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Wednesday, February 11, 2015

To Vax or not to Vax... It shouldn't even be a question.

In 1998 a report published in the Lancet found tentative links between the combined MMR vaccine and autism and colitis in children. This is research has since been entirely discredited. The author of the report, Andrew Wakefield has since been struck off the medical register and his his findings deemed to be fraudulent. So why then have we found ourselves in the midst of a public health crisis? In the US rates of measles are hitting highs that have not been seen since pre vaccine days and its largely thanks to vapid celebrity 'talking heads' with no medical or scientific backgrounds who have seized on vaccines as their 'platform' and those who sit in thus 'anti -vax' camp seem, sadly immune to cold, hard evidence.

Despite there being little or no scientific evidence linking the MMR vaccine to anything other than, well not contracting Measles, Mumps or Rubella it seems plenty of people seem to be eschewing them in favour of making a concerted effort to bring back diseases which  we have largely banished. This is being done under the guise that these diseases, being 'normal childhood diseases' and therefore natural (side effects -high temperature, listlessness, skin rash, possibly leading to measles encephalitis, coma and death) are better than vaccinating against these diseases (side effects - might feel a bit out sorts, slight fever, in rare cases bit of diarrhea, will be grand in a couple of days)  because they are 'unnatural' and filled with bad science and black magic (or at least that's how they tell it!)

                                                    I assume I am not the only one utterly baffled/terrified by this?
Whilst many of us would no doubt agree that there are many, many wonderful things to be said for nature and that in some arenas, for example diet, a push to minimise chemicals and synthetic material from our diets might actually be highly beneficial (and before you ask, yes I know there is a far more nuanced debate to have on this and we'll have it another time, I am not anti GMO), in terms of conventional scientifically proven medicine, natural does not necessarily equal better. There is a reason we talk about scientific advancement. There is a reason we celebrate the near eradication of formerly debilitating and life threatening diseases (Well hello there polio, don't see much of you these days. Thanks medical science!). It is because they are inherently good things. Vaccinations protect our children, they protect us. Most importantly being vaccinated protects those who can't be. Those babies who are too young, those children (and adults) with conditions which either mean they cannot be fully vaccinated or whose vaccinations are not effective due to extreme immuno-supression. Its one thing to make a claim that it is your choice, but the decision to not vaccinate does not end with you. It has repercussions for that baby in the supermarket. For that elderly person you shared a lift with. For the kid with leukemia. Your decision to not vaccinate your child based on discredited findings and anti-science chinese whispers might well cost lives. Not just of your own children but of countless children who fall pray to what is at best your gullibility and worst your rampant selfishness and hubris. Think on that and consider what your decision to put lives at risk is really based on. What do you trust more? Some celeb or tried and tested science?

I am unapologetically and unequivocally pro vaccine. I support the right of schools and other institutions to exclude those who are willfully unvaccinated to protect those who can't be. Its a shame for the children of these woefully ignorant whack jobs but ultimately it is, as the recent outbreak in the US, in which ground zero was Disneyland demonstrates, a public health issue. It is bigger than any single one of us. There are so many things in the world we can't protect our children from the mind boggles as to why we would deny our children protection from the things we can. (oh yeah, and those parents holding their 'measles parties', you're awful, awful people.)

                                                            If this is on the level I am totally on board.

I normally try and see both sides when it comes to other peoples parenting decisions but the whole vaccination issue is one on which there are no shades of grey. If you're not vaccinating your kids, you're not part of the problem. You are the problem.

Friday, August 1, 2014

When there is nowhere to run.

Right now the world is a sad and dark place. In all corners of the world children are dragged, unbidden into the darkest and most horrible of conflicts. 200 school girls kidnapped in Nigeria for no greater crime than hoping to get an education, children returning from their holidays shot down, innocent pawns in a conflict which has nothing to do with them, millions of children displaced and in danger in Syria and children bombed whilst they sleep in the only sanctuary they had in Gaza. Victims of Israel's brutal and disproportionate response to the firing of rockets into Israel by Hamas.

