Before the pink ribbon, awareness as an end in itself was not the default goal for health-related causes. Now you’d be hard-pressed to find a major illness without a logo, a wearable ornament and a roster of consumer-product tie-ins. Heart disease has its red dress, testicular cancer its yellow bracelet. During “Movember” — a portmanteau of “mustache” and “November” — men are urged to grow their facial hair to “spark conversation and raise awareness” of prostate cancer (another illness for which early detection has led to large-scale overtreatment) and testicular cancer. “These campaigns all have a similar superficiality in terms of the response they require from the public,” said Samantha King, associate professor of kinesiology and health at Queen’s University in Ontario and author of “Pink Ribbons, Inc.” “They’re divorced from any critique of health care policy or the politics of funding biomedical research. They reinforce a single-issue competitive model of fund-raising. And they whitewash illness: we’re made ‘aware’ of a disease yet totally removed from the challenging and often devastating realities of its sufferers.
I’ve been ~chosen as a patient profile for a fundraising push my clinic is doing. Which is really cool, and I’m honoured. I’ve worked with them before doing some PR/patient face stuff. It’s nice to be able to participate in something that is obviously important to me, and this time around there’s big money on the table—and more importantly, huge huge growth opportunities for the clinic. This push could potentially be a big deal and do a lot of good for a seriously overloaded, underfunded and under-researched clinic.
But I know part of the reason they chose me is because I’m a young pretty white cis girl, and I’m well-spoken and well-educated (rich). And that part of participating in this campaign means being flattened out and normalized by the PR machine. I’ve seen the first draft of the profile, and it’s all about making me palatable to a donor. I know they’re going to minimize (erase) my queer femme identity and make palatable my illness identity by turning me into an inspiringly brave surivor, a supercrip. I try to tell my own story about my illness, and the very fact of participating in PR means someone else is doing the telling.
I’m still going to do it, because this way I have at least some participation, can influence the message in a tiny way by being a silent little queerbomb in the middle of party. Because even though it sucks that this is about money and capitalism, the end goal (research and more doctors for my clinic) is more important to me than the particulars of storytelling. I’ll resist in the ways that I can: they want a picture of me for my profile; I think I’m gonna give them something with an edge of femme ridiculousness. Fuck yeah sicko drag.