Awareness… Yeah, That’s the Ticket!

22 Jun

There is a new “cancer awareness” campaign targeting women’s pubic hair. Cancer of the pubes? Nope. Your cervix! You know, cuz lady bits are all just one big amalgamation to be pornified.

This is not, of course, the first time women’s body parts have been turned into objects under the guise of ‘awareness’. There has been the ubiquitous pink merchandise that declares “I <3 boobies”, for example. (Fun side story. . . before I knew these bracelets and so forth were for “breast cancer awareness” I legitimately thought it was some overtly misogynistic crap designed to sexually harass women. Why? Because I only saw men with the bracelets and stickers, and particularly dudebro-y men at that.)

There’s campaigns to “save the boobies” and “save the ta-tas”, emphasizing the preservation of fatty masses over the life of an actual female human being.

There are “dance for the cure” parties for women. And the dancing? Around a pole, natch.

The Susan G. Komen Foundation had an ad showing a woman with a shirt that reads, “Punch it, strangle it, kick it, spit on it, choke it, and pummel it until its good and dead.” Hahaha! You thought we were talking about murdering a woman! Funny jokes!

There was Boobie-thon, which urges women to send in photos of their breasts, covered or uncovered.

I think you get the idea. This newest sexy-cancer campaign is supposedly mirrored after Movember in which males grow out mustaches or other facial hair to bring awareness to general “men’s health issues”, including male-specific cancers. Creating a similarly awkward portmanteau of ‘vagina’ and ‘July’, this newest cervical cancer awareness-raiser is called Julyna. (I’m strangely reminded of that episode of Seinfeld in which Jerry can’t remember the name of a woman and only knows that it rhymes with a female body part.)

And so, Julyna kicks off with not only a hilarious name, but an inaccurate one. Vaginas and cervixes: not the same thing, actually! The campaign further removes itself from the actual subject with its promotion of sculpting pubic hair, something the founders chose to create ‘media buzz’. It seems if you’re not showing pictures of breasts or shaving your pubes, no one much cares about ‘awareness’.

The parallels with Movember pretty much end with its involvement of hair in some way. Other than that, it is actually a reversal. Men keep their facial hair, women remove their pubes. As the last linked article says, the website for Julyna “has sample design ideas and suggestions on how to execute shapes with the least amount of discomfort.” There will be discomfort (ingrown hairs, itchies, etc) but just not as much as there could be. Got it.

Not only is the campaign Not Helpful in the way that it promotes sexualization of female bodies for some bullshit ‘awareness’, but the awareness it is raising is over something rather dubious. Cervical cancer is believed to be caused by HPV, a virus which is transmitted to the cervix almost solely through penis-in-vagina contact. While I don’t expect a soon-to-be-popular movement to include a critique of PIV, that should be a part of any campaign that is truly trying to reduce the cases of cervical cancer.

As with any mainstream awareness movement dealing with cervical cancer, Julyna hypes the importance of very frequent Pap tests. As I have written about before, cervical cancer screening (particularly in the U.S.) is used far too often, is unreliable, and is part of a broader system of medical surveillance of female bodies as a means of control. The constant urging of women to ‘test early and test often’ serves to make women afraid of their own bodies and shame women as irrational and immature for deciding against the test. With the sexy-cancer angle, the concurrent pressure to get Pap tests is similarly unacceptable and harmful to women.

Now, in an attempt to balance the scales, I have a proposal. I ask everyone to join me in supporting my new personal cancer awareness-raising cause: testicular cancer. To increase knowledge about it, I ask that all men bleach their assholes. It’ll be a great attention-getter!

(Thanks to Jilla for bringing this campaign to my attention.)

 

9 Responses to “Awareness… Yeah, That’s the Ticket!”

  1. Violet June 23, 2011 at 10:42 am #

    Yes. Thank you.

    One of things that annoys me about all this palaver is the assumption that women are reluctant to access gynaecological care and smear tests and the like, it’s simply because they haven’t been targeted STRONGLY ENOUGH with huge public campaigns involving leaflets and stickers and pink glitter and body-shaving and the like.

