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Should Schools Fear 'I Heart Boobies' Bracelets?

4 years ago
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Rubber wristbands supporting the fight against breast cancer, mostly in shades of pink, are worn by thousands, if not millions, of cancer survivors and their family members every day. Their messages vary depending on the organization that sells them. The breast cancer-awareness bracelet of the moment is edgier than most, carrying the message, "I 'Heart' Boobies." And that edginess has found an interesting and somewhat controversial audience.

Students across America -- from Portland, Ore. to Junction City, Kan. to Easton, Pa. -- have been sporting these bands alongside the more ubiquitous yellow LiveStrong bracelets and other silicone bands with innocuous messages such as "Celebrate Hope" and "Support Our Troops." But a nationwide clash is developing over whether the "boobie" bracelets contain inappropriate sexual double entendre for students or if they're an inventive way to introduce an important cause to a new audience by taking advantage of teen humor.

According to the website for The Keep A Breast Foundation, the organization that markets the fund-raising bracelets getting all the attention, the "I Heart Boobies" message was created as a way "to speak to young people in their own voice about a subject that is often scary and taboo. . . Keep A Breast believes the best way to reach, educate and impact people is by speaking to them in a voice they can relate to."

As the mother of a fifth-grader, I can attest from personal experience that you're going to get kids' attention and giggles with anything that has the word "boobie" on it. But is it the kind of attention that truly benefits a good cause, or is it just sensationalism aimed at tweens who like to challenge authority?

Two Easton Area Middle School students are testing those waters.

Twelve-year-old Kayla Martinez and 13-year-old Brianna Hawk were spotted wearing the bracelets by school officials who decided that the wording on the bands violated the school's dress code against offensive language. When the girls refused to take them off, they were suspended and banned from attending school dances. The girls felt they were being treated unfairly and that school officials were taking the message of the bracelets out of context, so they took the school to court for allegedly violating their First Amendment free-speech rights.

Last week, a federal court judge heard arguments in the case filed by these empowered girls and their mothers to defend their right to speak out about breast cancer in a way that would resonate with their peers. According to the accounts of the hearing, Martinez and Hawk testified with maturity and seriousness as attorneys for the school questioned them about their concerns:
"That phrase, 'I love boobies,' do you see any other meaning to that? Say, especially from boys' perspective?" Freund asked . . . Hawk.

"No," Hawk said.

"Do you think boys would have a natural attraction to girls' breasts?" Freund asked.

"Yes," Hawk answered.

"So couldn't it possibly mean something else?"

"No," insisted Hawk. In the context of the bracelet that simply was not possible, she said.

Martinez . . . conceded that some boys encountering the word could respond in a less-than-mature fashion. But they, she said dismissively, would be boys who 'act like they are 2.' "

So as one of the girls' attorneys said, is "boobie" just an inoffensive word you'd feel safe using around your grandma? Or as the lawyer for school district claimed, is it a lewd distraction for middle-schoolers' budding sexual curiosity?

Regardless of which way the judge rules, Hawk and Martinez have gotten their first taste of activism on behalf of a cause they believe in. Learning how to stand up for something important is a good lesson for any middle-school student.

Follow Joanne Bamberger on Twitter and Facebook.
Filed Under: Woman Up, Culture

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Here is my thought... No one will ever agree on all topics, although most are concerned with breast cancer. Here is my novel approach... Why doesn't the school system stick to the three r's instead of allowing special interest groups of any kind to dictate the curriculum in our schools? Social issues and morality are to be taught at home. It is very much an individual issue... Perhaps some are fine with their children getting the message that calling breasts "boobies" is fine, my children however will be expected to learn proper terminology and appropriate public behavior! Wear your ridiculous "boobie" bracelets on your own time!

December 24 2010 at 2:04 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

Is this author serious? This country goes down the toilet day by day. There are so many ways to get the point across in fighting breast cancer without being vulgar.


December 24 2010 at 12:09 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Those two girls, albeit teenagers, should know better than to flaunt on their wrists the derogatory, sexist term "boobies." A "boob" describes a "dumb" person (as in, ignorant). It's a terribly sexist term and has been around for too long. A caring, adult, female teacher should sit down with Kayla and Brianna and make them realize that the cause of breast cancer awareness is not helped by the use of the offensive term "boobies."

December 24 2010 at 8:11 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Carolyn's comment

This is the best comment I have seen - good for you!!!!! I agree totally!

December 25 2010 at 4:31 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

What ever happened to the solid pink bracelets for breast cancer? If these girls are serious about supporting breast cancer awareness, wear the solid color during school hours, obey the rules and then wear the boobie bracelets after.

December 24 2010 at 6:38 AM Report abuse -2 rate up rate down Reply

Another thought... Why not just donate a dollar to the cause if a cure is the true motivator? I know that I'm not the only person who'll put a dollar in the Salvation Army kettle even if the bellringer isn't looking.

December 24 2010 at 5:15 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
Religious Idiocy

These "authority figures" they say all these kids are challenging by wearing their bracelets, are a bunch of stuck up fascists. They do have the right to wear these, our rights have been violated enough, and ESPECIALLY in the school system. If you do any real research, you'll find that school systems have been built and structured in a way that DEFEAT urges in children to stand up for themselves, and think for themselves. All I ever remember in school was constantly being conditioned to be docile and to accept everything the staff and teachers said as final. I think the re-writing of American history is part of it.. The men and women who created this country stuck it to the man because the man was unfair. Well it's happening again, screw off all of you fascist old timers.

December 24 2010 at 5:13 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

What if the bracelet was a tshirt instead of a bracelet?

What if boys wore the bracelet or tshirt to school also?

"Freespeechers"- what if the tshirt read "Cancer Cures Overpopulation".

I'm glad schools have the right to enforce rules about things that district.

Cancer sucks, the girls have a good message, and they're learning there's a right place and time for everything. That's part of education.

December 24 2010 at 4:54 AM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
Steve Schiffman

What is the big deal or controvery? The term "boobie prize" is a customary term that has been used for generations.

Also a "boobie" is slang for grandmother. So again, I ask: what is the big deal? Where is the controversy?

December 24 2010 at 4:52 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

I say it won't hurt anything and if it can focus on attention to breast cancer that both boys and girls should be aware of, don't make a bigger deal about it. Maybe a health class about the subject would be approriate.

December 24 2010 at 4:46 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

After reading most of these posts I am so sad that we have become a country where we have no idea what respect...especially self respect even means. Oh, I know every one of these people will insist they DO know what respect is but if that is the case it isn't the respect we old timers learned when we were growing up. We are teaching our kids so many things about our bodies that no longer is sacred. We are teaching them, and the media encourages them that if you don't like what the school does then take them to court and if a teacher can't control a kid in class then call the police and give the child a police record. What a sad world we have become.

December 24 2010 at 4:31 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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