Cancer is a lot of things — fucking unfair, tragic, horrible, frightening, a terrifyingly indifferent monster. Cancer is not a pissing contest. Guess no one told that to the British Pancreatic Cancer Action organization, which this week launched what may be the worst disease awareness ad campaign of all time. "I wish I had breast cancer," says a woman. "I wish I had testicular cancer," says a man. Oh, dear.
The ads, unsurprisingly, haven't been well-received by sufferers, survivors, or loved ones of people with non-pancreatic cancers. But the head of PCA has defended the ad's tagline, which will soon be featured on gobs of ads in tube stations, newspapers, and other printed surfaces that might be seen by people who read it and immediately react by going "Ugh" and then not paying attention to what the ad is trying to get people to do, which is get screened.
Over at Salon, Mary Elizabeth Williams does a pretty spectacular job summing up exactly why this sort of "awareness" advertising is counterproductive, and why it's absurd to suggest that anything that creates "awareness" deserves carte blanche to be as stupid or offensive as it wants to be. She writes,
Can we, in conversations about disease, stop relying on the atrocious "If it saves a life" crutch? It's been deployed as a "Get Out of Criticism Free" card for all manner of incredibly offensive "awareness" campaigns – many of which, no surprise, are squarely aimed at breast cancer. Why on earth would anyone want to add to the din of already offensive, insulting messages out there? [...] You can advocate for early detection and increased awareness without crapping all over other people who are going through their own experiences. You can. And if you choose not to, I don't care if you hide behind the argument that you're "saving one life," you're being a callous jerk.