    The many discussions I’ve had with women round this subject indicate that painful exams, confidentiality and privacy breaches, accusations (or implication) they are lying about their sexual history and symptoms, and a staggering lack of respect for anything vaguely related to informed consent (with emphasis on both ‘informed’, and ‘consent’), are the reasons why women are reluctant to cooperate with cervical screening and the like, and why many others cooperate but with a real cost to their emotional and physical self. I’d really love for a change to see a nationwide poster, sticker and badge campaign about actually making the procedure ethical, patient-centred and woman-friendly, rather than sprinkling glitter all over what is little more than public emotional blackmail. How about a badge saying “No means No! (and that includes you with the medical degree, yes, YOU)”. A t-shirt with “Yes, but what is MY actual chance of developing this illness?“. Or shaving “Informed consent needed!”* into your pubic hair perhaps? (I’m sure you clever ladies will come up with something more snappy than all these suggestions!).

    If our various media, health and education services actually did their job properly these campaigns wouldn’t be necessary – women would have already made an informed and uncoerced decision to screen, or not to screen, and it would have been made as a private medical decision without the input of the ribbon, badge and hair-waxing industries.

    *(yes I know, you’d have to write quite small)

  2. Linda Radfem June 23, 2011 at 3:43 pm #

    Nice take down! It ties in nicely with theories of victim-blaming doesn’t it? It’s our fault when men assault us because we didn’t take precautions. Now it’s our fault when they give us cervical cancer, for the same reason.

  3. Hecuba June 24, 2011 at 8:07 am #

    How about – men roll up to get your pubic hair shaved in aid of prostrate cancer? They can also bleach their anuses too because men not shaving hair from their faces is not the same as women being coerced and cajoled into shaving their pubic hair!

    Or better still – let’s have a campaign warning all women of the dangers of having a penis thrusting into their vaginas because PIV is very dangerous to women and that is why so many women contract cervical cancer – because the penis is the organ which transmits those nasty viruses into women and puts puts their lives at risk from contracting STDS, cervical cancer, chlymidia. Oh but wait – PIV is sacrosant to men is it not and all women have no choice (sic) but to submit to male demands of sticking their penises into women and calling it ‘sex!’

  4. smash June 27, 2011 at 10:49 am #

    Great post, and nice summary of all the cringe-worthy awareness campaigns. That shirt about strangling and kicking breast cancer is extremely creepy.

  5. Abc June 29, 2011 at 6:12 am #

    Thank you, thank you, thank you for writing on this topic. I’m posting anon here (which I try not to do) the reason I’m doing this is that I work for the sponsor organization. Yes, I have voiced my objections, and I was told not to worry because it doesn’t affect me, that is is risque but that it is that way to appeal to younger women (I’m 30). Not to mention how offensive it is that we’re baiting younger women as sex objects.

    Thank you, thank you, thank you. I am so glad to not feel like a lone nutcase.

  6. dlb2 July 30, 2011 at 10:52 pm #

    The annoying thing: cervical cancer is rare and was in natural decline before testing even started – without randomized controlled trials we’ll never know for sure whether pap testing helps anyone, but if it does, it’s very few women – less than 0.45% and to help them it means worrying and harming HUGE numbers of healthy women with false positives and over-treatment. (which can leave a woman with permanent damage leading to infertility, premature babies, cervical stenosis etc)

    The other facts: no country in the world has shown a benefit pap testing women under 30, but all have evidence of harm. Why do we pressure young women into these programs? IMO, profits and politics…these women have the highest risk of a false positive and over-treatment. I think control is a factor too…wishing to “groom” women into future compliance – get them early.
    I was shocked to see an article from Canada where schoolgirls are encouraged to accept routine pelvic exams when they’re older…that is just sick – these people know the routine pelvic exam is unhelpful and risks your health from false positives, excess procedures and even surgery. See: “Questioning the value of the routine pelvic exam” and Dr Carolyn Westhoff (on line)
    I’m 53 and have never had a routine pelvic exam – I’d refuse it if a doctor ever suggested I have one and I’d probably report the doctor – doing unnecessary exams risks the health of women – if a doctor wants to do an exam he/she “believes” in, they need to warn women the exam is not evidence based and carries risk….it’s called informed consent and yes, it applies to women as well. Other doctors are just out-of-date and need to do refreshers.