I will get one thing clear from the start. I am not an anti semite. We live in a world where any criticism of the Israeli state is met with the standard accusation of antisemitism. And this is part of the problem. No one in their right mind questions or attempts to belittle the terrible crimes committed against the Jewish people by the Nazis. It was a dark and terrible period in our history and one that should be remembered. As both a student and teacher of History, the Holocaust is something I teach and place great importance on. Even when I worked in schools in the Middle East where the teaching of the Holocaust had to be handled with great care,  in large part due to the conflicts within the region, I insisted it should be taught, that an understanding of these events were essential to the study of our world and to a more contextual understanding of the world we live in currently, something I stand by to this day. The fact that this needs clarification in the first place is a massive part of the reason that Israel is allowed to act as it does towards Palestine and faces very minimal international condemnation for its actions.

However, the time has come. Whilst no one will ever wipe away the pain the Jewish people suffered in the Holocaust, the attempted annihilation of another people will not do it either. Hamas is a problem, they operate outside the bounds of diplomacy and politics and endanger life through their rocket attacks, but wholesale slaughter of Palestinian innocents will not prevent that. The International community and that includes Israel's erstwhile allies such as the United States and the UK must no longer be complicit in what amounts to war crimes against largely civilian populations.

Lets look at Gaza.
The Gaza Strip is currently the focus of the current conflict between Israel and Hamas and the map gives as good an indication as any of the issues faced by civilians living in Gaza. Both the Israeli and Egyptian borders are closed to them. They have no escape from the unrelenting horror of shelling. Nowhere to run from the ground incursions. Unlike Israel, who has some fairly solid self defence in its Iron Dome technology (more about it here which has significant success in rapidly significantly reducing civilian casualties, the people of Gaza have no such succour. Whilst the Israelis make claim that residents are warned prior to rocket attacks, the number of casualties on the Palestinian side make it difficult to argue any real case for 'self defence' or proportionality of response. Quite simply, the Palestian people, particularly those in Gaza right now, have no where to go and no where to hide. In 2012, Noam Chomsky described Gaza as 'the world's biggest open air prison'. No hope of escape, little hope of a better future. And think on this. The average age in Gaza is only 17 years old. 250,000 Gazans are under the age of 10. These are children. Children who have no safe place to go. Children who were shown without a shadow of a doubt that there was no sanctuary to be had, by the bombing of a UN shelter by Israeli forces.

The news is full of such atrocities. Even amongst the massive media bias towards Israel shown by many boradcasters, you cannot escape the horror. You cannot fail to see what the people of Gaza are being subject to. We, the world, are watching the murder of civilians. Of Children, whose only crime was to be born in the wrong place. As a parent, as decent human being, I am at a loss as to how our governments are able to stand by and do so little, to be so tepid in their responses. I am at a loss as to how any person with even a modicum of empathy, of compassion can even begin to justify Israel's atrocities or call them self defence. How anyone can standby and see the frightened faces of children, the injuries they have suffered and not want to it stop.

Putting my own children to bed last night I was overcome with the notion of just how lucky I am. I was able to put my children to bed last night in the knowledge that they were unlikely to come to harm. That they would sleep peacefully and easy. That they would wake care free and live another happy day. I was shaken by the understanding of just what a luxury that really is. That so many parents cannot, for reasons outside of their control want nothing more than to keep their children safe and yet live with the knowledge that their children live under a blanket of fear, danger, of pain. I cannot begin to truly comprehend how that must feel. But the pain in my heart even contemplating it is such that I know it must be a burden almost too heavy to bear.

If you want to help the people of Gaza there are a few things you can do:

Donate to charity.

There are a massive number of appeals to can contribute to but here are just a few;

Save the Children, Gaza Appeal
The Red Cross

Write to your MP, the Foreign Secetary or Prime Minister or join in demonstrations such as the one outside the Israeli Embassy in London TODAY (1st August).

