no room for nuance in the American mind.
Back in September I posted (on FB) an Ovarian Cancer graphic, something with a “not all cancers are pink” slogan on it. Someone pointed out in comments that breast cancer isn’t pink either. I chuckled to myself—I once probably said the same thing, angrily, back in the day. And it is totally right. I guess I was so busy/distracted/unfocused that in my haste to make sure I honored September as Ovarian cancer’s “month”, I paid little attention—just shared the first thing that popped up in my feed.
I’ve spent so much time since ending treatment railing about how much I hate the factory-like churn of finding a cause, labeling it, assigning a color and a ribbon. I still hate it, but I have tried to submerge the hatred in an effort to be a better advocate. Once upon a time I even tried to get my Maryland hometown to join the Paint the Town Teal Ovarian Cancer awareness events (where I work in Delaware, they do a great job). I offered to help coordinate—but never wanted to take on sole leadership because, well, I had breast cancer, not ovarian. And I hate ribbons. But after November 2016 I had to focus elsewhere. I get it that anyone currently going through either cancer, that is likely their whole world. But I have to think bigger (protecting/demanding health care access/lower costs/preexisting conditions) right now—unless a recurrence shrinks my whole world again.
I spend A LOT of time these days thinking about words and phrases that will stick in the minds of the public. Crazy, considering I once wrote a whole post (SOME WORD PROBLEMS) about hating common phrases in breast cancer culture. I still hate all those phrases, and often want to fight anyone saying something as asinine as “mammograms save lives”. It just seems these phrases have lost meaning—do people even know what they are saying when they say “support awareness”—what does that even mean?! You BE aware, or cultivate/grow awareness in others—but SUPPORT it? Why the hell support awareness? Soooooo stupid it burns my brain to contemplate it!
Look, the truth is, ALL the slogans and catchy phrases suck. I can tear all of them down. I guess the main goal is trying to avoid outright harm.
OK, so with that lofty aim, what IS harm, in the world of breast cancer slogans? Because of my personal history (mammo showed my big ass 6cm tumor and radiologist dismissed it); I would say “mammograms save lives” is harmful—but obviously my view is skewed. (Check here and there is probably more, but I’ve been bitching about this too long now, so just read random blog posts–I likely complained. )
What about “save the ta-tas” and ALL the related “sexy” things, like “just here for the boobs” and the Coppafeel organization? Also, please know I HATE all slang for breasts. So I can REALLY go off on the harm this shit causes.
What about 1 in 8 and the caveats that are in that stat?
What about all the be positive/she-ro mess? Oh FFS (Take the Mythical Image of the Strong Breast Cancer Survivor and Bury HER Once & For All).
What about all the “brews and boobs” celebrations (see Chicken and Beer)? I mean, encouraging drinking is not great, right? Don’t get me started on the live healthy/blame game stuff (see Did You? OMG I’ve covered nearly everything, why can’t we progress in cancer activism, arrrgggghhhh)
OK, there are probably more but honestly I can’t even right now. Personally I can make arguments as to why all the above are harmful. I guess I need perspective. Thoughts?
I shall end my ramble here.
(As I write this, I am in an online squabble with someone I don’t know about a political graphic I attempted to make—so take this post with a grain of salt. I’m a little touchy about things at the moment.)