Tag Archives: advocacy

Real vs Virtual Advocacy

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The narratives of transgender individuals expressed through new media challenges and debunk the myths placed against them. Anne-Fausto Sterling in her piece The Five Sexes: Why Male and Female are not Enough boldly states that in trying to maintain a norm of a two sex binary and heteronormative culture, society exerts biopower and governmentality that police the bodies of transgender and intersex individuals. Using new media as a mode of social change, trans-blogging has given the lived experiences of the LGBT community visibility in the blogosphere. While promoting visibility, I also agree that new media is not the only solutions or mode of caring out a social change. As a strategy used by the LBGT community and networks, it has its advantages and disadvantages.

From Google Images (creative commons)

Elisabeth Jay Friedman’s The Reality of Virtual Reality: The Internet and Gender Equality Advocacy in Latin America explores how the “information and communication technology” (ICT) has empowered socially marginalized individuals to broadcast their ideas. The first LGBT blog I found, “Stuff Queer People Need to Know” has a blog entry that spread the word on the Transgender pride rally and picnic that took place in Chicago. This form of consciousness-raising gives visibility and stimulates activity within the marginalized community. Queer and Trans-blogging is using the internet as a method for promoting civil society advocacy. Yet a concern for merely examining the LGBT community’s activity online for advocating political change is raised by Friedman. It is definitely necessary to view how the community utilizes technology to increase their presence in new media but as Friedman stated “they provide only a partial view of the relationship between technology and political change.” For instance although a “Lesbian Health Fact Sheet” has been developed and shared on the internet by the National LGBT Cancer Network, it does not reflect the treatment, exclusion and discriminiation experienced by the LGBT community. The rate between change in the material world vs. the virtual one can be uneven.

The complications of ICT can be counterproductive and create instances of misinformation and miscommunication. It can also place pressures on established NGO’s and other vehicles of social change to utilizing the internet in order to be considered a vital resource in campaigning for gender equality (Friedman 4). As the blogosphere has much to contribute to gender equality campaigns, it can also be frustrating in areas where there is a “digital divide”. Not having access to the internet and computers as well as not knowing how to use these tools counteracts the “fluid” and “horizontal” production and distribution of knowledge and ideas within the LGBT community and other gender equality groups and NGO’s. As inspiring the argument is on ICT developing as a vital resource to the LGBT community, whether if it with the low cost that ICT aids in consciousness raising (via emails as opposed to printing flyers), I argue that it does not reveal the diversity and complexity within the LGBT community as fluently as some might argue. Both field and cyber activism are viable ways of enhancing gender equality.

Giving general visibility to the LGBT community online, ICT has helped promote interconnectivity and crucial information for gender equality campaigns. Also providing a form of online autonomy, new media has given the marginalized LBGT community many alternative media outlets.  Some examples are Kate Bornstein, Jen Jack Gieseking, and Huffington Posts’ “Gay Voices” blog page. Providing visibility for the LGBT community is one of the main elements credited with new media. Not undermining the physical and field activism that has occurred and is still happening, but in the 21st century, visibility via the web is often equated to providing autonomy and independence to these communities from mainstream media outlets.

With collective action taken by NGO’s and other groups advocating for social change in the LGBT community, there have been benefits gained from technology as well as drawbacks. It has decreased the distance between common initiatives  on an international level, promoting regional and local awareness on violations against the rights of women and the LGBT community. Although much controversy follows the NGOization of feminist agendas, on an individual level it has allowed for a healthy does of self-expression.

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Finding the Cure

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The commercialization of women’s health is prevalent in media discourse as shown in the documentary “Pink Ribbons Inc.”. We have seen that the combination of neoliberal globalization and women’s health issues has led to strong rhetoric on raising awareness around these issues. Although this is needed, what many feminist scholars have been critiquing is how women’s health issues, breast cancer in particular, have been reduced to the symbols and rhetoric of slogans such as “early detection.cure.prevention” (“Pink Ribbons Inc.”). Yet we realize through the narratives of women who have been diagnosed with breast cancer that it is not as easy as the slogan says.

There is a chance for one in eight women to have breast cancer in her lifetime and about 39,510 women die from breast cancer each year in the United States. Being a woman is the most influential factor in being diagnosed with breast cancer. During Regan’s era there was increased pressure on corporate philanthropy which has led to cause marketing. Cause-marketing is a process that allows companies to associate to a cause that their buyers would potentially care about resulting in increased sales. Foundations like the Susan G. Komen foundation and Avon foundation for breast cancer are the most dominant in breast cancer related cause-marketing. In fact, as I was doing some online research about the commercialization of breast cancer while listening to Pandora, I instantly heard an advertisement of five hour energy drink’s collaboration with the Avon Breast Cancer Foundation.  In this promotion between October 1st and December 31st, 2012 for every bottle of “Pink Lemonade” sold, five cents will go towards the Avon foundation. Millions of dollars have been raised through the Avon foundation and the Susan G. Komen foundation yet where has that money went since there is still no cure. Women are continuously being treated through the “slash, burn and poison” approach and treatment for breast cancer has not really progressed over the years. Although early detection is imperative, it is not always the best way in “fighting” breast cancer. A cure is still needed and cause-marketing efforts have been good at raising money towards this cause. Yet these same institutions are concerned with framing breast cancer in the media as feminine, pink and “pretty” which diverges the goal of actually finding a cure. An Avon representative in the film stated that “…when you show the face of cancer only in anger, then people will think it’s hopeless…”

There is a need to repoliticize how breast cancer is portrayed in the media.  There must be a re-focus on the much needed cure for breast cancer and not so much its pink products.  I can’t help but think that the amount of money used to create these pink products could be used directly towards the research in finding the cure and funding other institutions committed to women’s health like Planned Parenthood that provide mammograms for all women.

Below I have a link to a video that shows the problematic relationship between commercializing and commodifying breast cancer.