Over recent months and years this blog has published a number of articles highlighting sexism by Cancer Research UK, with a particular focus on its disgraceful Race for Life event. As the backslash against Race for Life grows ever stronger and as so many new readers become interested in this issue I felt it was time we took a wider look at CRUK's activities as a whole. Race for Life is simply a symptom of wider problems at the organisation and in my view the entire charity is institutionally sexist, particualr given the fact that, even according to CRUK's own reports "In general men are at significantly greater risk than women from nearly all of the common cancers that occur in both sexes".
I therefore present a summary of the ten of the prevailing sexist attitudes at CRUK. I strongly sugget readers support other cancer charites until some of the issues below are addressed.
1. Male fundraisers are not wanted
It's pretty obvious that the organisation who set up Race for Life and deliberately excludes men from "the biggest fight against cancer" doesn't want their money (unless it's arrives via a female intermediary who then takes the credit for raising it). Lets examine exactly what happened to get us into this situation of CRUK barring most fund-raising by men. In the mid 1990s CRUK (then under a different name) purposely went out and set up large numbers of female-only fundraising events. Contrary to the spin they put on things, at no point have they engaged with men in a comparable fashion, nor really attempted to do so. Unlike with some other fun-runs we don't merely have a case of gender segregation here, there simply is no parallel event for men and never was. The few attempts made to solve the problem occurred years after the launch of Race for Life and were all half-hearted afterthoughts, destined to fail due to their narrow scope. For the most part, male fundraisers simply are not wanted. CRUK describes a man's role as a "supporter", which in reality means a second class citizen who's purpose it to clean up after women at events.
2. Men do not buy things
The merchandising work at CRUK again follows an overwhelmingly sexist and non-inclusive pattern. Other than clothing, items for sale on their website mostly consist of flowers, a selection of cake-related items, aprons, wedding planners, baby journals and pink diaries. An "Essential" section of the site includes a whole series of hideous Race for Life clothing and accessories for women and girls. Finally, just for even more gender balance, we then have a series of breast cancer awareness related goods on sale, including pink ribbons and bra key rings. Not one single item can be found anywhere highlighting a male specific cancer or a male focused event or where the funds solely go to combating a predominantly male specific cancer. I did find a number of rubber ducks which looked like nice gifts for children, but a closer look show even those to be plastered with breast cancer awareness ribbons.
3. Men do not get breast cancer
Race for Life began as a women-only event aimed at raising money for breast cancer, yet this is not a single sex cancer. Yes far fewer men get breast cancer than women, but those unfortunate enough to do so are more likely to die than female patients, mainly due to a lack of awareness. The way Race for Life portrays breast cancer as simply a women's issue therefore causes real harm but they don't stop there. CRUK's slogan for their breast cancer campaign is "join the fight for womens' survival", so once again, men are out of the picture right from the start.
4. Men are sex objects
A recurring theme in CRUK's work is their portrayal of men as sex objects. Previously we've seen breast cancer awareness videos featuring a woman groping a half naked male model and CRUK's notorious e-male app of male celebrities begging to perform a strip-tease to get women to participate in Race for Life. Newer developments in this area include teams of specially selected "hunky" corporate male cheerleaders at Race for Life events. I've I've stated before, I'm not anti-sex, and such objectification doesn't necessarily present a problem in itself, particularly were it to work both ways. However I'm yet to see any evidence of CRUK presenting women in this way, and when considered in conjunction with CRUK's other activities it becomes clear they have an issue with their attitudes to men.
5. Men's views don't count
A key component of the CRUK world-view is that men's views on matters simply don't count. Time and again we've been informed that Race for Life remains a sexist event due to the wishes of a minority of the participants, but why don't CRUK survey non-participants interested in cancer and see what their impression of the event is? The theme of CRUK ignoring men's voices again came to the fore earlier this year when the option of boys running in the event was reinstated. This came about directly because of the actions of Claire Parker, even though the likes of John Taylor have argued exactly the same thing for over a decade. Of course I congratulate and thank Claire for her work, but it's unfair that, in the eyes of CRUK, her views should carry so much more weight than that of any man. The organisation is so blinkered that I understand they have now gone as far as even refusing to open emails from John Taylor, thus showing a huge amount of disrespect for such a successful and longstanding equality campaigner.
