Smear for Smear // Do charity selfies help?


This week, I've started to see #smearforsmear pop up on Twitter and Instagram a lot. The idea is that you smear your lipstick, post a selfie and hey presto! Suddenly women everywhere realise they need to book a smear test. Only it doesn't quite work like that, does it? 

To me, this seems symptomatic of a recent trend for narcissistic self-promotion disguised as charity work, usually under the guise of "raising awareness". Just like the no make up selfie, supposedly to help raise awareness of cancer (because apparently we're not aware of it enough) and the Ice Bucket Challenge before it, again intended to make people aware of ALS, our social media pages are being flooded with people posting photos of themselves in the name of a good cause. Admittedly, there are benefits to this as both trends did increase donations to their respective causes but research also suggests only 10% of people taking part in these campaigns actually donate. Which raises the question- Why would people join in if they don't intend to contribute?

This becomes even more tricky when the issue doesn't lend itself to charitable causes and instead tries to push people into action like that blooming panic button campaign. Smear for smear is a great example of this. As a young woman over the age of 25, seeing some Hollyoaks actress with smudged lipstick is hardly an incentive to get tested. Do you know what is an incentive? Talking about it! 

It's as simple as that. Share your experiences. Discuss the procedure and reassure women that it's not as scary as you'd expect. From what I've seen, celebrities as well known as Rita Ora and Georgia May Jagger are posting their selfies but are not actually talking about their experiences. What does that achieve exactly?


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So, with that in mind, here is what to expect from a smear test, based on my experience:

I got the letter in 2013, just after my 25th birthday but I totally forgot to sort it out until I started visiting the doctor regularly a few months later and he noticed I hadn't been screened. All I had to do was go to the receptionist, ask to book in for a cervical screening and she fixed a date. So far, so easy.

On the day I was admittedly a little nervous. However, the nurse I had was absolutely lovely and put me totally at ease. I had to strip my bottom half (I'd recommend wearing a dress as you can just hoik the skirt up and may feel a bit less naked) and lie on my back with my knees up, then let them fall to either side. 

I'll admit this bit was terrifying, but only because she had a lamp pointed down there and it was casting a huge menacing shadow on to the wall beside me, complete with a speculum longer than my arm span (it was just the effect of the shadow, don't worry!) She warned me that the speculum may be a bit cold, although it wasn't as it turns out, popped it in and then put the little brush in.

This is the bit that sounds horrible but I can promise you, it's not. It's about the size of a cotton bud so absolutely tiny and, by the time you're aware of the sensation, it's out again. That's it! She pulled the curtains closed so I could get dressed in privacy and then I was free to leave.

The whole process took maybe three minutes. In fact, my mum had dropped me off and was just sending a text before planning to meet me in the waiting room but I got back to the car before she'd had a chance to get out. A couple of weeks later, I called up and was told that everything was normal and that was it. I don't need to go back now until 2016, three years after my first screening.

I totally understand why girls are scared by the process and why they put it off for so long but you have my word that it is no big deal at all. I was surprised by just how quick and easy it was, and was so glad that I hadn't procrastinated and built it up as a big scary thing. If you're over 25 and you haven't booked your test yet, do it now! If it is terrifying and painful, I give you permission to tell me off (because I swear it won't be!)


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Now, isn't that a lot more reassuring than a photo of smudged lipstick? Of course I'm not saying don't get involved with the Smear for Smear campaign but, if you do, share your experience. It's only by talking about it that we can really dispel the myths and encourage women to get tested.

Other posts

If you've written your own post on your smear test experience, please do send me a link. I'd love to create a whole list of honest recounts from bloggers so we can have a huge range of different experiences. 

20 comments:

  1. I totally agree with you, I don't really like the social media campaigns they are just made to fit around our western technology based society. The ice bucket challenge was the worst. I mean all that clean, drinkable water that people are throwing over their heads? How can people do it when there are people in the world dying because they don't have clean water?! It is so so ignorant and self absorbed I know people did donate and I know it's for a good cause, we had a family friend die of ALS, but a lot more people in this world die from lack of clean water. It's horrific.

    Thank you for writing this and bringing about awareness in the right way, and for pointing out the issues with these "charitable" campaigns.

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  2. I love this post and 100% agree with you. I think the whole photo thing is actually kinda vain but reassuring women with real stories is SO much better. Good on you xx

    Sam | Samantha Betteridge

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  3. Completely agree with this post, I also think the real aim and meaning of these campaigns can get lost in social media. I'm not against them but agree with you that they need to be spoken about more and if people are going to post a smear selfie/ice bucket challenge then they actually need to donate otherwise what's the point!

    Amy x

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  4. Thank you for posting these links and sharing your experience. I turn 25 in August and as such am expecting my letter through any time until then and the closer it gets the more nervous I become but reading people's experiences really helps.

