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A win for boobie bracelets in middle school
August 7, 2013 3:40 PM   Subscribe

"The question was not so much what the bracelets said but whether school officials used reasonable judgment when they concluded that such apparel was inappropriate and might lead to more egregiously sexual and disruptive displays, all in the name of advocating a cause." Special bonus: The knockers displayed in a Google ad running below the innocent image of a boobie-bracelet-bedecked wrist.
posted by Bella Donna (33 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite

 
What makes me annoyed that breast cancer research support has been all about preserving women's sex appeal and not saving lives. An alternative, like a walk or even bracelets that didn't say BOOBIES, should've been workable.

Fun factoid: Heart disease kills more women in the US than breast cancer does.
posted by lineofsight at 3:52 PM on August 7, 2013 [39 favorites]


Bizarre politics about breast cancer aside, I think it's great that young people get involved in protecting their First Amendment rights.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 3:57 PM on August 7, 2013 [11 favorites]


It always amazes me how quickly schools are willing to react to speech (T shirts, school news articles, banners) and how slowly they respond to bullying and abusive relationships. You'd think they'd care more about what actually poses a threat to their student's safety.
posted by bearwife at 4:03 PM on August 7, 2013 [55 favorites]


I'm honestly amazed the girls won (Good on them!). Traditionally, courts have held that schools can, indeed, curb student expression, especially on the K-12 level.
posted by Thorzdad at 4:10 PM on August 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


bearwife: have you been to school?
posted by el io at 4:10 PM on August 7, 2013 [2 favorites]


Free speech in primary schools aside, a bracelet that says "I heart boobies" is about as effective a response to breast cancer as posting on facebook what colour underwear you're wearing.
posted by misfish at 4:11 PM on August 7, 2013 [23 favorites]


Thorzdad: the 1st amendment is one of the more protected ones for people underage. The court has a history of pretty good rulings.

(I used to own the ACLU's guide for highschoolers, it was a great little pamphlet, although I forget its exact title).
posted by el io at 4:12 PM on August 7, 2013


The bracelets might be ineffective, but I can't agree that "boobies" is about sex appeal. It's about as sexy as "pee-pee".
posted by DU at 4:15 PM on August 7, 2013 [2 favorites]


School administrators are generally fucktards when it comes to things like this. It's like 'think of the children!' times the size of the school. And somehow they're always thinking of the children, instead of the population of emerging adults.
posted by kaibutsu at 4:21 PM on August 7, 2013 [3 favorites]


"Running a school is more complicated now than ever before," Hardiman wrote. "In the close cases, such as this one, there is virtue in deferring to the reasonable judgments of those responsible for educating our nation's youth."

Let's make it less complicated, by not pretending that it's vitally important to monitor students' accessories for use of juvenile euphemisms for body parts.
posted by desuetude at 4:22 PM on August 7, 2013 [4 favorites]


It always amazes me how quickly schools are willing to react to speech (T shirts, school news articles, banners) and how slowly they respond to bullying and abusive relationships. You'd think they'd care more about what actually poses a threat to their student's safety.

This is America. Sex is a threat, violence is entertainment.

Snark aside, good for the students.
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 4:24 PM on August 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


What makes me annoyed that breast cancer research support has been all about preserving women's sex appeal and not saving lives. An alternative, like a walk or even bracelets that didn't say BOOBIES, should've been workable.

No one is saying you can only do one thing one way. You can still have walks and buy your pink products and still have booby bracelets.
posted by cjorgensen at 4:42 PM on August 7, 2013 [2 favorites]


What if someone accidentally wears it non-ironically?
posted by Joe in Australia at 4:55 PM on August 7, 2013 [2 favorites]


bearwife: have you been to school.

Only 19 years worth and plenty of work since then with school district governing officials on asking for a response to bullying and juvenile domestic violence.
posted by bearwife at 5:03 PM on August 7, 2013 [4 favorites]


DU: "I can't agree that "boobies" is about sex appeal. It's about as sexy as "pee-pee"."

