Cartoon Avatars fighting Child Abuse

So, the debate still goes on about the Facebook meme, “Change Your Profile Picture to fight Child Abuse”. The idea was to put up your favourite cartoon character from your youth and “to remove all human faces” from Facebook and this was a protest against child abuse.

Wow.  Just wow.

I tried really, really hard for the whole campaign to not comment, link, protest or snipe in any way, shape or form. There were a lot of snotty, nasty articles out there…it’s not that I didn’t agree with the cynicism but to me, the subject is not helped by making jokes about it (Gawker head, Adrien Chen, wrote a particularly nasty bit about a child sex abuser announcing that he was done because of all the cartoon avatars. I’m not linking to it. Kinda made me want to punch somebody). But, the last few days I just kinda wore out and posted a link to an article written by a woman whose husband is in social work and deals with abused kids on a daily basis.

And yes. Just yes. I particularly liked (and quoted) her line, “It raises awareness, some people said to me. It’s better than nothing. Really? If we, as connected as we are in this day and age, know all about Heidi Montag’s plastic surgeries but aren’t aware of child abuse, then we are dumb as rocks.”


And here’s the thing…a lot of the negativity I’ve seen seems to be written by people who have an understanding of child abuse because they’ve worked with victims–I’ve not seen actual victims, current or past, express opinions. And there are a lot of reasons for that…but one of them would be that child abuse victims are programmed to understand that they really are nobody. Nobody at all. Nobody special, nobody to be listened to.  Those who aren’t so filled with rage that they want to punch everyone in the face are often the absolute nicest people you will ever meet:  desperate to help everyone they meet, do everything they can, not make you unhappy in any way, shape or form. So, for example, I tried sooooooooooooo hard not to say anything negative about this campaign–it would make people who adopted it feel bad.

Those who happily joined in because it seemed like the latest feel-good meme ended up feeling defensive at the negativity expressed by others. After all, people hadn’t freaked out when they turned their avatar purple for Spirit Day or changed them for no particular cause just the latest fun meme. Why was this one different?

I, frankly, hate almost all awareness campaigns–that should be said at the start. I think they’re stupefyingly stupidly stupid. “We’re raising awareness for Breast Cancer!” Meaning what? You think Breast Cancer gets a bad rap and you want it to get better press? No, that’s a stupid response. Oh, you want people to know that women get breast cancer? Wow. Because no one knew before the campaign.

Now, if what they mean is “let’s raise money to give to charity” that’s just peachy. Have at it and go crazy. But don’t give me the “awareness” crap. To me that usually means that some vaguely named charity is raising money to pay it’s staff and to pay for events all under the guise of helpfulness. My favourite breast cancer slogan I’ve seen yet was “Fuck Awareness. Find a Cure” (and my variant I’d like to print up and promote, “Fuck Awareness. Fund Research”).

But the Facebook campaign wasn’t anything other than “change your avatar”. It was so simple that many people didn’t even know why people were changing their pictures (although I believe in the original ’round-and-’round it was suggested that you cut-and-paste the meme as your status when you changed your pic). Eventually, I saw a simplified version making the rounds:  change your Facebook pic to your favourite 80s or 90s cartoon character!  Fun times, all around.

And slowly, slowly, people quicker on the keyboard than I started getting angry and responding. Said one blogger (Melissa writing for Redefine  Gurly):

“What happens on December 7th? That’s my question for this silly Facebook group whose goal is: ”There should be no human faces on Facebook but an invasion of memories to raise awareness to end Violence Against Children.” As of this morning the group has 7,800 some members, no website, is made up of “unnamed volunteers”, and offers no information on child abuse numbers, warning signs, or action items in their facebook feed. ”

And she questions what is, to me and other abuse survivors, the obvious point:

“If child abuse is a system that feeds on the dehumanization of its tiny victims and the facelessness of the perpetrators, this entire event  [removing “all the human faces”] has me scratching my head.”

It seems that in the face of the criticism and minor backlashes, there are those who’ve decided to add to the meme and actually make it a campaign about awareness. Duy Tano, (of The Comics Cube), pointed out to me that he’s seen a version with links to child abuse hotlines in The Philippines (where he lives). And it seems that some of the charities that deal with child abuse victims have become aware of the campaign and have set up Facebook pages, or linked to the campaign on their Facebook page, and have been able to have some “spillover” effect of people looking for a place to help coming to them and donating money or expressing interest in learning ways to help. That’s not a bad thing.

I’ve run out of anger at the moment…in order to keep it going I would have to keep focus on my own past as a child of abuse…and I’ve spent a lot of years trying to put that all away as something I can’t deal with, can’t fix…can’t ever get away from. I don’t have the energy to deal with it right now. So all I can say to finish is, if you want to help fight child abuse. Help. Find a local teen shelter in your area. Donate money to Kids Helpline  Canada or any help-line in your area. Donate money to Covenant House.

Or, if you want to focus on happy Christmas stuff…find a local toydrive and donate items for teenagers. CP24 CHUM Christmas Wish has been begging for items for teens–they’re usually the last kids that people think of; everyone wants to buy the baby dolls and stuffed animals.


2 thoughts on “Cartoon Avatars fighting Child Abuse

  1. I really appreciate your thoughtful post, and your linking to my post.

    Above all, I am thankful you have encouraged your readers to take the next step, to make tangible change. Take action. There are so many organizations on the ground doing amazing work for these children — THEY are who our conversations should have been about this weekend.

    In the United States, there are 5.8 million abused children who needed all of to do more this weekend, and to continue doing more through out the year.

  2. I saw the avatar-change campaign a week or so before I saw the first message ever linked to child abuse.

    I think, with no evidence to support this whatsoever, that someone saw their avatar campaign floundering and linked it to a social cause as an afterthought.

    It was a bad idea poorly and incompletely executed.

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