Keep raising awareness, share stories, put pressure on news outlets to be more balanced in their coverage. 

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Yes, All Women.

I'm writing this post in the light of the horrific events that unfurled in Santa Barbara over the weekend, where a damaged and ill, but also entitled, privileged and misogynistic young man, fueled by anger and humiliation at what he saw as his rejection by women killed seven people and injured several more before taking his own life. In the hours and days immediately after the tragedy You Tube videos and a chilling and angry manifesto came to light outlining his attitudes to women, people of colour and his plans for his 'Day of Retribution'

 This particular tragedy is almost the perfect storm of issues. Guns (all of Elliot Rodger's guns were legally obtained despite the fact he had a history or mental health issues and he lives in California which has some of the strictest gun laws in the US), the mental health issues (Rodger's had a number of ongoing mental health issues and had apparently been in therapy for many years, his family and parents were aware of the issue to the point where they had called the police on at least one occasion believing Rodger's to be a danger to others) and vicious and deep seated misogyny. And it is this which I want to talk about right now.

When the story first broke and news of his videos and manifesto came to light women across the world were, understandably, shocked, horrified, saddened and angry. Men, whilst many felt the same way were quick to point out that 'Its not all men', women were keen to point out that, yes, we know that, but when it comes to misogyny, whether it be casual occasions of everyday sexism or sexual violence or aggression, it is all women.

This spawned much debate online, particularly on Twitter, where the #yesallwomen hashtag began trending. The purpose of the hashtag was to allow women to share their experiences, to open a conversation and make our male feminist allies understand that whilst of course its not all men, almost every woman will on a reasonably regular basis be the victims of male aggression and  privilege. For some women this takes the form of serious abuse (whether it be sexual, physical or emotional) or sexual violence for others it is domestic abuse, discrimination in the workplace, being prey to the unwanted and overly enthusiastic man in a club, a wolf whistle in the street, and audible comment about body, attributes, age, weight, looks, intimidation by a man or group of men. The list could go on and the problem is with many of these is that with the exception of the most serious, they are seen as entirely acceptable. Male privilege and our culture of casual sexism is such that aggressively pursuing a woman who has made her lack of interest quite clear is ok. Shouting at a woman whilst she walks her dog or takes a run or runs her errands is fine. Casual touching of a woman without her explicit consent is fine. But its not fine, its not ok and its not acceptable. We have become so trained that we should see these behaviours as harmless that often even other women will indulge in the culture of 'victim blaming' we seem to have created. That a woman should be flattered by a stranger yelling from his car that she has a 'nice arse/tits/is doable' that she should not be offended when a stranger yells at her that she is fat/ugly/a bitch. Women who stand up for themselves in these circumstances are further often further abused. The fact that we have a sliding scale of sexual aggression and misogyny is part of the problem. The fact that we have to be relieved that we have 'only' been victims of the lesser kind of these acts is a problem because they shouldn't exist.

In addition to gender, race also plays its part and cannot be ignored in the discussion less, #yesallwomen becomes #yesall WHITEwomen (and there is a very interesting debate currently going on on twitter under that very hashtag which I do recommend you read as it gives some very interesting perspectives and statistic with regards to the experience of women of colour) in the US amongst women of colour rates of reported coercive sexual behaviour are most high, with almost 40% of black women being victim of this kind of behaviour. Whilst it is true to say that ALL women experience this, we cannot ignore the experiences of women of colour who are statistically more likely to be the victims of more serious sexual aggression and more likely to be ignored as victims. Issues of white privilege and intersectionality are part of the debate and I do believe if we are to move feminism forward and truly become 'all women' you cannot discount the part race plays and the differing experiences of women of colour.

Unfortunately our media also perpetuates the cycle of misogyny. Look around your house, pick up the first magazine you see. Even those aimed directly at women often seem to exist only as objects. Magazines tell us how we should look, what we should be doing to 'please our men', they shame us for being fat, for having agency and using it.