This is part of what's still worming its way around my brain about this story. Because breasts are many things: sometimes they're sexy, and sometimes they're food, and sometimes they're body parts that have cancer, and sometimes they're silly (as when one uses the word "boobies") and sometimes many, many other things. The girls wearing the bracelets are referencing boobies viz. something which can sometimes get cancer (and, incidentally, being a little silly about it, as they're welcome to do), and the administration decided to label that expression sexual.

On the other hand, when the frat house down the street put up a banner that said "Delta Chis love your tits!", I complained a little and got it taken down. For some reason, these two cases seem different to me (and, to clarify, I let plenty of banners from both male and female Greek orgs that said "boobies" and the like just pass by). I'm not trying to be willfully ignorant about the difference between those two words (because there obviously is one) and the difference between men saying them vs women saying them. I just don't yet know the best way to systematically characterize this kind of expression as empowering, annoying, offensive-enough-to-need-taking-down, ultimately neutral, etc.
posted by Apropos of Something at 5:48 PM on August 7, 2013 [2 favorites]


I got a fishy mammogram a few years ago. On the way to my follow-up, I got stuck behind a car with a "Save the Ta-Tas" bumpersticker, and all I could think was, "Fuck you, buddy."

Saving 'ta-tas' and declaring your love for 'boobies' values body parts over people, and it's exactly those sort of attitudes that cause a lot of women with breast cancer to opt for less aggressive and less effective treatments; and leads to serious psychological issues for women who lose their breasts.

And the organization focuses almost exclusively on propagating just those kinds of damaging messages. They spend very little of their proceeds on research grants, focusing instead on things like these bracelets and some sort of art project where they make plaster casts of women's torsos.

That said, the ruling makes sense, and as long as there aren't issues with the bracelets being a precursor to harassment, I don't see a reason to prohibit them.
posted by ernielundquist at 5:55 PM on August 7, 2013 [40 favorites]


While I agree with the ruling (based solely on the information in the article - I'm not reading a 74-page opinion tonight), I also wonder how the case might be different if the bracelet-wearers had been male. The case is a difficult tightrope to walk, and I do believe the school district may have had a better case for acting "reasonably" if males were using the bracelets to objectify female anatomy, though that could also be construed as sexist. I do think it was shortsighted of the district to ask anyone to remove the bracelets on Breast Cancer Awareness Day.

As Apropros of Something pointed out, context is everything, especially in freedom of speech cases, and rulings like this should not be based on "slippery-slope" arguments.
posted by antonymous at 6:11 PM on August 7, 2013


I really wish there were more bracelets and t-shirts and bumper stickers that said things like "forget the boobies, save the people."
posted by Metroid Baby at 8:20 PM on August 7, 2013 [6 favorites]


Is it me or this just a win for pointless crass expression for kids?

"Fight Breast Cancer" would've worked just as good.
posted by codswallop at 8:40 PM on August 7, 2013 [4 favorites]


I am a middle school teacher and, while I applaud these girls' right to self-expression, I do not allow the "I heart BOOBIES" bracelets (or belts or anything else) in my classroom. At all. Ever. Why? Because 99.999% of the wearers are male. Eleven and twelve year old boys. And mostly they are not supporting a cause: they just snicker at being able to wear something in school that says, "Boobies." And, honestly, I feel, in my classroom, these bracelets uphold and perpetuate a sexist attitude that a woman is not her life but her body and how her body appears to men. So unless the Livestrong organization comes out with some "I heart BALLS" bracelets that I start seeing a bunch of kids wearing... no, my classroom, my way. Turn those little bracelets over and change your belt (which is not uniform policy anyway).

I might be a tiny social justice warrior but I will flight the battles I can fight. I will fight the battles I can win.
posted by blessedlyndie at 9:33 PM on August 7, 2013 [19 favorites]


Saving 'ta-tas' and declaring your love for 'boobies' values body parts over people, and it's exactly those sort of attitudes that cause a lot of women with breast cancer to opt for less aggressive and less effective treatments; and leads to serious psychological issues for women who lose their breasts.

