Locks of Love it's not. A new campaign designed to raise money and awareness for cervical cancer has sparked some controversy among Canadian health experts, reports the Globe and Mail.
Julyna is a month-long campaign that asks women to shave their pubic hair into creative designs in exchange for donations from family, friends and coworkers to cervical cancer research.
Talk about awkward. Just imagine that conversation at by the water cooler on Monday morning. But beyond uncomfortable exchanges, health experts are warning the campaign risks everything from objectifying woman to sending the wrong information about prevention of the disease.
The campaign -- which was was inspired by 'Movember,' a month-long initiative in which men grow mustaches in exchange for donations to prostate cancer research -- is backed by the Canadian Cancer Society, which told the Globe that a crowded market forces campaigns to look for unique ways to catch the public's attention.
But is it worth offending women to stand out?
The campaign is "sexing up cancer," according to Meredith Dault, a graduate student at Queen's University who is studying the booming popularity of pubic hair maintenance and removal.
She told the Montreal Gazette, "It all sounds very Sex and the City to me. Men get to grow ironic moustaches -- which they probably want to do anyway -- and women have to go through the pain of shaving or waxing. ... it seems a little off to me."
Dault complained that the Julyna campaign co-opts the last area of the female body that hasn't been commodified and suggested that if those who organized the initiative wanted to be really bold, they would encourage women to stop shaving their pubic hair for the month instead. "Imagine the beach scenes!" she added.
The campaign also fails to impress Joan Murphy, clinical lead for the Ontario Cervical Cancer Screen Program at Cancer Care Ontario and gynecologic oncologist in the Princess Margaret Cancer Program at University Health Network. She told the Globe that while she understands the campaign's inspiration, Movember, which has used a little extra facial hair to raise millions, “Pubic hair … it doesn’t have the, at least I hope it doesn’t, have the visibility,” she said. “I think this is going to miss that mark.”
With so many charities competing for public donations, a growing number of organizations are using titillation (see the "I Heart Boobies" breast cancer bracelets) to get attention.
Gayle Sulik, an American researcher and author of Pink Ribbon Blues: How Breast Cancer Culture Undermines Women’s Health, sees many parallels between the sexualization of and corporate participation in breast cancer charities and the Julyna campaign.
"The use of lighthearted messages and sexual innuendo creates a muted version of awareness, exploits women’s bodies and ignores the devastating impact cancer has on individuals and their families," Dr. Sulik told the Globe and Mail.