It’s a pink world

My wife (Maggie) was watching tv the other evening and an advertisement promoting an upcoming female version of the Full Monty (a strip show) was being promoted in order to raise awareness for breast cancer.

I shrugged it off, perhaps a little numb to the endless drive to help and protect our women and girls while men and boys remain mostly invisible.

Maggie was the one who got riled up. She turned and said:

“Why couldn’t women decide to raise awareness of a male disease and raise funds for men? Just once! “

A few weeks earlier a group of celebrity men stripped naked to raise awareness of prostate cancer and men’s health.

What irked Maggie was the fact that women had to immediately jump on the wagon and do the same, while pretending that our “awareness’ of breast cancer is still a huge problem and one they were determined to shine a spotlight on. She asked why these women couldn’t have acknowledged the already enormous focus on breast cancer and join their brothers in solidarity and donate their proceeds to prostate cancer as well.

Nope.

It’s always been girls are for girls and boys are for girls too- if they know what is good for them. Sure, males may occasionally quietly do some work on behalf of their sick and dying brothers but it had better be after they have demonstrated their tireless devotion to supporting women’s needs, whatever they may be at any given time.

I don’t think Maggie has heard the term gynocentrism but this was what was driving her anger.

I have always been aware of the endless promotion of causes affecting females. Even today I was confronted with an ad which began before the YouTube clip I wanted to watch telling me how we must donate to a cause working to end the persecution of young girls. These girls are forced into becoming child brides. Fair enough. But these ads always imply by omission that it is only young girls around the world who suffer any kind of indignity, oppression or injustice because of their gender.

This is a lie.

If the ledger was balanced and the empathy shared, no man I know would raise an eyebrow when confronted with another campaign to support females in whatever area it might be.

But it isn’t balanced and never has been.

This is why Maggie was angry. That is why I did a quick google check to see if Maggie’s blood was boiling for no good reason. I actually typed “women raising funds for men’s cancer” into the search engine and the best I could find was an obscure story about men who were motor cycling to raise money for men’s mental health and prostate cancer. A few partners of these men had decided to join the bike ride to help raise some funds.

That was it.

Just to give you an indication of the scale of this campaign, marketing and events manager, Jane Sim, said that with a month of fundraising to go, the 2019 event had already set a new fundraising record and surpassed the target of $65,215 raised in 2018.

That’s a total no-one should belittle but when you compare it to the millions being raised by volunteers working to fund women’s health (not to mention the enormous disparity in government funding of women’s health as compared to men’s ) you begin to understand the enormous chasm which exists when you compare the concern expressed in monetary terms for men and women’s illness and misfortune.

I decided to do a little research on the voluntary funding of women’s illness by men here in Australia. It was quite an eye opener.

We currently have an annual event called, The Pink Test. A test is the name given to an international cricket contest. Each “test” is played over a five-day period (yes-you read correctly). On the third day of the Sydney test, the crowd are asked to adorn themselves in pink and players wear pink caps onto the field. The cause is a worthy one.

Legendary Australian bowler, Glen McGrath lost his wife to breast cancer ten years ago. Glen came up with this idea and it has become an integral part of the cricket scene for a decade. Here’s a little blurb explaining the Foundation’s purpose:

The McGrath Foundation raises funds to place McGrath Breast Care Nurses in communities right across Australia, as well as making breast health understanding a priority.

While more than 54,000 families have been supported by 11 McGrath Breast Care Nurses, there’s still lots more to do to reach every family going through breast cancer.

So, Glen’s initiative has raised and will continue to raise millions of dollars for women with breast cancer.

Bettina Arndt has been fascinated by the inherent desire of men to put women’s needs ahead of their own. In this brief chat, she shares her insights and frustrations about the endless support men provide to women, often at their own expense.

Note that Bettina’s interview has had 460 views in a month. This, sadly, says it all. Even when people do try to speak about the terrible imbalance in funding and attention, no-one wants to listen.

Bettina raises some very important questions in the conversation with Isaac Butterfield. She explains the devastating effects of prostate cancer on men’s sexuality and identity. She bemoans the incredible indifference displayed by our government and the general apathy of people with regard to men’s health.

Losing a breast is devastating but it is ultimately ( if the women survives and 90% of women do) a cosmetic problem which does not impact a woman’s ability to actually function sexually in the physical way prostate cancer devastates men.

No doubt women can have mental hurdles to overcome with regard to self-image but reconstructive surgery can replace the lost breast or breasts. No such options are available to men and their sexual performance is not devastated by self-image issues. The problems are physical and sometimes insurmountable.