Lets look at some examples from the media. Now the women I talk about here might not be my favourite people in the world, they may not live the kind of life I would chose, but do they deserve to be talked about in the kind of language that people do? The answer must surely be no.

Female celebrities are objectified to the nth degree. Kim Kardashian (think what you will of her) lives her entire life being too fat, too thin, judged for relationships (cos like 'Oh My God, she's been married three times'), you can argue that she has made the choice to live in the public and eye and its true that she did but does that really mean we should be allowed to pass judgement on her every act? That we should fat shame her throughout her pregnancy for daring to do what many pregnant women do (myself included) which is gain a lot of weight? And then of course she was judged all over again when she lost the weight, but would have been just as harshly judged if she hadn't.

Kate Middleton has recently had her bum in several papers and on the internet because her skirt blew up when she got out of a helicopter. Everyone has an opinion on whether she should weight her hems, wear a slip, wear bigger pants (she appears to be wearing either a thong or none, I would be inclined to suspect the former) but how about we just don't take pictures of women's bums when the wind catches their skirt and blows it up. How about we look at what it says about how we view women that a picture of a woman's arse, taken without consent is deemed public interest (this was hold even if Kate's full time job was wearing a bikini, consent is all and just because you've seen someone's bum once doesn't mean you always get to see it).

Kim Novac attended the 2014 Academy Awards. At 81 years old she looks pretty good and she's definitely had some work, but if that's her choice I'm fine with that. Plenty however, had a LOT to say. Headlines appeared on her 'shocking' new look and mocked her attempts at maintaining her youth whilst ignoring the fact that society has made it so unacceptable for women, particularly those who work in the public eye to get old that its incredibly common for women to undergo surgery to attempt to fight it.

It is in this context, this culture of victim blaming, slut shaming, fat watching, ageist, god for bid you go out looking a bit rough or should stand up for yourself or exhibit any kind of agency or not think it totally HILARIOUS when a man grabs your boob in a club 'for a laugh' that we live.A place where, factoring in unreported rapes, its estimated that only 5% of rapists in the UK ever spend a single day behind bars, or where women's reputations, lifestyles associations, dress and sex life are dragged through the courts and laid open for all to even get that 5% to face the consequences of their crime. It is in this world that ALL women live. In the developing world sex is used as a weapon of war, in the developed world a culture of casual sexism is all pervading, and whilst I certainly prefer my reality that of women in the developing world again it lays out questions as to why either group should have to tolerate what they do.

So yes, we know, we understand that its not all men, but it is all women and until ALL men understand that we need to keep having this conversation.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Its a Sin to Kill a Mockingbird

Most of you in the UK (and many outside) can't have helped but hear about Michael Gove's latest ill thought out, poorly conceived piece of idiotic policy making. Mr Gove has made changes to both the GCSE and the A-Level English Literature specification which basically removes many stalwarts of both courses, such as Harper Lee's "To Kill a Mockingbird" and John Steinbeck's "Of Mice and Men" and hopes to replace them with twentieth century literature by authors from the British Isles. Once again (in concurrence with his ignorant ideas about the History curriculum) it shows Mr Gove pushing our education system towards a mono-cultural abyss. More and more it seems that Mr Gove sees Education, not as his job and his responsibility with the weight of millions of emerging character and intellects at stake, but as his own personal fiefdom in which to experiment and make changes purely based on his own view of the world and of education. At this point I will make the point that Mr Gove is, unlike many (though not all) Education Secretaries, not an Educator, he has no background in Education. His degree is in Journalism and it was this profession he pursed until he became an MP in 2005. Yet this lack of expertise has not stopped him from enacting a whole series of changes, most as foolhardy as the next leading teachers and educators everywhere to despair. All three of the major teachers' unions have passed votes of no confidence in him and he has been roundly criticised  by the Association of Headteachers in addition to this. Mr Gove makes it clear at all turns that he despises teachers and that the advice and expertise of experienced educational practitioners and academics has no bearing on his ideas nor his policies.