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  5. What an excellent post and I completely agree. Talking about these kind of taboos is the brave thing not throwing an ice cold bucket of water over you or taking a pic without make up. I can understand that it brings people who don't want to talk about these things a little closer to saying scary words like cancer, death and illness but it doesn't go away if you avoid it. I'm glad that mental illness is finally getting talked about but even then there's still a long way to go. If I was challenged to do the ice bucket challenge I would rather challenge friends to read or watch Tuesdays with Morrie - it will tell you more about Motor Neuron Disease and ALS than a bucket of water.

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  6. Totally agree with you! Its always a bit nerve-wracking before the visit but once its finished you feel 10x better for going through with it!

    Renee
    www.losetheroad.blogspot.ca

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  7. I agree and disagree - I was very cynical about social media campaigns like these until I saw just how much donations increased by during them; it's a shame that not who takes part donates and it's a shame that the interest in that cause is often short lived but, having worked with a lot of charities, getting an extra few hundred thousand pounds all of a sudden is no small thing.

    At the same time, yes, talking about our experiences is hugely important. I'm of the generation who started smear tests at 18 (I'm not sure when that stopped - I'm only in my thirties!) and, although I understand how uncommon cervical cancer is before 25, I wonder if they were maybe less daunting when they were an entering-adulthood rite of passage and a routine part of being a grown up; springing them on women at 25 feels somehow scarier.

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  8. You're so right on this! I have to admit, I did the ice bucket challenge but I did also donate. But talking about cervical screening is way more productive than a picture of someone with lipstick across their face! I had a similarly easy experience when I had my first test, you've inspired me to take to my blog and write about it to encourage others to do the same. Great post, thank you!

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  9. Mine hurt like hell but I did it and would still urge women to do it

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  10. I'm in agreement with you about the whole promotion thing. Once a celebrity picks it up, it goes viral and does spread awareness to a degree but whether it's actually making an impact on someone is another thing. Thank you for sharing your story! You hear such horror stories that it almost puts you off xx

    Everything But The Kitchen Sink

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  11. You're so right, it's definitely better to talk about it than just post a picture. I've got a few years before my first smear test but I'll definitely be booking in for it. It's only a test, even if it does hurt It's not going to leave any lasting damage and the benefits outweigh the cons.
    Emma x
    Writing Essays With Wine

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  12. I'm really not sure about campaigns like this at all. I guess they can't do any harm, and often do improve things for a little while, but then it usually drops off again. I remember when Jade Goody passed away and the press reported that more people were going for their smear tests, but then if I remember correctly (I have a bad memory that can jumble things up) it only lasted so long before the figures went down again.

    I considered writing a post about my most recent experience but I don't really have a huge amount to say. I'd not had a problem on my previous two tests but last time they (the lady doing it was new so had a more experienced nurse with her) had trouble getting the first instrument in place because I was tilted (which I think might be related to my Scoliosis). They asked me to lift up my hips and put my hands together in a fist underneath my lower back/bottom to help tilt my hips up and then they could carry on. It wasn't a problem at all and didn't hurt in any way it just took slightly longer than it normally would x

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    1. Thank you for sharing your perspective. I wouldn't have thought of how it would affect people who have difficulties lying in the position required.

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  13. Hey Becky. After reading your post I felt inspired to also share my experience because I think you are absolutely right, I would never be prompted for action by seeing some pictures of people with smeared lipstick, and a pap smear can be very daunting if you go in blind not knowing what's coming for you. So I'll leave the link for my experience here and hope it helps someone out there: http://uniquelyfilipa.blogspot.pt/2015/02/smear-for-smear-campaign.html

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    1. Thank you so much for sharing! I've added it to the list!

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    2. Thank you for adding me, I hope it helps someone =)

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  14. GREAT post. I didn't really understand what it was all about until now. You made an excellent point. I'm too young for the test, but if I ever do take it and participate in the smear campaign, I'll follow your example and share my experience as well!

    rebekahkoontzsite.com // US Lifestyle Blog

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  15. Hi Becky, I just wanted to say thank you for sharing your experience and letting others know that there's nothing to be scared of! I had cervical cancer in my 20's and believe me, that was much worse than any embarrassment, discomfort or inconvenience anyone might experience by going for their smear. Prevention is better than cure ladies, cervical screening saves lives!!
    Rach x
    www.lifeingeordieland.com

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  16. Every single post I have seen for this campaign discussed what a smear is, what happens during it, and what the test hopes to achieve. You're coming across 'holier than thou' because you "shared your story" when really, you're doing the same as every other blogger I have seen. It's great you're posting this to raise awareness but I don't know why you chose to write it in such a way that makes you seem like you're above or better than everyone else that did the same thing?

    Even if "only" 10% donate to the relative causes, who cares? That's 10% more people donating money to a good cause. People post selfies all the time for no reason, doing it for a bit of self-promotion under the guise of caring about a charity makes no difference - the charity still gets press and the selfie poster gets the attention they wanted.

    Your post comes across aggressive and snarky.

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  17. I wish I could examine your vagina... what?

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I read all comments and appreciate every single one, even if I can't always reply. If you have a question or need a reply, feel free to tweet me @BeckyBedbug- I always reply to tweets!