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Friday, March 21, 2014


There has been a lot of discussion (not to mention a lot of photos) on social media about the #barefaceselfie (Bare face selfie for those who don't speak hash tagese!). The idea behind it is that women take photos of themselves without make up and post it to the social media page of their choice. Easy peasy, lemon squeezy. This in turn will hopefully raise awareness of cancer in general and breast cancer in particular. There has been a lot of criticism of this particular online movement with complaints that posting a selfie on FB doesn't really help cancer sufferers or translate into cash. Which is proving not to be the case. An increasing number of those involved are including links to cancer websites and numbers to make text message donations, many are following up their selfies with a donation themselves. A number of cancer charities have reported increased donations (the Irish Cancer Society for example, reporting 200K Euros in 24 hours, Cancer Research UK, 1million pounds sterling) so unlike the other 'viral awareness' campaigns such as the 'I went to France for Six Weeks' type where mostly they just caused annoyance, the #barefaceselfie, despite not actually being started by any particular cancer foundation (at this point no one actually seems to know how it came about) seems to actually doing what it hopes to.

Whilst obviously it is absolutely amazing the money that is being raised by this occurrence, we shouldn't be too quick to discount other benefits of this phenomena. The campaign was started to raise awareness. And there is a subtle but very distinct difference between raising awareness and raising money but both are equally important. Without awareness of cancer, particularly cancers like breast or testicular where self examination can often be the first indicator, there is little to no early detection. Awareness of the importance of checking one's breasts (be you male or female) and testicles cannot be overstated. Yet I would bet the bank its something many of us either never do ro don't do anywhere nearly as often as we should. The #barefaceselfie movement has raised awareness and I bet as a result a decent percentage of those of us who did the selfies also checked our boobs (and if you didn't go and do it, go and do it now. I will wait, go on.) And if even a few women, because of this increased awareness find themselves in doctors surgeries getting early and hopefully treatable diagnoses then the point of this campaign, even had it not raised a single pound, will have been achieved.

Then there are other benefits, not related necessarily to the driving purpose of the campaign but none the less brought about by it. Women were empowered by it. Women in huge numbers posted these selfies. Women who I know and see all the time but have never seen bare faced because its not what they do, embraced this opportunity to show who they were underneath. Even many who wouldn't be daily make up wearers (which includes me on days I don't work, but wasn't always the case, there are people I've known years who would never have seen me without a full face on) would not necessarily choose to show themselves up close and bare faced without a distraction, with them as the sole focus of the shot. My timeline is full of these gorgeous pictures, of women united and slightly giddy in a cause. I wouldn't go so far as to call the movement brave, it isn't, but for some women being seen in such a real and exposed state is a big deal. We have such pressures to look a certain way and sometimes its refreshing not to have to. And due to the popularity of the campaign we feel safe to do so. Unfortunately, of course there are people (and by people I alas, mean men) who think its funny to make cracks about scaring children and what have you and I'm sure they think they are very funny. I'm sure some people think they are funny also and its a real shame that some men feel the need to take this 'everyday sexism' approach to women empowering themselves and others albeit in such a tiny way. I'm not normally one for this kind of campaign, as I mentioned early the ones that do the rounds by PM and then end up as cryptic, supposedly, but not very funny status updates make me want the throw things. But this one, this one has had real value. Its raised a hell of a lot of money, its raised awareness (if didn't do it earlier go and check those boobs and bits, if you're not sure what you're looking for I've included some links below) and its brought women together (and its certainly been more effective that the Sun's tawdry excuse for a breast cancer campaign which took the message of checking your breasts and turned into titillation for its page three readership.) All in all I'd call it a #success.

Check your balls
Check your boobs

Cancer Research UK
Breast Cancer UK
Irish Cancer Society
Australian Cancer Research Foundation

This is a very small sample, each country has its own cancer charities and often particular cancer hospitals or support groups also need donations. Find out what is in your area and give a couple of quid.