The most recent, the proposed change to the English curriculum has incensed both the teaching profession and public alike. Both Lee and Steinbeck have long been popular mainstays of the GCSE curriculum and I myself studied them. Gove's mistake seems to have been tied up in his massive disconnect between himself and the people he (and his government and party ) are supposed to represent. Scroll through Twitter discussions and Facebook posts and the amount of love for both these books is immense. So many point to them as books that made them love reading, or that taught them valuable lessons on race and class. Atticus Finch is oft cited as a role model of integrity that those of us who studied the books at school and are now parents our self aspire to be for our children and as the kind of man we would like to teach our sons to be. The importance of these books to our children and their education has nothing to with where they were written and everything to do with the stories they tell and the lessons they impart. That Gove can't see that makes him singularly unfit for the position he now occupies.

Please sign the position requesting that Mr Gove reverse his position here

Monday, May 19, 2014

UKIP are not your friends.

UKIP have been in the news a lot lately. For one, there are European elections coming up and due to unfortunate voter apathy even from the more pro European amongst the electorate, UKIP are expected to do very well. And its a shame. Because UKIP should not be representing us in Europe, for them Europe is an anathema, the thing which is holding back Britain from regaining its former glory, whilst drowning us in immigrants who have come over here to steal our jobs or scrounge for benefits depending on what day of the week it is. In addition this is the kind of thing they get up to when allowed out in public . Its pretty pathetic isn't it?

However, there are those who find appeal in Farage and friends belligerence, who are willing to look past the fact that their economic policies work they would need to be powered by the rainbow coloured poop of a thousand unicorns, who hone in only on their anti European stance or try and dress their support up in the language of challenging the system, of fighting the status quo of opening up the parliamentary system etc etc. And in themselves all this arguments are fine, they have some credence. However, what does not and should not stand is the party they choose to espouse to make these points. Let us say for a moment that UKIP was a party chock full of terrific ideas, a foolproof budget and a neat and amicable exit from Europe ( I am pro Europe by the way). Even if all these factors existed there would be one very big problems with UKIP and that should be the one reason that you choose to deny them. They are a party of division. Whether or not the party is 'racist' or not can be argued using questions of nuance, but what cannot be denied is that they do espouse policies which attract those with racist, bigoted and divisional beliefs. They are the only party to ban former BNP members they exclaim with pride, yet this is because they are the only party which attracts that mind set with any great number and offers them access to the upper levels of the party. They are always quick to act when one of their number is caught putting their unfeasibly large feet into their seemingly even bigger mouths, but it doesn't change the fact that it is their own policy of creating scapegoats which attracts and fosters those with more extreme view points.

I'm not anti UKIP because of the newspapers that I read, I have not 'been blindfolded into your opinion  by the cognitive dissonance of the left wing press' it is not my 'inability to understand the federalist agenda of the EU and its fanatics'.  In fact even if I was vehemently anti the European Union I would not and could not bring my self to support a party such as UKIP. Even if the rest of the parties were slowly collapsing like my hair in the heat, (which its entirely possible they are, they aren't in good shape that's for sure), if UKIP were the only choice I would spoil my ballot. I am anti UKIP because they offend my every sensibility as a citizen and a human. Whilst their policies, such as they are just about manage to skirt the boundaries of out and out offensive, their membership is firmly beyond the pale. They are active members in extreme right wing pan European political groups such as the EFD who have compared Muslim women to Osama Bin Laden and frequently warn against the 'threat' of Islamisation.   A vote for UKIP might 'sock it' it to the Tories, or Labour and quite likely the Lib Dems but it will do so at a cost too high. Its not 'protest', it is complicity. It is not that others don't understand or that they have been duped, it is being an apologist for something that is reprehensible. There are numerous other examples I could use to hammer home my point, but at this juncture they are probably redundant. My abhorrence of UKIP has nothing to do with their anti European stance generally and everything to do with their scapegoating of minorities, their offensive candidates and their general lack of the traits of that make up a decent human being. Alas, they will win their seats later this month and come next year will probably have enough people who are willing to subscribe to their anachronistic xenophobia and posturing or who vote for them out of a desire to protest the other parties that they will win some parliamentary seats. But it will be a shame and despite what their apologists and supporters claim it will not make us a better country. The cycle of division and intolerance will be perpetuated and Nigel Farage's braying voice and idiotic posturing will continue to get booked on Newsnight and Question Time, because clowns always make for entertaining television. Even dangerous ones like Farage.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Puppy Love