    Pap testing more often than 5 yearly from age 30 means more risk from false positives. Finland has shown just 5 to 7 tests in total is effective – they have the lowest rates of cc in the world and just as importantly send the fewest women for colposcopy/biopsies – although there referral rates are still high when you consider the rarity of this cancer.
    I think most women could forget pap testing if they received the right information, but I doubt that will ever happen – misinformation has been the norm for decades and those who profit from this testing will protect their turf….the health of women is irrelevant to them.
    This is clear when you see programs shaped to harm and worry as many women as possible and absurd things like including women not yet sexually active in the States and testing women who’ve had full hysterectomies for benign conditions or those in lifetime mutually monogamous relationships.

    A woman at 30 could have a blood test for high risk HPV and if negative and in a monogamous relationship or no longer sexually active, could forget testing. She could have another HPV blood test in 5 years time if she needs further reassurance or could re-test if her risk profile changes (a new partner) – women who test positive to high risk HPV could test 5 yearly…and keep doing infrequent HPV testing – their bodies will in most cases, eventually clear the infection.
    See: “Cervical cancer screening” (a handout for doctors!) in “Australian Doctor” July 2006 by Assoc Prof Margaret Davy and Dr Shorne. (online, a download)

    Cervical screening is pushed to maximize harm and profits and is so fabulously profitable that any attempt to inform women of risks and actual benefits or to give them better options is swiftly censored or dismissed by way of another scare campaign.
    IMO, this is the greatest threat to our health and a shocking violation of our rights and bodies.
    I have never participated in cervical screening: an informed decision made almost 30 years ago on the basis of information that is not released to women – I see straight through the lies and manipulations of the truth – knowledge will set you free and enable you to protect your healthy body and make the best decisions for your level of risk.

    Beware of breast screening as well – once again – highly emotive, political and profitable – I’ve passed due to concerns about over-diagnosis, something rarely, if ever, mentioned to women. The truth is out there – please, do your reading!
    Ref: Dr Joel Sherman’s medical privacy forum under womens’ privacy issues – in the side see research by Dr Angela Raffle et al, Prof Baum and Richard DeMay.
    Nordic Cochrane Institute’s website: “The risks and benefits of mammograms” and at the Medphyzz site and at Prof Michael Baum’s website, “Breast cancer screening: the inconvenient truths” – lecture at UCL recently – Prof Baum is an eminent UK-based breast cancer surgeon.

  7. fwancis August 27, 2011 at 12:25 am #

    Oh, how clever! Julyna sounds like vagina! What a perfect name for something promoting awareness of… cervical cancer! To the idiots behind “Julyna”: There is such a thing as VAGINAL cancer, which is clearly in dire need of awareness-promotion.

    Check out the photo on the Introduction page. You get an introduction all right: a man in the centre of a group of women. Would this shit fly on a website for Movember? (Well, maybe if the woman in the centre was all pornified with the suggestion being that she was the men’s prize)

    I have to admit, though, some of the suggested designs made me laugh – which I’m pretty sure was intended – especially the “side part” one, mostly because it reads as a satire of the fucking stupid beauty standards women are subjected to. Luckily, though, they made sure to include the brazilian (as if anyone’s unfamiliar with that style) to make it clear that it’s straightforward sexy fun non-threatening sexy choosy-choice sex-positive cheeky sexy cute empowerfulfillingness sexy.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Real Men Don’t Buy Girls, They Just Do Everything Else | Radfem Hub - July 20, 2011

    [...] appeal to men who, after all, comprise virtually all of those who use prostitutes. It’s like how the Julyna campaign “raises awareness” for cervical cancer by instructing women to trim and shave their pubic hair into different shapes. It gets people [...]

  2. Real Men Don’t Buy Girls, They Just Do Everything Else « Liberation Collective - May 28, 2012

    [...] appeal to men who, after all, comprise virtually all of those who use prostitutes. It’s like how the Julyna campaign “raises awareness” for cervical cancer by instructing women to trim and shave their pubic hair into different shapes. It gets people [...]

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