Incontinence is another issue and usually whispered about. If it is ever discussed in public it is usually by a stand-up comedian or someone making light of the horrendous embarrassment and loss of confidence the problem creates.

What’s that you say? Women’s bodies can suffer similar devastation simply by giving birth. True. But the tribulations of women during childbirth are incredibly well documented and women are often placed on a pedestal by their male partners for this very reason. Many men are in awe of what some women must endure in childbirth. They acknowledge the suffering and the damage done to their partner’s body.

Prostate cancer still tends to be a subject of mirth and indifference by both men and women. We joke about the struggle to pee before the problem is uncovered and we joke about erectile dysfunction and incontinence after the surgery and radiation treatment.

So, let’s turn our attention to another sporting institution in my beloved land down under which dedicates one of its annual clashes to breast cancer.

AFL is the most popular sport in Australia and such is its popularity it has been ranked in the world’s top four most attended sports based on average crowds per game.

The Pink Lady

The Breast Cancer Network Australia established the Pink Lady event in 2005 in order to take advantage of this game’s public appeal.

This night has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for breast cancer research and of course “raised awareness”.

Individual men have also gone to great extremes to raise funds for breast cancer.

Former AFL star, Shane Crawford cycled across Australia in 2013 in order to raise money for the Breast Cancer Network Australia.  He raised 1.3 million dollars. Crawford had performed another extraordinary feat in 2010 when he ran from Adelaide to Melbourne (780 km) to raise funds and awareness for breast cancer.

I remember the wall to wall coverage of his ride across Australia. There was endless footage of women dressed in pink lining the streets of the country towns he passed through, some weeping and all cheering and applauding this man. Many of the women were asked to relate their personal story of their battle with breast cancer. It was the “feel good” story of the year.

I must confess to feeling conflicted as I watched the adulation  Crawford  received, which culminated in the completion of his incredible journey in Perth.

When he first announced his intention to ride his bike 3600 km in front of the live Footy Show audience the crowd erupted in a frenzy of cheers and wild applause. Here we had a largely male audience, with a footy show comprising all male hosts devoting their attention and time to an issue which overwhelmingly affects women. This same show which has been relentlessly attacked by feminists for its misogynistic attitudes and “blokey behavior.”

Wonderful.

This was a life-changing experience, the most rewarding of my life. The money raised and the awareness created has exceeded all expectations. We have connected with so many rural communities and offered hope to the women with breast cancer and their families,” Crawford said.

Every time I read or hear the word awareness, I want to gag. We are drowning in a sea of pink at any given time in the year. Various retail outlets and supermarkets are constantly arrayed in pink.

And Shane has the temerity to suggest ‘raising awareness” was a major driving force behind his incredible feat of endurance.

Hats off to the man for achieving his dream. The cynic in me wondered if Shane had ever allowed his mind to wander as he drifted off to sleep in the days leading up to his journey and briefly surmise that the chances of him being greeted with adoring mobs and teary eyes wherever he went was greatly enhanced by his decision to raise awareness for breast cancer rather than prostate or bowel cancer.

Colour me bitter! That of course would have been the accusation had I voiced what I really thought. Bitter and envious. I was neither.

I am simply being honest. Every day someone would make a misty-eyed comment about Crawford’s incredible courage and compassion and I bit my tongue. If I ever expressed my cynical thought out loud, I would have been torn apart. But it was enough for me to feel it in my gut.

I could not uncover the primary motivation for his ride.

Perhaps Shane’s mum had been diagnosed with breast cancer or another loved one had been lost to the disease.

He had every right to ride for them.

But anyone with eyes to see and ears to hear must know that breast cancer is the most highly funded and publicly acknowledged cancer in the country. His “awareness raising” motivation rings terribly hollow. Surely brain cancer or bowel cancer are in far more need of a little public awareness- raising as well as funds?

No doubt his feat has helped women and I suppose if you are going to do something extraordinary you have every right to decide who you are going to do it for.

My answer to such an understandable statement would be this.

Imagine if I said I was going to climb Mt Everest to raise funds for Scotch College so they can build a bigger library for the boys who attend the school.

No-one could question my courage or selflessness but I can assure you the inquisition online and, in the media, would be frightening.

“Why in God’s name would he be giving funds to such an elite, rich school when there are so many others in far more need of financial support and a public profile!”

My reply:

I’m climbing the mountain so I can direct the money wherever I wish!” would be a very fair one. Don’t think for one minute that it would stem the tidal wave of vitriol which would completely envelope my achievement and make me a pariah in the eyes of some.