They say that objects don't matter and and to some extent that's true but what about when something precious is lost? And by precious I don't mean monetarily expensive, I mean something imbued with precious memories, an object which embodies a time or a feeling. An object like a little blue stuffed dog.

Puppy Cullen was gifted to my son on the day he was born by one of my truest and closest friends. Boy and dog have grown up together, from those days when Puppy Cullen and the Boy Child would hang out in the cot or pram, to those destructive early toddler days where the two of them would stagger round the house getting up to mischief like a little gang. There was a period of estrangement, like all relationships, where the two of them took the time to grow as people, where the Boy Child was hanging out with Pooh Bear, but fate soon brought them back together. Childhood best friends, inseparable. Hours were spent watching the washing machine turn waiting for the little blue dog to emerge clean and fluffy, they would watch TV together, take trike rides, play trains. As a mother I often would marvel at the comfort and real joy this little stuffed toy, this inanimate object could bring my child.

And then it happened. Puppy Cullen didn't come home with us one day. Frantic searches, the leaving of telephones numbers, the upending of bags and suitcases ensued, but alas in vain. Our little blue friend, the Boy Child's greatest companion was gone. My little man, was as you might expect, distraught. But what I didn't expect was my own emotional reaction to the loss of the little blue dog. When the realisation that he was lost to us sank in, I cried. Big, fat hot tears. There may have been sobbing. Okay, there was sobbing. There was definitely Ugly Crying Face. I cried as if I had been the one that had lost something entirely beloved to me. And in a sense, I had.

What I failed to understand was how much of my son's childhood was bound up in that well loved, slightly smelly and never quite clean despite tri weekly trips though the washing machine, piece of blue material. Such was my son's love and affection for this inanimate object that by extension I saw the toy as part of him. So much of my son's early childhood, those almost three years of boisterous, sticky, joyous childhood were tied up in his friendship with Puppy Cullen and when Puppy Cullen was lost, the transient nature of these early years was brought home to me, how much has already passed and can never be regained. I felt like I'd lost part of my little boy's childhood and I was grieving for, not a little blue dog (or at least not just a little blue dog, because I'll miss that smelly little fella) but for part of my son's childhood that is over and done with.

As I watch my son grow with that pride that only a mother can feel for her children,I want so much for him. For him to be happy, for him to be safe, to never know real strife and hardship, for him to always know that he is loved. But it is bittersweet, I want our children to grow, to become increasingly independent and to know their own mind but I cannot help but to be wistful about what has already left us. The things that change so quickly that you sometimes need to stop yourself from wishing the time away in a flurry of 'please go to sleep/eat your dinner/ don't tease the cat/ stop licking your sister you know she doesn't like it'. Tomorrow I will no doubt be back to rescuing the Patchy Cat from the drawer in which the Boy Child has put her, wishing that for 5 minutes he would use someone else as a human railway track and despairing of the fact that his artistic medium seems to be felt tip pen on walls, but right now I'm going to savour his little boy impetuousness, his extremes of emotion, the mischievous look on his face as he sidles out of the kitchen with that banana I said no to because it's dinner time soon. I'm going to let both him and myself be sad for the fact that Puppy Cullen is gone and that part of his childhood is gone and can never come back. So long Puppy Cullen and I hope whoever found you loves you a fraction as much as your first best friend and you make your new friend as happy as you made the Boy Child.

