Does a no-makeup selfie raise cancer awareness, or does it trivialize those who are suffering from it?
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You may have seen no-makeup selfies floating around your social media feeds. While the idea began with an accompanying call to donate to cancer research, it has since then become viral and one cancer survivor wrote that there is another side to the no-makeup selfie that those who are posting them aren't considering. Are these selfies a good idea to raise awareness, or are they offensive to those who have been through it?

A cancer survivor's perspective

Kim Stephens is an Australian journalist who is a cancer survivor, having gone through aggressive chemotherapy that left her without hair and eyebrows, as well as rendered her extremely ill. She writes that if she had seen this trend pop up three years ago when she was in the midst of her own personal struggle, she would have "... mustered what little strength I had to beat them with my drip stand. Violently."

Why the ire? It's a slap in the face for those who are going through, or who are going to go through such a terrible time, where looking in the mirror no longer becomes an option because the reflection is so heartrending. Posting a healthy face, sans makeup, is not solidarity, she feels. Taking a no-makeup selfie minimizes the battles that rage on in a cancer patient's life.

Posting a healthy face, sans makeup, is not solidarity, she feels. Taking a no-makeup selfie minimizes the battles that rage on in a cancer patient's life.

They mean well, but...

The trend actually started with author Laura Lippman snapping a makeup-free selfie to show support for Kim Novak, whose appearance was criticized after the Oscars. Somehow, the no-makeup selfie trend was born, and it began to be accompanied by the hashtag #nomakeupselfies. Participants were urged to donate to the Cancer Research UK charity via text message when they uploaded their own photo, and in that case, it did work — over $13 million (£8 million) has been raised so far.

But where does that leave everyone else, who claims to want to raise cancer awareness but has left off the call for donations? The internet and the rapid travel of anything and everything via social media shows that borders mean nothing, and the #nomakeupselfies hashtag took a life of its own.

… doesn't it seem wrong?

Doesn't it seem wrong to claim to support those with cancer with a simple selfie that leads to nothing?

Doesn't it seem wrong to claim to support those with cancer with a simple selfie that leads to nothing? Yes, those who continue the trend do mean well, but I agree with Stephens. It minimizes the horror that those with cancer and their families experience on a daily basis.

Also, those with cancer die. Not all of them, but I think almost everyone has been personally touched by cancer in some form or another. Several family members of mine have died from cancer, as well as a longtime friend who never saw his 40th birthday. That's not lighthearted. It's not a joke. It's not a snapped photo, uploaded and hashtagged. It sucks.

Matter of perspective

It also really is a matter of perspective. Uploading a selfie seems harmless, but for someone who has gone through cancer treatment it can be a painful reminder of their own trials. Not everyone who has had a cancer diagnosis feels that way, of course, but these social media trends where you post mysterious status updates (for example, what color bra you are wearing) under the guise of raising awareness of cancer? It's really meaningless and a slap in the face for those who are truly affected by the ravages of this disease.

Also, as parents, we have to set good examples for our children. Showing empathy for human beings who are struggling through battles of their own is a valuable lesson we can impart from an early age. If you donate to cancer research or volunteer at your local hospital, let your child know what you are doing, and why. That will make far more difference than uploading a no-makeup selfie any day.

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