I agree with every part of your comment, and with this part especially.

My Aunt will be cancer-free for five years come Christmas. She spent two years dealing with breast cancer, and it was a fucking nightmare, in no small part because her boyfriend flipped his shit when she was diagnosed and pissed and moaned about the possibility that she might lose one or both breasts.

(I am thankful to be able to say that their relationship only lasted about 10 more minutes after that. Of course, he didn't like that, but that's another thing entirely.)

Anyway, at every turn, she was questioned about how she would feel about losing her breasts. Not about how she was feeling in general, but would she be upset about losing her breasts. Eventually, she snapped and said "I'd actually be a lot more upset about losing my LIFE, nitwit." She started saying that to everyone who asked. It was remarkably effective.

Myself, should I find myself dealing with breast cancer, there will be no attempt to "save the boobies". Lop those bitches off, administer radiation and/or chemo as necessary, and let me get on with my life. It's already too short as it is, and I'm not going to waste any of it trying to rescue a pile of skin and fat that might make my low cut t-shirts look great, but otherwise doesn't serve me any useful purpose.
posted by MissySedai at 9:48 PM on August 7, 2013 [13 favorites]


No one in my family suffers from breast cancer, we're all low risk. However, most of my family is female, already informed and supportive of breast cancer awareness. But I noticed, and was slightly appalled, that a male family member wasn't at all medically-politically active until the words "boobies" and "ta-tas" became part of the slogans. Like a child, this over 40 man used those words whenever he could, in his worry over breasts. When it was just about people, he didn't care; he never made a comment, participate in activities about it or donated his art for fund-raiser before it became about the "boobies".

I'm sure I should just be glad something got him involved but, truthfully, he just felt kind of icky to be around when he talked about it... kind of like the guys that claim to be feminist, hoping the thin veneer of psuedo-respect for women would hold just long enough to get the next target into bed.



My fun factoid: nearly the same number of people die annually from epilepsy as breast cancer AND roughly the same number of people are diagnosed with each of those illnesses each year. Most people don't even know epilepsy can be fatal.
posted by _paegan_ at 9:55 PM on August 7, 2013 [5 favorites]


Hey, I don't love the pinkwashing or the "save the boobies/ta-tas" stuff at all. It's really commonplace within one of my circles of friends, it's totally well-intentioned, there are breast cancer survivors in that group, and I hate having to be the wet blanket pointing out (or not pointing out) that actually it's kinda gross to me and a lot of other people just sayin'.

I just think it's dumb for schools to take a stand on things like this where the school's justifications will undoubtedly come out looking foolish and hypocritical. They didn't even notice the girls' bracelets until breast cancer awareness week. This wasn't a case where boys were wearing the bracelets and sexualizing a situation, it was just based on insubordination. (Meanwhile, you know there's probably some kid who has written ATM on his binder and the squeals of dismay are flying right over the head of the Olds. Automatic teller machines? At the moment?)

But in contrast, blessedlyndie, I don't really have a bone to pick with your rules in your class because you're basing them on behavior of kids that you know, rather than being a bureaucrat about what the seven naughty words are this year.
posted by desuetude at 10:23 PM on August 7, 2013 [2 favorites]


Ok fine, I'll ask. What does ATM mean?
posted by the jam at 10:29 PM on August 7, 2013


Wow, thanks for your comment, _paegan_. I had no idea about those epilepsy stats and, indeed, didn't really think epilepsy was fatal. (I very much agree with your other points, too - just wanted to let you know that I'd learned something.)
posted by daisyk at 11:16 PM on August 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


the jam - at the risk of giving a bit too much away - Ass To Mouth, as in being fellated after having had anal sex.
posted by longbaugh at 12:30 AM on August 8, 2013


*fingers crossed it doesn't mean something else completely innocent and I haven't just admitted knowledge outside the mainstream*
posted by longbaugh at 12:31 AM on August 8, 2013 [2 favorites]


While I am not entirely comfortable with the "boobies" messaging, I tend to think that when people do respond to it, it has more to do with making the issue accessible, rather than reducing women to their body parts. "Cancer" is a big, scary word. "Boobies" is quite friendly.

