Thursday, September 22, 2011

Who Walks & Who Gawks: Reflections on the Walk Against Cancer

2011 was the second year I participated in Scotia Bank's Walk Against Cancer but this time around I seemed far more aware. I was part of Team Purple who represented the Women's Caucus, which according to face book has a  membership of one hundred and thirty, with only fifteen showing up. But in the typical style of benevolence those present expressed how grateful they were that the others were there. This however did not affect the overall outcome, with thousands of women turning up to walk/run against cancer. There were several starting points for those who wished to walk versus those who wished run marked out by a piece of tape. Women hurried to the marker when the time came while I strolled along mostly confused. Finally making my way, I was greeted by a number of hostile crabs who were upset that my presence was further crowding the bucket. Not as a consequence of this hostility but  my own discomfort, I decided to make my way back to the pavement where it was cool and I could breathe. What did it matter where I stood? I recalled an internal conversation I was having a few days before while watching Food Network reality TV, wondering what we have come to as a people where its ok to openly value competition over community and winning over helping others.

And we're off!!!!!! It was indeed a beautiful sight to see so many women moving forward together smiling, talking ... until I noticed one small detail. Where were the men? I mean even men can get breast cancer! (my attempt at humour - its very rare & difficult to detect due to being heavily shrouded by sarcasm) Why were we the only ones that cared? The pieces of the puzzle then came together when I realised that men were in fact participating in spectator capacity. All along the route were clusters of men with alcoholic beverages in hand cheering, jeering and evaluating women walking against cancer.

I also found myself admiring all the adorable little girls walking with who I assumed were their mommies and then I thought ... where are all the little boys? Why had mothers chosen to bring their daughters and not their sons? There was however  a Rastaman painstakingly trying to sit his son still on a bench while all the little girls ran by.

But this does not mean to say that no men took part. I did see a few in the warm up session but they all looked pretty fit/professional and were perhaps too far ahead of me. And I'm sure a number of mothers brought their sons but due to the large crowd I wasn't able to sight any. The point I am making is how come in an event that attracts thousands, men were hardly visible? When does that happen? Only when it comes to something... anything that concerns women. So please indulge my not so scientific reasoning -  Breast cancer is about 100 times less common among men than women and if  the walk attracted about 6,000 participants,  I assure you that no where near  six hundred men were present. Don't these women have husbands, partners, sons, uncles, brothers?

One member of my team told me after the walk was over that she over heard some women talking about another woman's cellulite. Being the naive and hopeful individual that I am I was still surprised. You know the saying if you don't have anything good to say don't say anything at all. Apply this here _______ In fact apply it everywhere, especially when walking for a cause as serious and as important as breast cancer. 

A dear friend reminded me that we were a part of something sacred and that silence was the most reverent gesture  we could make. I like being alone ...  with my own thoughts and to walk or run at a pace suitable to me. Maybe next year I can wear headphones to block out the unnecessary noise but I will continue to see myself put one foot infront the other to walk against breast cancer.


  1. Why do most people go on these walks? In my opinion, "walks" have become cliché. People may drive by, seeing walkers and think "Oh, is another one of dem walk. What dis one for?" I'm not saying the walks have absolutely no effect, but what is really achieved? People, especially Trinis, love an event and opportunity to gather, lime, maco, discuss others (cellulite, etc). Advertising has a huge part to play in who turns up. E.g. an event may be positioned as "Women walk against breast cancer". Or "Men walk against prostrate cancer." Yes, men also get breast cancer. A walk entitled "Men walk against breast cancer" would raise more awareness because people expect women to be the ones to deal with it. The media would be all over the men, asking them why they're walking for breast cancer. They would be on the morning talk shows. 'Experts' would be discussing topics like "Do men get breast cancer? What do men do when women in their lives get breast cancer? What do men know about breast cancer?" etc. And in an ironic way, more people would become aware and learn something.