DIABETES SYMBOLISM

I’ve never been one to rally behind a particular color or ribbon or symbol for diseases. I’ve worked at too many organizations that had to share their color with any number of causes and diseases, and I’ve heard too many horror stories about one organization suing another for using a particular shade [of pink]. (That’s not what fundraising aims to accomplish!) In general, it doesn’t make me feel connected to a cause. I know a lot of people who care very deeply about this, and I completely respect that. It’s just not my thing. But there is one thing that comes up over and over again in the way that diabetes is depicted that I don’t like. Y’all, seriously, the fingerstrick blood drop as got to go.  

It’s not just the face of “Big Red’s” so-called movement. It comes up right away when you search Google Images. It’s the first result when you search iStockphoto or Shutterstock. It also comes up when you search Flickr. It even comes up when you search Pinterest. But is that the image I want people to see when they think of my disease?

Now don’t get me wrong here. I’m not thinking that we need to sex-i-fy the nasty-looking pancreas to become a unifying symbol of diabetes. Because, really, ew, it’s gross. Nor would I want us with diabetes to be united by some sort of stigma-inducing image, whether it be the obese person eating cookies or the child with large eyes holding a syringe. All I am saying is, I’d like to have a little more say in the symbol that defines what my disease means to the general public.

So maybe this is where #ShowMeYourPump really does have a role. I don’t wear a pump, and I definitely don’t wear a bikini, but for those of you who may have been hiding under a rock the past week, the newly crowned Miss Idaho openly rocked her insulin pump on her bikini and won a damn beauty pageant. And when she did, she ignited a ton of photos across social media platforms of other people wearing their insulin pumps.

Although this also wouldn’t be my ideal symbol, it does exactly what symbols are supposed to do: it brought people together. And it did this with a sense of empowerment. I say this because the fingerstick blood drop doesn’t do that. Although it’s something we all do, the imagery portrays us as victims of our disease. It says, “Feel sorry for me and the self-inflicted wounds this disease requires.”

So I don’t have the answer, but I do think that we, as people living with this disease every day, are better equipped to find a more powerful symbol than anyone in a marketing department, at a PR agency, or snapping stock photos. What would you suggest?