Let’s Make a Mountain Out of a Pink Molehill

Last year, administrators at an Easton, PA, middle school sent home two girls for wearing “I ♥ Boobies” bracelets. In a recent preliminary ruling  Judge Mary McLaughlin found that the bracelets are not lewd or vulgar and can’t be banned by public school officials who find them offensive. (We’ve commented on this before.)

Remember what Justice Potter Stewart said in Jacobellis v. Ohio? He said that hard-core pornography is hard to define, “but I know it when I see it.” That’s exactly how I feel about stupidity: I know it when I see it.

Even with my Mr. Magoo-like eyesight, I don’t even need to squint to perceive the massive quantity of stupidity involved here. They should just call this case Dumb vs. Dumber.

I will excuse the girls. They are, after all in middle school. This is a group that thinks Justin Bieber might be good husband material and that “jeggings” are fashionable.

But how about the parents? Did this matter really merit a federal case? Do any of us seriously believe the school trampled on the girls’ First Amendment Rights? Was it REALLY necessary to have the ACLU bring this case to court? What next? Will the ACLU take up its mighty cudgels on behalf of  a first grader who flunked his phonics test? After all, who are we to determine the difference between short vowels and long vowels? We must vigorously defend our Marlo Thomas Free to Be You and Me rights as spelled out in the 28th Amendment. Let dipthongs ring!

Judge McLauglin’s opinion ran to 40 pages. Imagine the great waste of time, money and resources directly attributable to this case. And for what? So a couple of giggling girls can strut through the schoolyard? Ooooh, better not tell them to bring in a signed permission slip for the field trip! They know their rights.

Actions speak louder than silly pink bracelets with rude sayings. If these girls are truly interested in promoting breast cancer awareness, there are far better ways of demonstrating their concern and support. As one of 155,000 U.S. people with metastatic breast cancer, I can tell you there is not enough financial aid for those who desperately need it.

The Keep Abreast Foundation (KAB), the beneficiary of these bracelet sales, does NOTHING to help women with metastatic disease. (We, the people with metastatic disease account for 90% of breast cancer mortality and morbidity but metastatic research gets less than 2% of  all research funding.)  Stage IV breast cancer doesn’t fit within the KAB agenda of cancer fun. When you buy one of their bracelets, you are basically funding their boondoggles.

These girls could show their support by helping a family impacted by breast cancer. The money saved from not buying bracelets or bringing expensive legal actions against school administrators could be used to buy gift cards for distribution to needy families. ( Ask at your church, I am sure they know some worthy candidates.) The girls could act as  mother’s helpers a few days a week after school, providing respite for tired parents. They could do yard work or simple cleaning for cancer patients. Cleaning for a Reason is a hugely popular service, but they can’t help everyone. They could do a science fair project on the basics of cancer–here is a great site to compile your family’s medical history. And here’s a site that goes over breast cancer essentials for people of many cultures.

Here is an amicus curiae from Samantha, a single mother of two boys who has been on chemo for three years, ever since her diagnosis. (She’s triple negative, BRCA+.) “A local trash company has trademarked a pink cart,” she writes. “It’s $25 for the cart. Five dollars goes to the American Cancer Society which snubbed me three different times. I called and canceled my waste removal service explaining why. They seemed shocked. The service I switched to also seemed shocked I wouldn’t support the pink cart.”

Three years ago, Sam  wouldn’t have given the cart a second thought. “I would have wheeled my pink cart to the curb thinking I was ‘doing something,'” she says. ” I am angry that I now know how it feels to be denied help.”

A good friend of Sam’s participates in the American Cancer Society’s annual fundraiser. “I don’t tell her not to,  but I did tell her that I was denied help this summer because they  had no money locally I was bounced around..[and so was my friend] Irina. My advocate was bounced and then they gave me a number to a different place also out of funds.”

Sam’s neighbor opted for the pink cart. “They keep it outside of their garage. I pass it 50 times a week on foot, not counting at least twice a day by car. It makes me sick. I want to kick it over. I am mad that a company is making money off a disease that is going to kill me. They have ruined the whole month of October and now I have to look at  this pink trademarked cart. This is wrong and I am mad.”

Free speech is free speech. You can’t toss out the Constitution with the bath water. But what about the Golden Rule? We all know we should treat others as we would like to be treated. There’s also the Platinum Corollary: Just Because You Can Do Something Doesn’t Mean You Should.

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7 thoughts on “Let’s Make a Mountain Out of a Pink Molehill

  1. Janis Fitzgerald says:

    Exactly what I was thinking!

  2. nancy says:

    i disagree…i feel that getting out the message is more important than the way its making survivors feel.

    • katherinembc says:

      Nancy:
      Stage IV women, aka women with metastatic breast cancer, are on treatment for life. According to CURE magazine, a survivor is someone who is finished with treatment. By that definition myself and the other 154,999 US people with MBC are not survivors.

      What message are these bracelets, which say I Heart Boobies actually conveying? I am sure there are some women in remote areas of Appalachia who aren’t aware of breast cancer. Is there truly an awareness problem in middle school? Shouldn’t they be more concerned with long division?

      Here are two messages I’d like to get out there: Early detection is not a cure. And metastatic breast cancer is incurable.

  3. nancyspoint says:

    Katherine,
    Great post. I think the judge had to rule that way really, but like I said in my recent post on this topic, society has dropped the ball here in a big way. The pink craziness has blinded people and made them lose focus as to what the real goals should be – dollars for research to find things like more humane treatments, reasons for why cancers occur and/or metastasize in the first place and ultimately a cure. We have maxed out on awareness. Well said!

  4. Gayle Sulik says:

    It DOES matter how messages are circling around in the pink consumption machine. It makes some diagnosed people feel happy that a pink garbage can represents them in the broader culture. It makes others sick. And it excludes representation of all the other maladies people deal with everyday. But what does it really signify to have pink trash cans, air fresheners, rubber gloves, umbrellas, t-shirts, water bottles, m&ms, rubber duckies, balloons, kitchen aides, high heeled shoes, lipstick, pub crawls, pink towns, lemonade, bracelets and other kitsch? It suggests that the pink ribbon cause is for sale, and SOME consumers don’t really seem to care whether any real awareness gets through the muck of advertising and marketing campaigns; whether true progress is being made; or whether support for the diagnosed has actually diminished as a result of all the pink publicity. That’s a negative consequence that stifles progress. It’s a shame because “awareness” used to mean something.

  5. You’re so right that early detection is not a cure and metastatic breast cancer is incurable. The general population doesn’t know that. To Gayle’s point, I think we’ve taken a good stand with our messages to Komen. I probably should reserve comments as I just had a colonoscopy and am still a little ditzy.

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