Tuesday, July 20, 2010

because your cancer's worth it

I'm sure this organisation helps a lot of women, and the vast majority of people involved will have the best of intentions. But still, this makes me uneasy:

If you look veeery closely and whisper "global cosmetics industry conspiracy" three times, it actually says "pick make up" (If you look even closer you can see the reflected electronic bus timetable... I like to think of my picture-taking skills as endearing).
Basically "Look Good Feel Better" offers makeup and wig workshops for women with cancer, in order to counter the cosmetic side effects of cancer treatments such as hair and eyebrow loss, dry flaking skin and pigmentation changes.
In itself, the LGFB service is commendable, I think. But why only for women? How come men don't have to look good to feel better? (Women get workshops and free make-up; men only get an online American brochure).
And why only women with cancer - why not also those whose appearance has changed due to burns, car accidents, domestic violence, alopecia, skin conditions and so on?
Author Barbara Enrenreich notes that breast cancer in particular is associated with "prettiness and pinkness...meant to inspire a positive outlook", and that this expectation of positivity can add to the stress of having cancer. Get your free "Cancer Sucks" button here.
More generally - and the LGFB service and its branding are more a consequence than a cause of this problem so I don't mean to single them out - why is self-prettifying (including clothes shopping) the main self-medication option women are given when we're feeling crap? (Followed by eating chocolate, of course.)
From volunteers in the LGFB's July newsletter: "we run our Workshops to empower woman [sic] and give them confidence".
Empowering women with make-up? I imagine those who agree include whorehouse madams, 1950s housewives and perhaps LGFB's Board of Trustees, made up of people from "the Beauty industry, and PR industry, and the Cancer Society".


  1. It's all very well meaning, but it falls into the camp of let's support some sick people provided they look happy and healthy and not sick. And they better be a battler who's going to beat the big C.

    How about allowing someone to feel shit about the fact that they've got cancer and they're having chemo? No, no, chin up love, we'll cheer you up with makeup and you'll never know.

  2. thanks Erin - I guess their response to that would be: "well, we're not *forcing* anybody to come to the makeover party" but the point is that they're part of the normalising cancer zeitgeist, which, as you point out, is all about being relentlessly upbeat. Psychologically stressful.