Friday, March 21, 2014


There has been a lot of discussion (not to mention a lot of photos) on social media about the #barefaceselfie (Bare face selfie for those who don't speak hash tagese!). The idea behind it is that women take photos of themselves without make up and post it to the social media page of their choice. Easy peasy, lemon squeezy. This in turn will hopefully raise awareness of cancer in general and breast cancer in particular. There has been a lot of criticism of this particular online movement with complaints that posting a selfie on FB doesn't really help cancer sufferers or translate into cash. Which is proving not to be the case. An increasing number of those involved are including links to cancer websites and numbers to make text message donations, many are following up their selfies with a donation themselves. A number of cancer charities have reported increased donations (the Irish Cancer Society for example, reporting 200K Euros in 24 hours, Cancer Research UK, 1million pounds sterling) so unlike the other 'viral awareness' campaigns such as the 'I went to France for Six Weeks' type where mostly they just caused annoyance, the #barefaceselfie, despite not actually being started by any particular cancer foundation (at this point no one actually seems to know how it came about) seems to actually doing what it hopes to.

Whilst obviously it is absolutely amazing the money that is being raised by this occurrence, we shouldn't be too quick to discount other benefits of this phenomena. The campaign was started to raise awareness. And there is a subtle but very distinct difference between raising awareness and raising money but both are equally important. Without awareness of cancer, particularly cancers like breast or testicular where self examination can often be the first indicator, there is little to no early detection. Awareness of the importance of checking one's breasts (be you male or female) and testicles cannot be overstated. Yet I would bet the bank its something many of us either never do ro don't do anywhere nearly as often as we should. The #barefaceselfie movement has raised awareness and I bet as a result a decent percentage of those of us who did the selfies also checked our boobs (and if you didn't go and do it, go and do it now. I will wait, go on.) And if even a few women, because of this increased awareness find themselves in doctors surgeries getting early and hopefully treatable diagnoses then the point of this campaign, even had it not raised a single pound, will have been achieved.

Then there are other benefits, not related necessarily to the driving purpose of the campaign but none the less brought about by it. Women were empowered by it. Women in huge numbers posted these selfies. Women who I know and see all the time but have never seen bare faced because its not what they do, embraced this opportunity to show who they were underneath. Even many who wouldn't be daily make up wearers (which includes me on days I don't work, but wasn't always the case, there are people I've known years who would never have seen me without a full face on) would not necessarily choose to show themselves up close and bare faced without a distraction, with them as the sole focus of the shot. My timeline is full of these gorgeous pictures, of women united and slightly giddy in a cause. I wouldn't go so far as to call the movement brave, it isn't, but for some women being seen in such a real and exposed state is a big deal. We have such pressures to look a certain way and sometimes its refreshing not to have to. And due to the popularity of the campaign we feel safe to do so. Unfortunately, of course there are people (and by people I alas, mean men) who think its funny to make cracks about scaring children and what have you and I'm sure they think they are very funny. I'm sure some people think they are funny also and its a real shame that some men feel the need to take this 'everyday sexism' approach to women empowering themselves and others albeit in such a tiny way. I'm not normally one for this kind of campaign, as I mentioned early the ones that do the rounds by PM and then end up as cryptic, supposedly, but not very funny status updates make me want the throw things. But this one, this one has had real value. Its raised a hell of a lot of money, its raised awareness (if didn't do it earlier go and check those boobs and bits, if you're not sure what you're looking for I've included some links below) and its brought women together (and its certainly been more effective that the Sun's tawdry excuse for a breast cancer campaign which took the message of checking your breasts and turned into titillation for its page three readership.) All in all I'd call it a #success.

Check your balls
Check your boobs

Cancer Research UK
Breast Cancer UK
Irish Cancer Society
Australian Cancer Research Foundation

This is a very small sample, each country has its own cancer charities and often particular cancer hospitals or support groups also need donations. Find out what is in your area and give a couple of quid.