Self Magazine Mocks Cancer Survivor--But Is That the Biggest Issue at Play? Semi-Unpopular Opinion

If you're a person who uses social networks, you've likely seen the story going around about Self Magazine mocking a cancer survivor for the tutu she and her friend were wearing during a fundraising marathon for the illness. I do agree that this was majorly insulting on many levels, specifically because they posted her photo out of context and the tutus she and her friend were wearing were those they make themselves in order to raise money for cancer research. They weren't as the magazine intended, to make you run faster. What's more is that the woman in question, Monika Allen, was fighting brain cancer and running this marathon during her chemo treatment.

Now, the entire world is horrified because it has come to light she's a cancer survivor and you just cannot mock cancer survivors. It's just not done.

Call me an asshat, but why do only cancer survivors, or those fighting some highly publicized disease, the only ones who get a free pass?
I admit that at first I was confused as to why this wold be mocked at all since many marathons I've seen seem to always have runners in costume. Running in tutus didn't really seem to be that far out of the norm in the first place, much less so out of the marathon running norm that it needed to be placed on something called a "BS Meter." Get a grip, Self. 

For some reason, though, I have been uncomfortable with the public decry of this picture and I couldn't figure out what it was that was bugging me. Then I read XO Jane's SELF Magazine's Tutu-Shaming Blunder Has Me Wondering: Will Snarking on Strangers Ever Become Unacceptable in Mainstream Media? and I could put my finger on it.

Because cancer is publicly recognized as a terrible disease, Allen gets a free pass and an apology. Like, how dare you make fun of a cancer survivor? And I'm not saying this to try and downplay the horrors of cancer: my cousin died from leukemia at age six, something her parents grieved about for the rest of their lives. Other than her, my family seems oddly exempt from cancer, but I do have friends who have lost close relatives and parents to the disease. My best-friend in high school's mother recently lost her battle after 10+ years of fighting...and I am 100% not negating that cancer is terrible, needs money raised for cancer research and am not saying that cancer survivors don't deserve a free pass when it comes to being publicly humiliated.

But should only cancer survivors receive a free pass? Why does anyone have to be publicly humiliated? And why is making fun of a cancer survivor so much worse in the public's eyes than making fun of people with any other affliction (or even people who are healthy)? I'm pretty sure if Allen had survived an attempted suicide, conquered anorexia or was being treated for schizophrenia (or any other mental illness), people likely wouldn't have the same reaction even though they should. And people definitely wouldn't have the same reaction if she was a recovering addict of some kind.

It's as though diseases have a hierarchy, and mental illnesses seem to as well. People with depression or an eating disorder are "less crazy" than those who have schizophrenia. People are much more aware of cancer than many other diseases, and therefore there is a stigma attached to it as though it is the very worst thing that could happen to a person. My brother actually had skin cancer which was removed very easily in one surgery. But because of the stigma cancer has, when I told people my brother was having surgery for the C-word, I was immediately given the "Oh my gosh, I'm so sorry!" His surgery was probably less risky than setting a broken bone.

But above all, would people want to apologize to her if she were fat? In the XOJane article, she mentions that fat people are mocked all of the time. Whether it's because of their obesity in general or because they are limited in the clothing they wear, they are often used in photographs without consent just because they are obese. So what if she was running to combat obesity? Would people be as receptive to her plight? What if she were obese herself? Many obese people struggle with eating disorders as well that is a real health condition, but you would never see a headline stating "SELF magazine, ashamed to have made fun of binge eating disorder survivor!"

So maybe the moral of the story is that you should stop making fun of people and using their photos out of context.


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