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Deconstructing Pink: Are You Man Enough?
National Breast Cancer Awareness Month (NBCAM) is a little bit like that local band you loved until they got famous and turned you off. The NBCAM is a thousand-headed hydra of a behemoth buried inside a labyrinth of 10,000 tentacles, each representing another 10,000 conflicts of interest.
It is truly a whale of an organization, followed by a million remora suckerfish ranging in size from the local hair salon to the National Football League.
Come the first of November, we're like Kramer after the Kenny Rogers' Chicken Roasters opened up across the street:
Rods and cones all screwed up, pouring Pepto Bismol into cereal bowls.
The backlash against it grows by the year, even if the motifs don't change. Over the next week or two I'll look at some of the common motifs associated with this formerly normal month, and offer fresh ways to not only cope with it all, but be a productive member of society along the way.
But first let me introduce you to a proverb worth remembering:
If you think one person can't make a difference, try spending the night in a small room with a mosquito.
MOTIF: "Are You Man Enough to Wear Pink?"
I don't think the people who wear this on T-shirts realize how broadly offensive and stupid this question is. After all, the implication is that while wearing pink in October is manly, wearing pink during the remaining eleven months out of the year is not at all manly—and the opposite of manly is girly, which for a man implies gay or queer. This idiotic form of peer pressure asserts that those who don't comply are, according to those decaying stereotypes and in the words of good ol' Arnold, girly-men.
Nobody should go around accusing people who don't wear pink of not caring about breast cancer, just like no one should go around accusing those who do wear pink of only caring about the appearance of caring about breast cancer … even if the latter is far more likely accurate than the former.
The subtext here is simple: pink is acceptable only in October, and only when others challenge you to wear it. These qualifiers define manhood. But for a man, compliance becomes a sad kind of conformity, and in the end so long as there is a cultural disclaimer on wearing pink in October, this slogan is self-defeatist bullying.
More importantly, it serves no purposes whatsoever. Get people involved in helping people in their own communities, on their own street blocks, who have breast cancer. What does their primary caregiver say they need? If they say "I need that man to wear pink" then I'll take it all back.