gail schimmel

The blog of writer Gail Schimmel: A bit of writing, a bit of parenting, a bit of thinking and some book reviews


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I’ve got a thing about slactivism, I’m realising. It started a few years ago when I became incensed by that email of a woman walking around the world in aid of breast cancer. More recently, you may have read my blog that contained a rant about the rhinos and their twitter campaign. And yes, now I am about to whine about #nomakeupselfies.
Just in case you don’t know (perhaps, for example, you are on that missing plane) this is the latest social media trend where women take a photo of themselves with no make-up on, and post it. Along with this is some statement about it being “in aid of breast cancer” or “for cancer”. Occasionally, the selfie taker also says that they have made a donation – and those people are excused from this rant, and can go back to making their donations. The person then “tags” some other women, who have to do the same.
I have nothing against this selfie thing per se – like if we just did it as a fun thing with no real meaning. But people are doing it “for cancer”, and feeling all noble about their efforts. Well, here’s the thing – I have watched both my parents die of cancer. It is horrible and painful and ugly. But – and I know this is going to amaze you – at no point did either of them say, “Oh goodness, this would all be so much better if I could just see some pictures of women with no make-up on”. Not even once. I know – weird, right?
I get that the idea is to “raise awareness”, but people – you have to do more than that. It does not help cancer research or cancer sufferers that everyone is “aware” of cancer. What gets me is that everyone is wondering around feeling like they’ve “made a difference”. But making a difference involves just that – MAKING A DIFFERENCE. You can make a difference to others or you can make a difference to yourself. So if, after you took your selfie, you also checked your breasts or went for a long postponed pap smear, then great! That’s making a difference. But when you post your selfie, challenge other women to do the same. Maybe one of the women that you tag, or one that they tag, will find an early sign of cancer and fix it before it ruins her life. THAT, my friends, is making a difference.
The other way that you can really make a difference is to make a donation. In South Africa, Hospice and CANSA are both organisations that helped my parents. I cannot tell you enough the amazing work that Hospice do FOR FREE. Giving them some money to continue that work will make a difference. And please, and I have said this before, don’t tell me that “it’s easy to give money” as if that means it doesn’t count. If it’s so easy, do it.
In this age of social media, we feel very smug very quickly. We think that because we are joiners, and we take up challenges, that we are good citizens. History is going to look back at us and say, “Evil prospers while good people take selfies”. We have to stop slactivating and start activating. We have to live Mandela, and “do “not “say”. It’s not enough to believe in a cause – you have to take it that step further.
It’s not too late, if you’ve done the selfie thing already. Or tweeted for a rhino. Or grown a moustache. Make a donation to the cause that matters to YOU, and tweet and facebook about that. Challenge other people to give of their time or money, or just to check that they themselves are healthy. That’s activism. That’s making a difference.
Oh hell, I guess now I HAVE to go for that mammogram. . .


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