Thursday, October 01, 2009

Bread and Circuses

So Guy Laliberte, the founder of Cirque du Soleil is going to go to the International Space Station as a space tourist. That I can live with. He's going to do a show about it too. Again I get it. What I don't get is the bit where he says he's doing it to raise awareness about the problems of access to clean water for people worldwide.

Is this the ultimate expression of the now exhausted theme of "going on holiday for charity"? In recent years the notion of people asking you to donate money so they can walk the Inca Trail or cycle the French Alps in aid of charity has become increasingly commonplace. And I'm always wondering exactly how much of the money is going to the charity and how much is paying for the trip.

But of course whatever the amount spent on grappling hooks and sun cream, if money is going to good causes that otherwise wouldn't you can't really knock it. But if it would raise more money to do something a little less close to the tropics, then at least admit that and don't go round acting like you've just grown a halo!

I should justify myself a bit here. I've done the London Marathon and the Caledonian Challenge for charity but in both cases I made a contribution myself to cover the cost of entry (not that much) and all that stuff so that money I got sponsored all went to the actual causes. Also in both cases I freely admit I was doing it because I wanted to and the only way I could get a place was to do it for charity.

We also have a fair few charity and fundraiser events at Soho Comedy Club and when we do we make sure that all the money goes to the causes. We don't charge for the room, the acts perform for free and flyerers and doorstaff always work for free those nights. In fact the only thing we can't recoup for the cause is the booking fee that PayPal charges (usually 9%). Annoyingly they have a function to reduce (but not eliminate) the fee for charities but you have to jump through hoops to get it and you have to be a fully registered charity, not just a good cause or an NGO, etc.

I don't want to sound like I'm against good causes and fundraising - I think it's vital and there should be more of it. But at the same time the word "charity" also doesn't mean "you can't criticise me". So when I read things like this dreadful story about topless models walking through Manchester in aid of "Support Our Soldiers" I totally don't get it. Why can't we support our soldiers without also supporting misogyny? And what about our female soldiers and our gay soldiers and our soldiers who for cultural or religious reasons don't approve of topless modelling?

This also goes for all the half naked calendars in aid of charity too - you know who you are. If you want to do something in aid of charity - do something positive.

Mr Laliberte's trip into space is costing £22m. I think that money would go a long way to giving people around the world access to clean water. Take a holiday if you want mate but don't just do something totally frivolous that you want to do and then pretend to me that you're doing this for the greater good. Believe me people dying from having to drink dirty water will not be looking up at the International Space Station going "thanks Guy"!



Very true Cruella where are the naked men walking through a city centre in aid of female wounded soldiers? Why whenever that word 'charity' is put in front of misogynistic events such as women exposing their breasts in order to raise funds for wounded male soldiers, it suddenly becomes 'charity' not promotion of women as men's sexualised commodities.

'Charity' is a word much overused and increasingly used to hide sexual commodification of women for men's entertainment.

The abundance of calendars showing images of naked women all of course in the name of 'charity' is one such project which also normalises sexual commodification of women's bodies for men's entertainment. And no, calendars depicting half naked men are not the same as the female naked calendars. The half naked men all pose so their male biological sex is always hidden from view.

twirlingmynci said...

Yes, see also 'Heels that heal'.... grrrh