It's now over three weeks since I published my Cancer Research UK sexism investigation and, despite the record interest it generated, as far as I'm aware the organisation has failed to respond to a single point made. Therefore I'm now forced to reveal the next instalment of my investigation into the activities of CRUK. In the following article we examine the goings on over at their "cancer chat" forums and examine the problems in having an almost exclusively feminist female staff handling what is principally a male condition. A number of interesting developments have occurred, with the organisation and its staff repeatedly misleading users of the site and practicing their usual sexist double standards.
1. Criticism of CRUK is banned
While CRUK staff were previously quite tolerant of discussion and debate on their forums, anyone now criticising CRUK's sexism on their forums is immediately banned form the site without so much as a warning. This is a real shame as a useful debate on their sexist Race for Life event took place in the past and it was interesting to see how those touched by cancer largely detested the event and how former supporters came round to our point of view. Of particular note is that CRUK banned users for posting about a hypothetical version of Race for Life where instead of banning males, the charity instead barred ethnic minorities. Despite this point clearly being made as a vehicle for condemning CRUK's activities, with entirely decent language and tone and clearly not a serious suggestion, the posts was deleted for being "offensive". CRUK representatives thus admit this concept of a discriminatory and divisive type of fundraising event is wrong, therefore putting them in the rather precarious position of admitting the very concept of it's Race for Life event is offensive too, so many congratulations and thanks to them and particularly moderator Renata Sims for finally coming clean. (note - for balance I should state that once alerted to the fact that they effectively condemned their own event CRUK sought to "clarify" their position claiming that it was the tone of the language they were opposed to. Given their track record of misleading users of the site I'll let people draw their own conclusions about this issue).
2. Discussion of Race for Life is banned (except it isn't if you say nice things)
When closing down discussions on Race for Life, CRUK's attempted justification was "they cause offence to members of this community". The issue is a clearly a hot potato and it would be understandable were CRUK to close down every conversation on the topic of Race for Life. However, this isn't what has occurred and people, including the management of the site, still openly show support for the sexist event, only dissenting voices are silenced. Most significantly of all, the clear consensus of the long discussion regarding Race for Life was that the event was sexist. So above all else, it is clearly those supporting the event who are the ones causing by far the most offence to users of the site. Site moderators also suggest people make contact with other staff/departments to discuss their concerns and that the forums are not an appropriate place for such material. However, all our questions go unanswered and our emails ignored, so once again their comments are incorrect and people have no other method of communicating their concerns to CRUK than the forums.
3. Critics of Race for Life openly subject to abuse
Contrary to CRUK's pretence of being concerned about the community and the site being "a safe and welcoming place", the fact is that genuinely offensive personal attacks are left in place, just as long as they are directed at critics of CRUK. Examples of this include one poster suggesting a man critical of the sexism should go back to his own country, while another labels the discussion as "hilarious" and boring and also makes personal attacks calling people "cry babies" also telling them to "man up". It is clear that those on the end of these sexist and xenophobic abuses, not to mention other site users, found these episodes distressing and the last personal attack is of immense significance in the context of cancer, the "man up" attitude is at the heart of the problem which stops people taking men's health seriously. The posts have sicne been reported to the site's management but they are still left in place, presumably due to the fact they were written by Race for Life supporters. The fact that innocent criticism of Race for Life is censored, whilst at the same time as this content being left alone says it all. CRUK have no concern for its own site rules and would much rather censor a healthy and civil discussion than deal with any real personal attacks and abuses. The very same sub forum where Race for Life comments are censored also contains numerous offensive jokes aimed at men, the very first in the thread concerning a man trapped in a relationship with a violent wife, with "jokes" concerning fatal domestic violence against men a recurring theme.
4. Obsession with female cancers
On a site where every single past and present staff member is females is unsurprising to find a highly feminised environment, but they don't' even attempt balance. I've examined the posts of all CRUK staff on the forums and the site has a handy "tags" feature for the most common terms they use. Of the four current staff members every single one had repeatedly used terms for a least one form of cancer associated with females whilst not one was tagged with any form of male specific cancer whatsoever despite there being a similar number of sufferers. Even relatively rare female cancers get far more mentions than prostate cancer, one of the most common cancers there is.
I've also examined other online activities of the these staff members on sites such as Twitter and the theme of ignoring men continues there too. For example, Sarah Broughton, the manager of the site follows various female associated cancer causes on Twitter and female patients yet no males other than one child. She also has interest in other events which discriminate against men, such as the Orange prize for fiction and not only raises money for breast cancer but for ovarian cancer too (the later event taking place in the CRUK office). Her Facebook accout includes "likes" for numerous cancer casues and charities, with appproximately 20 pertaining to female associated cancers or patients and a fair few gender netural casues also "liked". About the closest she comes to supporting a male cancer charity is the "real men wear pink" breast cancer campign. Just to really rub it in she also lists on of her favourite TV shows as the hideously sexist "Loose Women" programme! Other site staff Tweeted comments warning people against saying "I'm not a feminist" and mocking the sexual prowess of young male pop stars. Predictably, most staff appear to use the misandrist Guardian newspaper as their sole news source with one even providing an interview for the paper.
5. CRUK are misleading users of the site
If we again examine CRUK's statement attempting to justify comments on their forums they claim "the moderators and nurses are not directly involved with Race for Life or any other fundraising activity". This statement is a complete fabrication. Having uncovered the identities of the moderators I've found a number of them have participated in the event, usually on multiple occasions and they even have Race for Life pictures plastered all over their Facebook profiles. Further investigation shows some of these pictures to be highly prominent publicity photos, used to publicise the event and to advertise Race for Life merchandise. Quite incredibly, one person modelling said clothing is the manager of the cancer chat site!. Thus far from being uninvolved in the event, the manager of the forums is actually arguably the face of Race for Life.
Having pointed out these facts to CRUK management, there appears to have been quite a cover up, with the organisation hastily attempting to remove all the images in question from their website. However, they've missed one so you can still see the proof for yourselves (for now). No apology has been forthcoming from CRUK for lying to users of the site, something which would have been particularly appropriate given that the forum rules state users should not post "any material or links to any material which is knowingly false and/or defamatory, inaccurate"
6. Race for Life breaches' CRUK's forum rules
One problem with engaging in borderline illegal and discriminatory activities is that even if you mange to get away with it, you're still breaching fundamental principles and basic sound practices. We've previously proved CRUK management break their own site rules, but in a wider sense the very concept of Race for Life is against the rules too. The section of the rules on "respect for others" states: "Do not post nor privately message any material which may be discriminatory or cause offence on the grounds of an individual's sex, race, religion or belief, ethnic or national origin, sexual orientation, age, marital status, disability or working status." Even if you don't find the event offensive (something which is a matter of opinion), Race for Life is quite clearly both a sexist and certainly a discriminatory event and therefore posts promoting or endorsing it are in breach of the forum rules. As mentioned previously, the majority of site users find the event to be offensive anyway, thus giving yet further cause to remove all such material.
CRUK have again turned reality on its head. As well as there being no good justification for barring Race for Life criticism from CRUK's forums, the opposite is required because anyone endorsing and supporting the event is clearly in breach of CRUK's own terms and conditions (including the manager of the site!). To get themsleves out of this mess CRUK either need to ban/censor all discussion supportive of Race for Life, or they can manipulate their site rules so that material that is sexist against men is no longer banned. A far more sensible solution would be to open up Race for Life to all participants, therefore avoiding all these stupid problems all of CRUK's own creation. Whichever option they chose, it's clear the only truly unacceptable position is the present one.
by John Kimble