A Problem In Pink

October is a month filled with many different things isn’t it? Halloween comes to mind first but let’s not forget it is also Stoptober for those trying to quit smoking and is the designated Breast Cancer Awareness month. Pinktober… yes not a very clever name, is supposed to be a month in which efforts are made to raise awareness about those diagnosed with breast cancer, though there are some issues I have with the whole thing. I never take too kindly to campaigns solely based in raising awareness, chances are we’re aware of what they’re campaigning about (except maybe things like the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge raising awareness of Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, something I’m sure wasn’t much in the public mind beforehand). So what’s wrong with Pinktober if you ask me? Well, where to begin?

The Pink Ribbon movement was originally a feminist ordeal to get the discussion of breast cancer out in the open because whilst breast cancer has been around for a long time, it hasn’t always been an acceptable subject of conversation. Ridiculous to think of it like that now but once upon a time, a time so recent that your parents or grandparents might remember it, you had to keep hush-hush if you had it, talking about your breasts in any context was vulgar, even if it was to tell people you have a life-changing affliction that affected said breasts. However, what started as a noble goal to make a taboo subject something the world had to pay attention to is now more of a money-making scam laden with sexism, commercialism and a small-minded attitude of focus upon breasts over cancer or indeed, the victims they’re supposed to be helping out. In fact, there’s even a term for this corruption, pink-washing.

Pink-washing, in this instance, refers to the sleazy efforts of corporations trying to cash in on a charity by slapping said charity’s label on a product they sell and assuring us a percentage of their profits goes to the charity they claim to represent. The pink ribbon is the most exploited of these symbols, having been stuck on even things such as beer bottles. Whilst many companies are happy to just give some spare change away and think themselves in the right, this easy way out fails to educate anyone on anything and some of these percentages and donations are so minimal they can’t be doing it for anything beyond good publicity. Of course, if you point this out to people that buying all the ribbons in the world doesn’t promote any awareness whatsoever and that pink shirts and pink pop bottles aren’t the answer, you get called out as a monster, strange though it seems. A campaign to discuss a serious health condition and the knock-on effect it has on the lives of those with it has been reduced to a garish pink mess of boob jokes and self-righteous parties. If you buy pink, you’re helping right? Well, no, you know no better so you’re not more aware and when these pink ribbons can be found attached to products that can CAUSE CANCER, it’s a real kick in the shins for those fighting for the cause. After all, you don’t see Oxfam branded caviar or British Heart Foundation branded cigarettes.

The media has dumbed down something as complex as the development of cancer into a popular viral branding scheme, dressed it up in pink and made it into a sexist mess? How is it sexist you ask? Free the ta-tas. Yeah, a breast cancer awareness campaign focused solely on breasts, on how wonderful and amazing boobs are. Forget the woman behind them, she’s dying, so what? Nah, save those perky pink orbs! A woman is more than a pair of breasts! Let’s not forget that men can get breast cancer, do we free his ta-tas too? I’m all for funny and interesting ways to get people to care but efforts lately have been warped into focusing on a sole part of a woman’s anatomy and forgetting about the men in the same boat, the women being oggled and the families who have to adapt or possibly even grieve. A study by Bright Pink showed two thirds of women they interviewed would do more to change their lifestyle if it prevented breast cancer but only about half of those women knew where to start making those changes. The Pink Ribbon stuff has been around for as long as I can remember but I’ll admit to a limited knowledge of breast cancer and I’ll bet most of you reading couldn’t outline how to get checked, how to prevent it happening and what happens if you do get breast cancer. One in eight women will get breast cancer in their lifetime but only 10% of women know what to do to correctly estimate their risk of developing it… put simply, we know what breast cancer is, we as a society just know jack shit about it.

There is a certain kind of ignorance that surrounds this cause, a kind that I’m sure will have some who read this thinking I just don’t care and I’m calling this entire thing a worthless con, I’m not. However, when you reject the people your cause represents and turn a noble cause into a capitalist nightmare to feel like you’re the patron saint of all things good and righteous just because you wear a ribbon and attend a cake sale, you fall out of touch with the spirit of charity and you overlook the importance of your cause. I understand it’s difficult to get actual factual information circling in the public psyche but it is not impossible and sadly painting the town pink and calling it an effort to raise awareness isn’t the way to do it. We’re all aware, who really hasn’t heard of breast cancer these days? The people are AWARE of it, now it’s time to educate them on the reality of it, on the people it changes and what needs to be done. As it stands, this campaign has become something ignorant, something corrupt and dare I say it for the irony… something rather cancerous.

