Sans Sugarcoating: Breast Cancer Awareness Campaigns

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Written by Mariem ELTagoury

*Please note that names of places & people are kept discreet for privacy issues. Also the use of Franco Arab in this article is to deliver the detailed picture of incidents. 

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It’s October and in some parts of the world that means it’s time for the pink fever, aka breast cancer awareness campaigns. Over here in Egypt unfortunately, we don’t see much of that going on especially in the past two years and on, politics is the only campaign that everyone and anyone is and will be talking about.

But putting that aside; it seems that the whole pink campaign has taken a whole commercial slide down from the major original cause. Somehow, an awareness campaign for women’s health has become sort of a business and a sexist joke.

According to this article, less than 10% of NFL pink merchandise sales actually fund breast cancer research! This article over here from 2010, reveals how several cosmetic brands sell their products under ‘pink flags’ while actually these products contain carcinogenic ingredients in their products!

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Stooping just a little lower are the slogans and ads of the new campaigns; apparently to improve ‘marketing the campaign’, we now have slogans like “Save the Tatas!” and “Save a Boob!” Pardon my ignorance but I used to think that cancer awareness campaigns were for saving lives!

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Speaking of which, did I mention Pornhub supports breast cancer research simply by watching videos? Its slogan: “Help Pornhub Save the Boobs!” Yes! Apparently breast cancer is now sexy! Don’t believe me, ask the Asian hunk in the picture below 😉 And why shouldn’t it be! It’s an excellent excuse to have ads with sexy chicks, touching each other! It couldn’t get better than this.

Creep!
Creep!

*Note: I don’t mind nudity in campaigns if it is for a good cause; my criticism is for campaigns like the one below.

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How did such an important campaign fall into a pit of woman degradation is beyond me. Honestly I was too disappointed by what I was seeing online to even mention the topic in a good light; that’s until I ended up chatting about the topic with a friend who had past experiences with awareness campaigns here in Egypt.

“It’s a very important topic. If it was up to me, I’d remind women about self breast test every month of the year, not just October!” she said. I asked if it really affects people, she said “yes, a lot of the women we meet actually told us how they wished they knew about early detection methods before they reached later stages of the disease. Some moments are very emotional…”

“What was your most emotional moment?” I asked

She answered, “People who lost their loved ones to the disease, they’d cry as they told their stories”

“Is that what makes you passionate about these campaigns?”

“What makes me passionate is that I’ve met so many people who don’t have a clue about this disease. They don’t realize that they should examine themselves monthly and, after a certain age, should have regular mammogram tests!”

“I understand you use booths for the campaign. Do you approach people or do you wait for them to inquire?”

“Two years ago, there used to be a marathon, and the Ministry of Health would send out campaign cars for awareness all over Egypt, but all that stopped. I was involved with booths only. We’d wait for people to inquire and interact with us. Actually this campaign gets the highest interaction rate throughout the year.”

“Why is that in your opinion?”

“Because of the high victim rate; you’re bound to know someone who died from the disease. If it isn’t a relative or a friend, then it’s a co-worker or even a neighbor. In short, most people know someone who died of such a disease, but they don’t understand it”

“So it’s the high death rate?”

“Not just that…it’s how they hush up the topic”

“Who does?”

“The media, the regulators, the schools, the universities, everyone! In my university, they refused to play our explanatory video material, even though it was all graphical explanations, no live acting!”

“If they were explanatory, why prohibit them?”

“Because we live in a society where medical awareness about breasts is considered disgraceful (aeb) “

“What were the people’s reactions to the material you talked about in general?”

“Some were thankful. Some were scared.”

“Scared?”

“The numbers are high. They realized that there is a disease that they could easily fall victim to…”

As we ended our chat, it left me thinking. As a community, we do not shy away from advertising obviously R rated ads  for Viagra and drugs that target men’s problems in their, ummm, sensitive areas, yet our media never has the guts to portrait the breast cancer issue even in a formal way! The last time I heard the media talk about breast cancer awareness was more than 3 years ago; the program was ELAshera Msa’aan, and I recall the guest was a doctor from an awareness campaign. I recall him stating how he found difficulty convincing women to touch themselves for self tests because they considered it disgraceful (aeb). Amusingly men exploit that privilege for self pleasure!

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Frankly, we do need awareness in Egypt; but not the commercial kind, not the sexist jokes we’re seeing; the real kind. No pink-washing here! The kind that educates women for their health, for better lives, for less family heart-aches, and most importantly, for a better future for women.

What do you think?

What was your favorite awareness campaign? Do you think awareness campaigns really affect the Egyptian society positively? Will you try to join an awareness campaign this year? Please tell us what you think by leaving a comment below!

 

 

 

 

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