Conflict. Charity. Boobs.

I was thinking about charities, recently: what I give to, how I give. I have a friend coping with breast cancer right now, and I was considering how that influences my regard for Breast Cancer, the Charity.

I was never one to buy products marked “donations made to XYZ”, and especially not to breast cancer. Breasts selling things: that’s what it comes down to, doesn’t it? I betcha Freud would have a field day with the construction of breasts, health, and yogurt. I got five bucks says that rectal and colon cancer awareness will never gain popularity with chocolate bar manufacturers, no matter how worthy.

Mmm. Rectal chocolate.

Anyway, one of the things that shocked me was to learn that some of the big corporations might give a fixed amount to the breast cancer society in exchange for using the “brand” of the pink ribbon campaign. Which means the deal is sealed, done, paid for, delivered: your buying product-with-pink means nothing. It’s sales.

But I’m sort of a tightwad when it comes to donate for the cure anyway. I was questioning what the hell my problem is, and realized that my approach to charity pretty much follows those old narrative conflict structures. What were they? Man vs. man, vs. self, vs. nature, vs. machine, vs. society, vs. the supernatural. (Although checking it out online, I appear to have mucked that up, it’s man vs. fate, not supernatural. Which, meh.)

I tend to donate most passionately, of time and money, to man vs. man charities. Social justice, human rights abuse, sexual violence, battery. At the core of me, there is a fundamental horror that as a species we can treat each other with such cruelty:  torture and slavery are a knot in my stomach and a question in my philosophy. Because what has a person become if they feel selling kids into sex slavery is a good idea?  Who is that person? How does that evil begin and how can we end it?

And there’s a positive side. If I’m microloaning through Kiva, or writing for Amnesty International, I’m also filling something in me. The people I most admire are able to stand up and say no, are able to try and make it better, even when faced with situations that I figure I’d break in. These are charities of hope.

Man vs. Nature is probably my runner up category. David Suzuki, WWF, those “buy an acre of rainforest” things.  I am not as horrified -  that we might take out our biosphere is awful, yes, but  it makes me sad, not horrified. We’re  just animal in this respect (whereas in unfeeling cruelty we’re special – we both have empathy and blow past so as to create pain for pain’s sake). From bacteria to humans, it seems like life’s party stops when we drain the keg and the lawn chairs are on fire. Still, it’s a concern and I try to be part of the solution – I donate money sometimes, but more than anything, it’s a consideration I take when making daily choices. I probably live more with environmentalism than with social justice, because it is a conscious effort to pick less packaging, whereas I make very little effort while avoiding human trafficking.

Down to basics, the frills at the first world party aren’t all that important to me. Clean water, clean air, clean food, health care, dental care, shelter, no one killing/raping/maiming/enslaving my loved ones.  I want those things. You can take my saran wrap and my Walmart socks, and it will only be an opportunity to try something new.

Then there’s the rest. Man vs. animal – there are passionate advocates for these charities: the SPCA and PETA have supporters with deep pocketbooks, and I suppose I feel that they’ve got it covered. So I do not tend to donate in this direction.  I do really small things in this category. I buy free range eggs. I try to limit our meat consumption – on a night where meat is part of the meal usually serve the “deck of cards” portion.  I just found a ‘happy meat’ hookup and that’s my first choice when I have the cash. Etc.

Man vs. supernatural – Well, not much, really. I cook with garlic and wear silver?

Man vs. Self. I figure this is, most broadly, health. Mental and physical.

I do donate money to mental and physical health when evil befalls people. But other than an MS Readathon or two, I was thinking that I’ve made zero prevention or research contribution.

Only that’s not quite true. I donate myself. My body. Like blood donation. Or volunteering to studies. I’ve done a lot of studies; vaccines and psych work ups, interviews and blood samples. My kids are part of longitudinal language studies. I’m an organ donor. And I like that. Gift of self, all that jazz.

So, for breast cancer, I’m going to do this.  I’m going to join The Army of Women: they’re looking for a million breast toting lab rats.  So far,there are not that many studies in Canada, but they’re working on finding more.

My general rule: they can take stuff out of me, my carbon and my data, but they can’t put anything in. No drug experiments, no surgery. 

And I’ll invite any of you who don’t mind giving a bit of time, fluids, and data about yourself to join me!


  1. I’d like to join that with you.

    Although I don’t have a lot of money, I can give to charity. I won’t give to ‘awareness’ because I want my money to go to funding actual scientific research. I don’t think people need to own a lot of pink tat to know that breast cancer sucks.

    That said, I am a bit of a hypocrite, because I don’t know exactly where my money goes, even when I am spending with my mind towards charity. I still mostly clothes shop at Val Vil, which donates some of their money to various local charity orgs. When the clothes are old (to me) I donate them to the SPCA or the shop at the corner that benefits (is it?) Easter Seals. In fact, almost everything I buy day-to-day, week-to-week, with the (big) exception of food and hygiene stuff, comes from a secondhand store that donates to charity. I don’t know how much of it goes to research vs awareness, but I decided that this was an easy way for me to give and still be able to afford stuff I find useful, like vegetables and toilet paper.

    So I decided not to feel guilty about not doing enough for charity.

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