Dear Avon, I Do Not Want to ‘Run for Breast Cancer’Menu
By Rea Nolan Martin. Follow her on Twitter @reanolanmartin
I apologize in advance for picking on you, Avon. You’re not the only offender, and after all, your intentions are no doubt noble. But yesterday, with my back to the TV, I heard your commentator say, “Join the Avon Walk for Breast Cancer.” I turned around in disbelief — did they really say that? — but there it was again on the logo in living color, “Avon Walk for Breast Cancer.” Do I have to point out what’s wrong with this? Okay, fine, I will. But first, let’s back up a bit.
A few years ago I stood at a post office counter and asked to see the commemorative stamps. The employee showed me several designs, and said, “Do you want breast cancer?” — by which he meant, “Do you want the breast cancer awareness stamps?” I said, “Uh. No. I don’t want breast cancer.” After staring at me for a second, he finally replied, “Oh, wow, sorry! I can’t believe I said that. I wouldn’t wish that on anyone.” Kudos to him for hearing his own words. After all, like most people, he could have said, “You know what I meant.”
But meaning what you say, especially with respect to issues like this, is important. Let me tell you why.
Our current culture is saturated in disease. Our airwaves are filled with pharmaceutical ads that encourage us to take drugs with side effects that are sometimes worse than the targeted illness. Hideous anti-smoking ads feature patients audibly dying of emphysema, gasping for air, even though it’s been documented that when anxious smokers see these ads the first thing they do is reach for a cigarette. In one half-hour segment of a TV sitcom last night I saw two ads for local hospitals, one for a regional cancer center, and another for the drug, Cialis. There are volumes of ads for 5ks, 10ks, and marathons benefiting a slew of diseases, including breast cancer research and awareness. On the surface, these are not bad things, but the sheer volume sends a disturbing and not so subliminal message to the public, not of health, but the expectation of disease.
Even though I’m sick of these ads (pun intended), I’m not proposing that we legislate against them. (Although it would be great if there were a lot fewer of them.) It’s a free market, and besides, people do presumably benefit, especially from the charitable events. I do think, however, that the language used in these commercials should be more consciously and responsibly applied.
Which brings me back to Avon.
Anyone who reads my blogs knows I’m a stickler for language — not grammar so much as the actual meaning we convey — in other words, no “sloppy talk.” I know it might seem a fine point, but it isn’t really. Thoughts and the language that flows from them are the stem cells of action. They are the waves of energy we cast into the world to create our personal and collective reality, accidentally or purposely. So even though Avon’s intentions are good, no one in her right mind wants to run, walk, or in any way support breast cancer. We run against it. We run to empower the people who have been afflicted and are at risk of being afflicted in the future. We do not run to promote it or to encourage a culture of disease. We run to prevent it. To end it. We run to be healthy and to create a healthier world.
I respectfully suggest that the ad and logo should read: Avon Walk Against Breast Cancer, or in the interest of space and word count: Avon Walk vs. Breast Cancer or whatever variation may serve the highest purpose. We should all care about the language broadcast through our air waves and in our print media over and over again to create our culture and our world. Words matter.
Let’s create an awareness of that.
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