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Passionate Contempt

First things first, not to let fame go to my head but I was recognised on the street today as Old Man Wolfe, or rather:
“Hey, isn’t that Old Man Wolfe?”
“Who?”
“You know, that wanker who writes about feminism and shit”
Genuine dialogue there ladies and gentlemen, I am a wanker that writes about feminism and shit. I’m a little hurt, feminism and shit? I write about feminism and David Cameron, Sonic the Hedgehog, Russell Brand… ok yeah, feminism and shit making more sense now… That aside, in sticking with my pages of wank upon this blog of shit, I’ve got more for you, a requested article even (not commissioned, I’m not THAT popular, just a “Hey can you do one about…?”). So, I won’t deny my fans, what few I have, here comes the famed Wolfe wanker to deliver his opinions on the subject of being passionate about our interests, whether or not that makes us ‘hipsters’ and why we feel the way we do about such matters.

At this point, the word ‘irony’ crops up nine times out of ten, more particularly in how it is misused and abused by the population, excusing their behaviour as acts of irony, completely missing the point of the word, we get it. Truth is, on that front, you either know better or you don’t, no amount of intellectual snobbery will fix the internet – people will keep doing dumb shit and call it ironic, we all know what the word means as it is defined in the dictionary, it’s a losing battle to try and fight when you come across some idiot being ‘ironic’ when they’re actually just being stupid or ignorant. I’m actually here about the other abuse of irony, claiming to love something perceived as tacky or awful out of ironic pleasure and how that branches off from a culture of disenfranchisement and distinguishing “I love He-Man because it is so bad it’s good” and “I love this obscure franchise because I genuinely love it, not because I’m trying to set a trend or be outside the box”

See, you use the word ‘hipster’ here and you think of two different types – the one with a profound love for the unpopular and unheard of, seen as a pretentious dickwad looking for new ways to buck the trend, and the one who is also seen as a dick because they hold everything in contempt, calling everything they see commercial crap or unoriginal or not as good as this or that or the other. A weird culture indeed, where does it come from? Well, it’s a flaw of my generation, the media plays us as generally disinterested layabouts – we aren’t the stoic heroes of yesteryear, we missed the hippie revolution and we’re weirded out by what comes after us as being the sort of cack we bought into as kids but now that we’re “grown up”, we’re not supposed to like any more. Growing up, it’s easy to be disinterested in the world around you, you’re full of angst and bitterness and raging hormones but once you hit your twenties, nostalgia kicks in, you pine for a more innocent time and suddenly all that plastic crap becomes wondrous through rose-tinted shades. Think Thundercats, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, iCarly, hardly works of fine art but I bet one of them or something like them has a place in your heart for all its flaws. A generation raised on the devil-may-care too cool to give a damn mindset forked into two very different paths – passionate about discovery and passionate about not being passionate.

The latter culture, passionate about a lack of passion, breeds a psyche of “Effort is uncool, enthusiasm is stupid”, bred in the hearts of the grunge music of our cooler older siblings when we were young and a life revolving around hardening one’s shell, especially in the form of typical masculinity. After all, imagine being a fifteen year old and telling our friends at rugby practice that you’re thinking of having a That’s So Raven marathon and then imagine the state of your testicles later, considerably more swollen and sore one should imagine. A harsh disconnect with the world, born of a survival instinct and then later transformed into some warped sense of intellectual superiority or being too ‘cool’ for bursts of excitement, led to this grumpier sort of person of my generation, myself included to some extent. To this day, I rarely get excited, for me that “get hard or die” psyche was intensified by being the eldest in my family, the supposed smartest in my classes and the social outcast in a school full of violent thugs, I couldn’t afford tears or anything that could be exploited, occasions when word let slip I had feelings for someone in my class, myself and the person I cared for were bullied and heckled to no end, it turned me into a vengeful stone cold walking behemoth of irritability, something I’m still receiving counselling for to this day.

