The Washington Post

Pinktober! Queue another stupid Facebook meme

There’s a chill in the air. That used to mean leaves turning yellow and crimson, but now it means everything in sight turning pink for Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

October means a new Facebook meme that allegedly raises “awareness” of breast cancer. 

Benghazi residents and activists make a human chain in the shape of a “pink ribbon”, lit by a central firework, during a rally to mark International Breast Cancer Awareness Month. (Abdullah Doma/AFP/GettyImages)

In years past, female Facebook members would post – without explanation – where they put their purses when they got home. “I like it on the kitchen counter.” Wink, wink.

The year before that they posted the colors of the bras they wear wearing. Red. Nude.

This helps raise awareness? Really? I wonder if some breast cancer survivor somewhere posted: I have no breasts, no bra, just scars. There’s some awareness for you.

 Now a new sexy Facebook meme is making the rounds:

Ok ladies it’s that time of year again, in support of breast cancer awareness!! So we all remember last years game of writing a color as your status?…..or the way we like to have our handbag handy? Well this year, it’s slightly different. You need to write your shoe size, ( just the number) followed by the word `inches’ and how long it takes to do your hair… Remember last year so many people took part it made national news and, the constant updating of status reminded everyone why we’re doing this and helped raise awareness!! Do NOT tell any males what the status’ mean, keep them guessing!! And please copy and paste (in a message ) this to all your female friends to see if we can make a bigger fuss this year than last year!!! I did my part… now YOUR turn ! Go on ladies…and let’s have all the men guessing!!………

Me? 11 inches, 10 minutes. Ha ha. Ha ha ha ha ha ha.

Sorry to spoil your fun, “ladies,” but cancer is not a joyride, as author Barbara Ehrenreich makes clear in her essay Welcome to Cancerland

Cancer is not sexy. Try depressing. Try scary. Try lethal.

That’s not to say patients do not rise to the challenge. The ones I know (and knew) astonished me with their resilience and compassion. 

I am an ovarian cancer survivor of 11 years and counting, and I know how hard it is to face the next day with the odds stacked against you. My fellow survivors gave lie to the notion that women lack the courage to stand with men in combat. Women fight every day.

But just because cancer patients and survivors carry their burdens with uncommon grace does not mean this disease is anything but tragic.

You don’t see any sexy Facebook games to raise awareness of school shootings, do you? Or a sexually suggestive meme on the anniversary of 9/11. No. That would spark outrage. 

And yet every year about 40,000 breast cancer patients in the United States will die from the disease. That’s a 9/11 every month, year in and year out.

Perhaps the onslaught of pink has anesthetized the public. Pink teddy bears. Pink candy. People would do well to think before they “pinked.”

If only cancer were as benign as a frothy color we recall from our childhoods. But in the words of Breast Cancer Action, it’s no game. It’s an epidemic.

Donna Trussell  is a Texas-born writer living in Kansas City. Follow her on Twitter @donnatrussell

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