For the charity Beating Bowel Cancer we spent 16th April talking about all things toilet related. This is for their #LiftTheLid campaign which aims to get people talking about ‘bottoms, bowels and poo’.
Humans and animals share a fascination for faeces. And rightly so; they tell us so much about our general health that ignoring stools is a danger to our survival. I discovered that people in this office are no exception. For many their bowel habits are a joyous obsession, preoccupation and passion that they are only too happy to talk about once given permission.
But permission has to be given because we British (and the non-British trying to fit in with our seemingly prim culture) will remain closed mouthed for fear of seeming uncouth. Beating Bowel Cancer faces a hard battle to encourage the British to let go of their social fears and start talking toilet. Give us an inch and we will take a mile but only if it is the right inch and in a manner that won’t scare us away.
What’s the best way to break down this cultural resistance? Humour, toilet humour especially. Many a cultural anthropologist has noticed that the British use humour to work their way through uncomfortable situations (no pun intended, or maybe it was, I think I’m feeling uncomfortable writing this).
Beating Bowel Cancer has therefore hit the nail on the head with their #LiftTheLid campaign which uses humour to encourage conversations. I can testify the jokes here were non-stop. I also learned that a binge on beetroot makes for a shocking discovery and that Iron tablets can make you regress to infanthood. I could go on…
Some here needed a little assistance lifting their lid, so they were encouraged to take an online risk assessment by the Cleveland Clinic to determine colon cancer risk levels. While it is certainly a positive that everyone here took the time to take an interest in their colon health, the test itself left a lot to be desired in the generic nature of the advice it gave; labelling everyone as at least average in risk. What we can learn from this is that while online assessments can publicise illnesses, provide information and encourage responsibility, the only way to determine real risk is by visiting a GP.
A similar event that encourages people to take responsibility for their health through monitoring and questioning is Movember. This annual event has greatly increased awareness and knowledge of testicular cancer. It’s increased the number of men checking themselves and knowing how to check themselves correctly. Many more men are now visiting GPs and dealing with any risks through prevention.
Beating Bowel Cancer’s approach to remove the stigma attached to poo will hopefully be as effective as Movember. If it gets more people to take an active interest in their own health and if it can encourage those concerned about their bowels to open up to someone before it becomes more serious, then it will be a success.
Here in the office many still have a long way to go before they abandon years of British reserve, but through toilet humour and plastic poo’s we’re lifting the lid and making bowel movements an acceptable water cooler conversation.