You should also consider we were born into a world that raced through technological advancements and yet dwindled in opportunities, the internet didn’t show us the world was better, it showed us the world was better than us, at that point it became why bother? Helicopter parenting only really got called out as a bad thing within the last twenty years, too late for someone like me who has already been moulded by such, it led to this generation of hearts encased in stone because it seems easier that way – never try so never fail, never care so never grieve. As more and more franchises get rebooted, retooled or live to the point of stagnation and lack of originality, perhaps for some it is easier to say sod it to having favourites and holding all things in equal contempt, only holding a soft spot for things that cannot be revamped or remade. Oasis, Nirvana, Arctic Monkeys, music and emotion that cannot be portrayed by anyone else, bands that won’t “sell out” or catch on with their shitty little brothers and sisters, relics of the time when stuff was ‘cool’

The other more optimistic road journeyed down was that of discovery, of branching out, taking passions and interests from youth and watering the seeds of joy into full grown forests. You start at Pokemon, you go onto Cardcaptors, you find Naruto and then so on and so on until you go so far through the looking glass, the Cheshire Cat puts his paws up like “Hell naw man, that’s some weird shit”. Such individuals were persecuted as nerds but responded to the bullying of their youth by just enduring it, not so much becoming as hard as a mountain but bowing like grass in the wind – a mountain doesn’t move in a storm but then grass doesn’t move much either, the land beneath it gets torn up but grass isn’t so much destroyed as strewn about. Of course, this passion for discovery led to creativity, to ‘nerdiness’, to an internet culture of memes and fan-fiction where people could unashamedly share their fantasies of making out with Sasuke Uchiha whilst exchanging information and recommendations, giving each other maps for the weird roads they had walked down. Chances are if you’re thinking of someone this reminds you of, they may well have a tumblr, not just a tumblr, I mean like one of THOSE tumblrs. Superwholock and so on. Personally, whilst sometimes cringing because of my underlying cool-guy bravado pressured upon me, such people can be held in admiration, they werent’ scared to be in love and let it grow, they became much more creative and inventive and broadened their palette, not bad considering they mostly started in the same place – commercial cartoon slop pushing toys down their throats.

Here’s where we go full circle then, back to the point of irony, a word that became a safe way of saying “I don’t want to admit I enjoy this inherently terrible thing”. Genuine ironic pleasure, liking something you know you rationally think is atrocious, is a good thing, it allows one to communicate with their true self, asking themselves why they might enjoy something so bad. I’ll put myself on the line here, my ‘guilty pleasure’ is Sabrina the Teenage Witch. Yes, a show meant for teen girls when I was only old enough to be interested in Digimon and Scooby-Doo but I watched it anyway, I loved it, mainly for Salem. On reflection as an adult, I found I probably liked it because I saw myself in the characters; Sabrina, the super-talented youth who must try to fit in even though she’s clearly leagues ahead, very true of my young self; Salem, the mind of a tiger-like man in a pussycat body who finds comfort in food, very true of my adult self; Aunt Zelda, the voice of reason and seen as boring or callous but in fact really enjoys intellectual stimulation and worthy peers, very true of myself as a rule through life. I acknowledge the shoe is bad, it’s a campy comedy for hormonal schoolgirls, the romance is strained, the plots are inane nonsense, the Salem puppet looks like a mitten with a face and Harvey’s actor is a generic “cool boy I want to like me” template, as is his character. Knowing that though, I still watch it with a smile, if only to hear Salem wail (Seriously, every episode, at least once, Salem will either burst into tears or shout “NOOOOOOOOOOO!”)

Guilty pleasures and ironic enjoyment are the way of the passionate about a lack of passion expressing themselves without breaking down and admitting to themselves they actually care, in this way, perhaps it is a really damaging thing to deal with, it’s essentially self-hatred. Guilty pleasure shouldn’t be a thing, if you aren’t hurting anyone at least. We let this festering feeling of apathy overwhelm us all as teenagers, we wanted to fit in and be cool and denied ourselves what we cared about, or at least some of us did. With that in mind, it’s easy to see why we hold such contempt for someone who declares love for something obscure and unheard of, we envy them for being so unafraid to have fun that they dedicated themselves to finding new ways to do it. Fun isn’t for us, fun is for kids, except it shouldn’t be, it should be for everyone.

To conclude then, enjoy what you honestly find yourself enjoying, embrace it without fear and when someone comes up to you and says they actually prefer some weird TV show or band from some place you’ve never heard of written by people with names you can’t pronounce, don’t hold it against them, try shit out. If it’s not for you, it’s not for you but do so honestly and with an open mind, don’t deny it because it’s weird or tacky or obscure, deny it on its own merits and your personal tastes. Guilty pleasures are a thing of the past, passion is back in fashion and you don’t have to hate yourself if you sincerely like watching My Parents Are Aliens.