BCABPP Breast Cancer Survivors Clash with Facebook Censors

Stardust - Survivor Melanie Joy SinghWe hate learning about great projects at the expense of women who have suffered enough in life, won their battle with the big-C cancer, only to take on a new deadly opponent. This was the exact sequence of events that brought us to the Facebook page of the Breast Cancer Awareness Body Painting Project over the weekend.

For the cancer survivors who are part of The Breast Cancer Awareness Body Painting Project: A Fine Art & Photography Essay of Survivors, their artistic journey is a self-affirmation dream come true.

For the citizen censors who are trying to take down these empowering BCABPP images of the women on Facebook and Flickr, the women’s artist reflections are … what? Threatening? Corrupting of the moral fabric of the country? Pornographic?

“Yes”, say the members of America’s morality police! These women represent Corruptresses! After beating their cancer and rediscovering their own beauty, the women and the entire BCABPP creative team are now facing a new opponent: America’s censors.

Meet Melanie Joy Singh (above), who tells her story of being a breast cancer survivor, after losing her breast at age 35. Today Melanie is also a ‘Painted Survivor’, proud of her artistic rendering “Stardust” by photographer Michael Colanero and artists Keegan Hitchcock, who has painted 21 of the 25 painted so far, and Luci Ungerbuehler, a new member of the creative team.

Breast cancer survivors from all around America have been driving and flying into Fort Lauderdale to participate in BCABPP, often a self-described emotional, psychological and transcendental journey to self love.

Proudly posting their images on the group’s BCABPP Facebook page, these empowered women and fantastic artists Colanero, Hitchcock came to our attention via the Daily Mail UK, who reported that BCABPP had run into the Facebook censors and strict rules about nudity.

FB rules are: “You will not post content that is hateful, threatening, or pornographic; incites violence; or contains nudity or graphic or gratuitous violence.” Note that typically, someone must complain about the images to FB and that typically is one of the many social conservatives who spend their time trolling the Internet, reporting infractions.

‘African Sun’ (l) and ‘Tribute’ - Survivor: Dawn Verpaele (r)

Mr Colanero was furious because the creative team has deliberately made the images child-safe. “I want them to be in oncology clinics and children’s hospitals. I’ve gone out of my way to make them non-sexual,” says the artist and photographer.

Colanero, who displays the images in his South Florida Uncommon Gallery (see FB page,) continues: “People come into the gallery and put their hands on the pictures, crying. They can empathize and just learn and be more aware.”

Anne signed a petition against FB, along with other supporters of BCABPP, who feel this is just one more example of the social conservatives porn police going too far in protecting American citizens from naughty images on FB.

‘Life’s a Beach’ (l) and ‘Growth & Contrast’ (r)

In the familiar double-standard for women on almost every issue involving our bodies in America, breast cancer survivor Ellen Gondola, told the Orlando Sentinel that she was thrilled to arrive home still painted, ripping off her shirt and parading around in front of her daughter in a state of positive exhiliaration.

And then her image came down on Facebook — twice. She asks: “There’s men on the same site that can be topless … Those men with what we call “moobs,” or male boobs, those big tattoos across their chest … why is that OK?”

Welcome to the world of women, Ellen.

Fighting the Breast Cancer Beast Up Front and Personal

The images created as part of the Breast Cancer Awareness Body Project impact all of us. Not only the survivor models relate to the beauty and triumph expressed in in the project’s artistic goals. The images unconsciouslessly help the millions of women, our friends and family members who will be diagnosed with breast cancer in the future — today and tomorrow.

In sharing their project publicly, these courageous women remind us in advance, that breast cancer needn’t mean the end of beauty and a positive self image. Women are far more than the size, shape and ‘flawless perfection” of our breasts. (As an offshoot of reading about these fantastic women, Anne is launching a campaign to eliminate the word ‘flawless’ from our fashion/beauty industry vocabulary. The word does incredible damage to women’s psyches, even before we deal with breast cancer.)

Melanie ‘Stardust’ picks up her story:

This experience was transcendental for me… it gave me a newfound strength; it transformed me in a way that is difficult to express into words. When I was going through breast cancer, I felt like the disease was stealing bits of me every day. As Keegan painted this amazing cosmic landscape onto me, I began to watch my scarred body turn into a thing of beauty. And as Michael was shooting the photos I began to realize that cancer didn’t steal my beauty, and that it could never tarnish my soul. I will be forever grateful to Keegan and Michael for allowing me to participate in this amazing project.

Most of the images have between 40 to 90 hours of work in them, with a few over 300 hours of work in them.  Michael has a target of 50 survivors in mind, according to Round Magazine

Seeking to raise funds, the survivors are helping to sell not only the original prints but a host of related products on Cafe Press. Stickers, cards, pillows and even a ceramic travel mug carry the images. This Cafe Press page shows all the women painted so far in the BCABPP project. 100% of all profits are being donated to a variety of breast-cancer related initiatives.

Michael Colanero’s fine art prints, with and without frames donate 15% of the profits. The group hopes to publish a coffee table book with 50 survivors and their stories. When the BCABPP group dreams big — and why shouldn’t they — a national gallery tour is a primary goal, and then a world tour.

Breast Cancer Awareness Body Painting Profect | ArtStreet

Supporting the BCABPP project are Facebook are comments from the women.

“This project has helped me HEAL in ways that words can not express,” one woman wrote, describing herself as a recent cancer survivor.

“I watched this project help my friend reclaim her power,” another woman wrote.

One of the participant models wrote that the project “restored my life, my femininity & my courage to go on.”

“Don’t silence us,” wrote another one of the women who posed. “Don’t censor us.”

The Year That Was - Survivor: Sylvie

Women whose husbands have left them after they underwent mastectomies meet on this Facebook page. The women say that many men tell their wives, “I can’t handle this. You look like a freak.”

The women do not exaggerate. In 2009, Seattle researchers confirmed that female gender was the strongest predictor of separation or divorce when one of the parties had cancer. The rate when the woman was the patient was 20.8 percent compared to 2.9 percent when the man was the patient.

Phoenix Rising - Suvivor: Gillian BrillWe end this powerful story with a promise to watch the BCABPP Facebook page situation. AOC had its own infraction on FB with an innocuous anti-Facebook censorship by the Ukranian feminist group FEMEN. In this excellent article about BCABPP,  we find the exhiliaring vision on which to end this story … for now.

Gillian’s image, “Phoenix Rising” is for her the epitome of cancer survival. Like the Phoenix, Gillian encompasses a fiery spirit and a colorful way of being. Her cancer was like that of the Phoenix’s lifespan which lasts a long time, but once it ceases to exist, her survival is like that of the new Phoenix rising - powerful and majestic.

‘Phoenix Rising’ is also the key theme of Anne of Carversville.  We will use Gillian’s image throughout our pages to support BCABPP and underscore our commitment to women’s journeys around the globe.