In this sense, I think the bracelets, even when worn my giggling middle school boys, are effective. Because even if their support is not serious now, they are growing up with awareness of breast cancer.

Another disease with very similar diagnosis and death rates: prostate cancer.
posted by Nothing at 4:42 AM on August 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


Myself, should I find myself dealing with breast cancer, there will be no attempt to "save the boobies". Lop those bitches off,

I think you are taking it the wrong way. This is all about awareness, and not about lopping off body parts. Save the Boobies could easily be equated to The March of Dimes, or Gerry's Kids. It is all about fundraising for either research or support for patients. I think the lesson the school should be teaching is about where does that money go when you buy a bracelet? Are you supporting a fund raising entity or are your dollars being spent properly.
posted by Gungho at 6:10 AM on August 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


Save the Boobies could easily be equated to The March of Dimes, or Gerry's Kids.

No, it can't, because the March of Dimes and Jerry's Kids don't reduce the issues of prenatal care and muscular dystrophy, respectively, to an anatomy joke.

There's been a fair amount of feminist writing about breast cancer awareness and whether we're doing it the best way by painting everything pink or doing the "save the tatas" stuff. There's some question over whether the stuff awareness campaigns for works or is counterproductive.

My mom had breast cancer and has, in the past few years, gone from 100% loving Komen Foundation type pink stuff from not really being interested in it anymore because so much of it seems to be dedicated to growing the organization and getting more money more than helping people.
posted by NoraReed at 7:46 AM on August 8, 2013 [5 favorites]


I'd love to know if "awareness" actually translates into significantly more money for research, or if its simply pointless. The NIH in the U.S. mainly seems to base their funding choices on which therapeutic area would help the most people based on statistics, and private companies base their funding on which potential therapy would theoretically maximize profits. How much are private contributions donated based on these awareness campaigns compared to NIH grants or the cash that Big Pharma pump into research programs? Is it significant?

My mother is currently dying from breast cancer (stage four), and one of my sisters had to get a double mastectomy last year despite having no health insurance through her employer (a major radio station), so I do hope these campaigns are helping. I would much rather suffer from heart disease or epilepsy than a terminal cancer. Mortality rates are one thing, levels of pain and suffering are another.
posted by Thoughtcrime at 10:52 AM on August 8, 2013 [2 favorites]


Telling the girls that "saying it a more polite way would work as well" is itself a problematic message. It reminds me a little too keenly of two things: Parents howling at great classic novels taught in school because of a word or situation they personally find indecent, and (closer to home) the way that the names of women's cancers were spoken only in a whisper if at all when I was growing up because oh, so unseemly and base, it's practically like stripping someone's clothes off in public to acknowledge the existence of her reproductive organs.

Whether "I heart boobies" is ineffective and/or problematic cancer-advocacy messaging is not really the point, anyway. Is "boobies" so egregiously offensive and harmful that it should be excluded from the girls' right to free expression? Oof, no. They've got to have a chance to understand the balance between shock value, goofiness, and potential ick implications for themselves, because just hearing us expound upon our own past feminist epiphanies isn't enough. So...I tell my niece why when she makes me cringe, but I barely hide my smirk when she makes her grandpa cringe.
posted by desuetude at 10:06 PM on August 8, 2013


Save the Boobies could easily be equated to The March of Dimes, or Gerry's Kids.

No, it can't, because the March of Dimes and Jerry's Kids don't reduce the issues of prenatal care and muscular dystrophy, respectively, to an anatomy joke.


True, but can you conjure an image for each of these causes...Yes, you immediately go to a kid walking with braces or a kid in a wheelchair. These images have been used ( or exploited if you like) in an attempt to raise funds. That's the simile I was going for.
posted by Gungho at 5:30 AM on August 9, 2013


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