There is a joke I heard once that goes, “If February is Black History Month and March is Women’s History Month, what happens the other 10 months of the year?” The answer: “discrimination.” Yet it seems that almost anything has its own awareness month – it just happens that most of them occur in October.
October is a good month for women’s awareness. It is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, as well as Domestic Violence Awareness Month and others. We adorn the month of October with pink and purple ribbons, as well as houses and ourselves with (typically small) outfits for Halloween.
But October is officially over. Before you have time to notice, the Halloween candy is 75 percent off, and the family treks to pumpkin farms are over. Yet, although you can remove the safety-pinned ribbon from your bag, has anything really changed?
Domestic violence occurs every month, every day, every hour of the year. Breast cancer does not just infect people in October. Along with that, other forms of cancer, other forms of injustice and different kinds of violence also occur in October whether you have ribbons for them or not.
I am in no way suggesting that an awareness week is a bad thing. If any one person learned something about this issue or helped someone because of the awareness week, clearly they are worth having.
Perhaps the real problem is that there has to be an awareness week in the first place – that someone has to tell you, “This is something you should care about; do something about it.” You need to decide these things for yourself, instead of blindly ignoring inequities until someone forces you to think about it. In 1992, the press coined the term “The Year of the Woman” to apply to that congress. Where were women the other 2,000 years?
October is also Gay History Month – and has Columbus Day. October apparently is the month shouting, “Pay attention to me, because maybe all the causes are going to hibernate soon.”
But now it’s November. And although November has a strong focus on Thanksgiving, we still have 22 days before we show how grateful we are. If we were able to juggle the entire rainbow of ribbons for October, must we only resign ourselves to turkeys and pilgrim hats for this month?
In case you were wondering, November is Adoption Awareness Month, Alzheimer’s Awareness Month, Lung, Prostate and Pancreatic Cancers Awareness Month, Veteran’s Awareness Month, Diabetes Awareness Month and Prematurity Awareness Month. Were we all unaware of these things in October?
I have been told by my most trusted source that one can only have so many causes. I am not disagreeing. Honestly, though, I hope that people don’t think that a cause only exists during its month. Let us not forget the women as we focus on new health causes and the military. Otherwise, if the cause only corresponds to its month, we owe an apology to Low Vision Awareness, Black History and Heart Disease Awareness, which are assigned to February – you guys are only going to get 28 days for your cause (29 if you are lucky, then your turn is up!). They are not mutually exclusive things.
I think it’s wonderful to focus and isolate a cause to have people learn more about it. Yet my greatest wish is that it does not have to be that one cause has to overpower another one, that women get October and March, and now the color pink is out.
I propose that November become All Causes Awareness Month. I also propose that for 2008. Along with any month left to come. I wouldn’t worry about not finding a cause. Outside from different diseases, international conflicts, educational inequality, genetic conditions, sexism, racism and bigotry, there are several different things to wrap your heart around. I don’t think there will ever be a shortage of ways that you can help out. And if all else fails, you could always ask the person handing you the ribbon.
Frank is a member of the class of 2009.