If you accept the truth of my Mt Everest climb analogy then you will understand what motivates my cynicism about Crawford. He knows no-one would be insane enough to even whisper any criticism of the charity he chose to support.

Maybe I’m crazy.

Shane’s whole journey just underlined the powerful, almost irresistible pull and appeal of gynocentric actions.

Now, let me be clear. In recent years the AFL has created a game of footy to raise funds for men’s health prostate cancer. But my article is asking why women never seem to gather either as a sporting group or any other female collective and decide to raise funds for men. Aren’t women supposedly renowned for their nurturing, empathetic natures?

We also have Movember-which is a relatively new initiative and dedicated to raising awareness of men’s health issues. Yet even this idea was attacked by feminists! They branded the whole idea sexist and exclusionary! So even when men decide to do something for themselves, they are attacked for being self centred and promoting masculinity!

Let Jacob (a male feminist) explain in his own words:

I hate Movember so much, on Halloween, I shaved my scruffy beard-in-progress so no one would think I was participating. There have been plenty of critiques of Movember that describe it as sexist or exclusionary, which it is. But you don’t need to treat it as a microaggression to find something troubling in it. Above all else, Movember irritates me because it’s not so much about cancer awareness as it is about masculinity awareness. It starts from the assumption that men are somehow uniquely imperiled—threatened by all these horrible diseases—and then tells us that we can save them by trumpeting an outward signifier of masculinity, the mustache. Movember says that we protect men by celebrating masculinity. And that’s ridiculous.

There is yet another example of a male celebrity going to an extraordinary extreme in order to raise funds (and awareness) for a cancer which his sister was battling and which ultimately took her life. The illness? Breast cancer.

Here’s what Samuel Johnson, a well-known Australian actor did.

Samuel Johnson is setting off on February 15th on a marathon 15,000 KM unicycle ride around Australia, to raise $1 Million for breast cancer.

Samuel has contacted the AUS to invite all Australian unicyclists to join in and help out with this mammoth ride, which is going to take him a year to complete!

Here’s what Samuel has to say to all unicycle riders:

Hello!

My name is Samuel Johnson. My sister has terminal breast cancer.

She is the mother of two beaut boys and as such is keen for me to help her remind every mum in the land to be breast aware.

How? Well, starting on the 15th of February, 2013 I will ride my unicycle around the entire country, hitting up hundreds of communities and every capital city.

We are officially attempting to break the Guinness world-record for longest distance traveled on a one-wheeler (15,000 kms) and are proud of our lofty aim to raise $1 million for the Garvan Research Foundation.

It’s called the Love Your Sister Ride and will take an entire year to complete.

There is so much more I could add. Many more fundraisers I could focus on but I think my message is apparent.

I think some may argue that the reason women’s sports teams don’t bother to fund raise for male specific diseases is because they don’t have the profile or financial capabilities that male sports have. They would probably blame that on sexism too.

This is not an explanation for the absence of female support for men.

Netball Victoria and I am certain many other minor Netball associations raise funds for breast cancer. The other pertinent fact is that many suburban football clubs (male) have a special day put aside to raise money for breast cancer.

In Australia, we don’t have the college sport set up America enjoys. Each suburb has its own local football club and ground which survives on handouts they can beg from their local council and the goodwill of volunteers who take raise funds for equipment and the very minimal payments players receive. Even these bottom tier (often amateur) clubs focus their energy on raising money for breast cancer!

“Clubs get involved by wearing pink football socks and also just by running charity events and auctions on the day.

“’Pinking up’ as it’s called is a big visual show of support.

“19,500 thousand people are diagnosed every year, including men, so it’s not just a women-only disease,” Mullinger said.

“BCNA are the peak national support organisation for breast cancer Australia, we fund support for the women and their families, that’s our key service.

“Everything that we provide is provided for free to the women, men and families.

“Breast cancer just touches so many people and once it becomes even more personal you just know that it’s worth fighting for.

Notice how this is fund raising for men too! The 0.001% of males who suffer from breast cancer are not forgotten! We are all benefiting from these local fundraisers!

Nothing I have written is a revelation. Simply sitting down and having a closer look at the all -encompassing magnitude of the problem which is so deeply rooted in our society was a shock and I was red pilled when just a boy!

It’s ironic that one of the qualities people automatically attribute to females is that of compassion and empathy. Yet it seems in practice, it is men who exhibit this quality in a very authentic and visible manner.

Compassion is concern for the sufferings or misfortunes of others. It is the feeling that arises when you are confronted with another’s suffering and feel motivated to relieve that suffering.
Dr Anil Kumar Sinha

This seems to be an apt description of what men have been doing for women for a long time, Doc.

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