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There's no bravery in no make-up selfies

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No make-up selfies are not brave

Cancer survivor Kim Stephens says no make-up selfies are making lives "a little bit harder" for cancer patients.

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If someone had shown me their no make-up selfie when I was in the midst of chemotherapy hell three years ago, I would have mustered what little strength I had to beat them with my drip stand.

Violently.

The trend currently sweeping social media, masquerading as a cancer awareness campaign, encourages women to strip their faces bare, snap a selfie and post it for all to see.

Brisbane Times reporter Kim Stephens during chemotherapy (left) and as she appears today (right).

Brisbane Times reporter Kim Stephens during chemotherapy (left) and as she appears today (right).

Let's leave aside for a moment that I fail to see how this self-indulgent crap actually serves to heighten cancer awareness.

I mean, is there anyone out there unaware of cancer?

More disturbingly, I fear this destructive campaign is only serving to deliver a giant slap in the (make-up free) face to every woman undergoing life-saving chemotherapy right now.

Lady Gaga's no make-up selfie.

Lady Gaga's no make-up selfie.

It's a slap she does not need when cancer is already serving up a regular supply.

By putting down their lip gloss, snapping a picture of their healthy faces and blithely professing their bravery for posting it publicly, women everywhere are indirectly saying "this is me at my least attractive".

The problem is, to a woman at the height of a chemotherapy regime who barely recognises the reflection that greets her in the mirror, these images are not unattractive at all.

Pop star Ricki Lee's no make-up selfie.

Pop star Ricki Lee's no make-up selfie.

She already acutely feels that by being bald, pale and gaunt, there is nothing that deems her attractive by societal standards now.

A stream of make-up free selfies can do nothing more than intensify that awareness and perhaps make that horrendous time that little bit harder than it needs to be.

For me, a little more than three years ago, staring at my reflection became so traumatic, I simply stopped looking.

Beyonce's no make-up selfie.

Beyonce's no make-up selfie.

My body was playing host to a vicious battle between nature and medicine, as a rare and incredibly aggressive form of lymphoma inexplicably set about killing me. Fast.

I spent three months in isolation in a Melbourne oncology ward as doctors chemically annihilated a cancerous, football-sized stomach tumour that, within just four weeks of symptoms appearing, had rendered me unable to eat or breathe unassisted.

The head of the haematology department told me there was only one plan of attack available to him. No plan B. No back-up plan.

"Sometimes the treatment just stops working," he said.

"We don't know why yet and, if it happens, there's nothing more we can do."

His words lingered ominously throughout my treatment, constantly threatening me with death despite the ongoing success of the chemotherapy regime.

It may seem frivolous that in such grave circumstances, appearance should remain such a crippling psychological factor.

But my 20-something face, until so recently the picture of health, quickly and brutally succumbed to the full force of the chemical warfare.

I stopped looking mainly because my reflection returned the undeniable reality that I was critically, dangerously sick. That I could very well die.

But I also stopped looking because, by conventional standards, I was ugly. There was no escaping it.

The person with the transparent skin, with the sunken eyes no longer framed by eyelashes or eyebrows was not the healthy version of myself I still pictured in my head.

On bad days, it made me fall to the floor and cry.

Yet, I felt extraordinarily guilty for doing so because unlike many others, at the end of it all, I was probably still going to be alive.

So forgive me, make-up free selfie posters, if I don't celebrate your supposed bravery.

Washing off your foundation, losing the mascara and posting a photo of a face that remains healthy and attractive is not brave.

It is self-indulgent and offensive in the extreme to those you are professing to support.

I'm sure many people have been genuinely motivated by wanting to do their bit to help and if the campaign has yielded an enormous surge in donations to cancer research, it certainly has some merit.

However, if it has come at the cost of making the most hellish time in the lives of women enduring chemotherapy harder than it already is, it has no virtue whatsoever.

To help cancer research in Queensland, please donate to the QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute or Cancer Council Queensland.