6. Men aren't important
CRUK produces many excellent posters and they can also be downloaded from their website. Mouth, breast and ovarian cancer posters are available but nothing for prostate cancer. This is despite the likes of ovarian cancer being rarer by a factor of more than five. CRUK's complete disregard and failure to understand prostate cancer is also illustrated in more subtle ways. For example it's breast cancer and even gullet cancer publications are available in a special large print but not those for prostate cancer. We know that besides gender, the other reason prostate cancer gets neglected it due to agism, yet here we have a group of older cancer suffers, clearly with the greatest need of the larger text, but yet again they are ignored. Sexism is found elsewhere too, the most obvious example being CRUK's dedicated awareness sub-sites. Their breast cancer site in particular is highly comprehensive and has had a lot of effort put into it, but the corresponding site for prostate cancer (or any male specific/associated cancer) just doesn't exist! Their disregard for men couldn't be much more blatant. CRUK's report on "The excess burden of cancer in men in the UK" acknowledges that "a lack of knowledge of cancer" is one factor which results in the development of cancer in men, so why are they making this situation worse?
7. Violence against men is great
In addition to its sexist slogan, CRUK's breast cancer campaign even appears to encourage violence against men. Posters inviting people to join "the fight for women's survival" featured two female figures wearing boxing gloves attacking a male figure. So, not satisfied with neglecting men and male cancers therefore consigning men to an early death, CRUK's advertising effectively endorses a quickening of this process thorough physical assault.
8. Men don't make good employees
Although I haven't been able to uncover any figures, one striking aspect of CRUK's activities appears to be the sheer volume of women employed there. In my experience, if you send them an email, phone them up or post a message on their forums the odds are that you'll almost never come into contact with a single male employee. For example, a quick glance at CRUK's cancer chat forums shows the entire moderation staff to be female, as were all those moderator's predecessors. It would appear that this female dominated workplace has resulted in a clear prioritisation of female-associated cancers and patients despite the fact that most cancer patients are male AND those male patients are more likely to die from cancer. I don't' believe in sexist quotas or anything of that nature but it's ridiculous that females dominate an area of most relevance to men and at the very least CRUK might provide a few token men for say prostate cancer suffers to talk about sensitive issues. Compounding this matter further is the particular type of female recruited to the organisation, with many I've come across fitting the Guardian-reading gender feminist stereotype, and therefore having the bizarre attitude that CRUK's sexism is acceptable or somehow even a good thing.
9. Men are worse than dogs
Strangely, CRUK allows dogs to participate in Race for Life. It's not just female dogs either, even male dogs are welcome to participate. This therefore means dogs actually have more opportunities for involvement in fundraising activities with CRUK than men, and suggests the organisation has a higher regard for these animals than actual human males. If your dog is so crazed and likely to bite others that it needs to wear a muzzle it can still "Race for Life", yet even a Hannibal Lecter style mask, various restraints and being wheelchair-bound would not facilitate entry for a man. Obnoxious misandrist feminists regularly write hateful comments and signs about men being chaperoned so they don't rape anyone, but CRUK's position is in some ways even more extreme, and even a chaperone or two isn't sufficient supervision.
10. Men are stupid
Above all else, CRUK believes men are so stupid that they can lie to them over and over again without anyone noticing. Perhaps the most visible aspect of this is CRUK's laughably dishonest slogans for events such as Race for Life, whereby the organisation loudly proclaims "it's all of us vs cancer". Other CRUK gems include repeatedly telling us "Together we will beat cancer", whilst simultaneously creating pointless gender divisions therefore and reducing "togetherness" at almost every possible opportunity. Further dishonesty and hypocrisy is in evidence in the organisation's strategy document, under the heading "Tackling cancer inequalities". CRUK states "a number of different groups in society experience unacceptable inequalities in cancer. The nature of these inequalities in cancer is complex, and we have only limited evidence in some areas. But we will push Government to do more to tackle cancer inequality where it can." As we showed earlier CRUK have already admittedly that men are significantly more likely to get cancer than women and those getting it also more likely to die, yet their spending patterns bear no relation to this evidence nor do they have any polices in place to solve the problem, instead only identifying LGBT, people, ethnic minorites and rural dwellers as legitimate groups needing help. Many of the previous nine points demonstrate clear inequalities in spending with regards to education/awareness etc and the trend continues for actual research. Using the statistics on CRUK's own website I calculated CRUK's 2010/11 spend on gender specific/associated cancers as:
£453 for anyone with prostate cancer
£902 for anyone with breast cancer
£1,615 for anyone with ovarian cancer.
Despite there already being clear cancer inequalities in society, and in particular a sickening neglect of prostate cancer, CRUK is actively making the gender gap worse in almost everything it does and it a major contributor to the phenomena. What on earth gives them the right to lecture and lobby the government on such an issue where they are so clearly such a major part of the problem?
CRUK really needs to decide if they care about men or simply want to be a women-only organisation. Right now it appears that they are the later, masquerading as an organisation that pretends to care about everyone.
by John Kimble