 

332 comments

  • Kim your lips look better in their natural form than with that silly red grease stuck all over them.

    Commenter
    michael william lockhart
    Location
    toowoomba
    Date and time
    March 28, 2014, 1:38AM
    • @Michael William Lockhart-
      Wow, all you 'got' from this article was that she wears red lipstick in that photo?!

      Commenter
      Lou
      Date and time
      March 28, 2014, 10:30AM
    • hey Kim... how much is your self indulgent rant going to raise for Cancer? I think the money raised by these "shallow" people is going to be significantly more than anything this "article" raises and yet you find fault in them? Shame on you.

      Commenter
      hodster
      Date and time
      March 28, 2014, 10:39AM
    • Hey hodster...you're an ignorant fool. You don't know what Kim has or hasn't done to support research into cancer. In fact she ends the article by providing recommendations for where donations should go. You also don't know how many women here in Australia donated to any cancer charity when posting their selfie (this was a UK campaign that went viral). My guess is way less than half. So how about you hold off on your judgement and show a little respect to someone who has been a victim of this disease and therefore has relevant experience to bring to the conversation.

      Commenter
      Rachael
      Location
      Sydney
      Date and time
      March 28, 2014, 10:54AM
    • @Hodster, the majority of the people who post these selfies are just paying lip service. I asked 10 friends who did this and only 1 of them intended to donate. These naked selfies is just narcissistic tripe masked as altruisim. You want to help a cause, then put the camera down and put your money where your mouth is

      Commenter
      CSLN
      Location
      Manly
      Date and time
      March 28, 2014, 11:13AM
    • hey Rachel - im an ignorant fool am i? How dare you call me ignorant and then you come up with a guess on how many people have donated? 50% ?? a guess? How about it not mattering what the % is..what matters is whoever donated because of this "viral" event more than likely wouldn't have donated if it hadn't occurred. So are you saying that millions of dollars are not needed for cancer charity because Kim doesn't like the way its raised? How many lives are going to be saved by this money and you and the author think its wrong? Who is the ignorant fool now?

      Commenter
      hodster
      Date and time
      March 28, 2014, 12:00PM
    • hey CLSN "@Hodster, the majority of the people who post these selfies are just paying lip service" Thats your opinion... but your 1/10 rate is your little straw poll. My mrs and her friends did it and they all donated . But the point is ... IT DOESN'T MATTER . what matters is people are donating money to a charity that they probably wouldn't have until this campaign stirred so much interest. And we have people like you and the author horrified that such behavior is occurring and judging EVERYONE by some high moral standard that you have deemed to be the "standard" that everyone should adhere to. Shame on you. Maybe you shuld just donate some money and get on with your life rather than finding fault in everyone else.

      Commenter
      hodster
      Date and time
      March 28, 2014, 12:07PM
    • @hodster...As Rachael said, you ARE an ignorant fool! I too know many women who posted these make up free selfies but NOT ONE of them has, or intends to pay one single cent toward any cancer charity. And unless you yourself has ever been a victim of such a horrific illness, then you have no right to judge Kim or anyone else who has been through it for the way they feel. My hat goes off to Kim for getting her feelings out there and I'm sure that there are many other women who feel exactly the same way. Well said Kim!

      Commenter
      NMartin
      Date and time
      March 28, 2014, 12:28PM
    • Ngaire and Michelle's comments further down are pertinent.
      I've been through cancer treatment - though I probably suffered less than Kim by the sounds of it - and although I think the selfie phenomenon a bit silly, I'm not particularly bothered by it. If it raises more money than otherwise would have been raised, then the net result is positive isn't it?

      Commenter
      Clancy
      Location
      Down the Cooper
      Date and time
      March 28, 2014, 12:34PM
    • Michael, the tone of your comment is just ridiculously inappropriate. I'm not sure whether you are trying to insult the writer or compliment her. It didn't work as a compliment though.

      Commenter
      marktlog
      Date and time
      March 28, 2014, 12:39PM

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