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Rubber Bracelets, promoting Cancer Awareness one preteen boy at a time

Nov19

by

I first noticed these bracelets on the wrists of my son’s middle school friends.

You love boobies, huh?

Lots of snickering from the backseat of the car.

It’s for breast cancer awareness.

Uh, huh. And you really care about breast cancer awareness, right?

Again, lots of snickering.

My son tells me that at school many of the teachers make them flip the bracelets over because they feel they are inappropriate.

And shockingly, I agree with those teachers.

There have been numerous stories in the news lately about schools banning the bracelets and people suing the school districts for infringing on their freedom of expression, which is also something I don’t quite understand. It’s school and there are rules. And dress codes. And you abide by them. People are upset because the bracelets are promoting breast cancer awareness. The same people are making the false analogy that if you don’t support the bracelets, you do not support breast cancer awareness, therefore you don’t care about those who have breast cancer.

I think that we are all aware by now. I mean can’t we agree on that point at least? I don’t know that there is anyone who is not aware of breast cancer. It has it’s own ribbon, and month, and the color pink.

But.

Where are the I love colons bracelets? Or, I love lungs? Or, I love prostates? Hell, what about I love skin? I mean who doesn’t love skin? It’s so handy holding all of our guts inside like that.

It bothers me that something serious is being sexualized. That women are being reduced to the parts that appeal to men under the guise of promoting cancer awareness.

I have insight into the tween/teen boy mind. I have a few of ‘em. And I know their friends. And they do all love boobies. And they care about breast cancer about as much as they care about anything that is serious, out of their comfort zone, and doesn’t affect them. Which is to say, not all that much. But boobies, those they love.

But I have to wonder if they were all wearing I love prostate bracelets, would they be joking about giving free exams? I highly doubt it.

These are my rambling thoughts regarding these bracelets. I have been mulling it all over in my mind for a couple weeks. Everyone I have mentioned it to in real life has sort of shrugged and not had any sort of impassioned response. So Internet, you never let me down by withholding your opinions, tell me, what do you think about the I love boobies bracelets?

About the author

Chris Jordan

http://notesfromthetrenches.com
Chris Jordan began blogging at Notes From the Trenches in 2004 where she writes about her life raising her children in Austin, Texas.

Oh, she has seven of them. Yes, children.

Yes, they are all hers.

No she's not Catholic or Mormon. Though she wouldn’t mind having a sister-wife because holy hell the laundry never stops.

Yes, she finally figured out what causes it. That's why her youngest is almost 6.

Yes, she has a television.

She enjoys referring to herself in the third person.

If you would like to submit a question for Chris to answer publicly, please do so to adviceforparentsoftweens[at]gmail[dot]com.


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36 Responses to “Rubber Bracelets, promoting Cancer Awareness one preteen boy at a time”

  1. Kerry Nov 20 at 1:57 pm Reply Reply

    I couldn’t agree with you more! I work at an elementary school, and have seen several of the 5th grade boys (never the girls) wearing these bracelets. Seriously? I really wonder what their parents were thinking when they let them wear these. You couldn’t just give him a pink ribbon pin to wear on his backpack (if he is REALLY in support of this specific cause)? By saying “I Love Boobies,” it does seem to turn breast cancer support into a silly, sexual thing. You made a great point- maybe I should give my tween daughter an “I Love BALLS!” bracelet to support prostate cancer, or “I Love BOOTY!” bracelet to support colon cancer. Yes, let’s teach our kids to care about social issues, but what ever happened to tact and modesty?

  2. Bethany Nov 20 at 5:12 pm Reply Reply

    Right with you, there. I’ve long thought the breast cancer “awareness” slogans I see are wildly inappropriate. “Save the tatas” was just silly, and “Save a life–feel up your wife!” is plain offensive. But I don’t tolerate much in the way of making fun of intimacy or being healthy. Breast cancer isn’t funny.

  3. Julie Nov 20 at 5:49 pm Reply Reply

    I agree with you that they can be viewed as offensive. No, I wouldn’t let my son wear one. But, that’s my right as a parent. If other parents allow their children to wear them, that’s their right. It does fall under freedom of expression. Dress codes in schools (even ones with uniforms) are only allowed to go so far in banning things before they cross a constitutional line. It was proven during Vietnam. It’s been proven many times since. Dress codes usually include things like no gang affiliated clothing styles, no offensive language or images. And while this IS technically offensive, it isn’t offensive in the context that dress codes intend. Boobies is not a curse word. It’s just a silly one. So, that’s my take. Police your own kid. But let other parents do the same. That’s the beauty/frustration that is our country.

  4. Annie Nov 20 at 9:36 pm Reply Reply

    I just finished reading “A Return to Modesty” by Wendy Shalit where she discusses this

  5. Lesley Nov 20 at 10:38 pm Reply Reply

    Julie, I’m not sure a student’s complete freedom of expression was “proven” during the Vietnam War. It’s tru that in Tinker v. Des Moines, students were ultimately allowed to express their disapproval of the war in a way that was not disruptive to the ultimate goals of the public education system. However, later there were other court cases (Bethel v. Fraser, Hazelwood v. Kuhlmeier) that set a precedent that students do not always have the same first amendment freedoms within the walls of the school building that they might outside of them, especially if their expressions are disruptive to the educational process. As a parent and high school teacher, my guess is that, just as Chris mentioned, the snickers that accompany the double entendre of these bracelets are enough to be a disruption to the school day. And unfortunately, some parents are so disengaged, naive, or more interested in being a buddy than a parent, that they WON’T police their own kids, which is why schools have to impose so many rules about dress, etc.

    As a parent, teacher, and human being, I agree with you, Chris. Teen/tween boys cannot be trusted with the word “boobies,” no matter how good the cause.

  6. Susan Nov 22 at 8:41 am Reply Reply

    Totally agree with you, Chris. Very well said. And I’m privy to the mind of quite a few tween/teen boys myself (I have 4 sons – 2 teens, 1 pre-teen, one in single-digits). Would they be so keen of wearing a pink bracelet that says “Breast Cancer Awareness instead of “Boobies”. Probably not.

  7. Damaris @Kitchen Corners Nov 22 at 10:46 am Reply Reply

    I basically hate the “I love boobies” bracelet, I hate them. You see I work with college students and unfortunately their minds aren’t that much more sophisticated than a middle schooler. The boy love wearing the bracelet. I ask them to give me one fact about breast cancer, I ask them to tell me how their bracelet is promoting anything besides woman being sexualized and they stay quiet. Surprisingly they haven’t thought this through (duh!)

    Personally I find them offensive!

    Thanks for posting this by the way. I’ve been wanting to vent about this for a while.

  8. Lee Nov 22 at 12:50 pm Reply Reply

    I think kids love getting away with something and that’s the appeal. They don’t personally offend me. But I think if they’re going to wear one, then I would take that opportunity to turn it into a teachable moment and talk about breast cancer. Or even make it a rule that if they wear one, they have to volunteer at a breast cancer event. Are they gonna roll their eyes at me? Yeah. So? Annoyance goes both ways. As the mom of a 20mth old boy and about to give birth to another, I look forward to many future years of annoying my sons (and vice versa).

  9. Heidi Nov 22 at 12:58 pm Reply Reply

    I first saw these and thought they bordered on sexual harassment.  I know that might be a little too strong, but they make me a little uncomfortable.  The thing is that you only see them being worn by teen boys.  These give the kids a justified reason why it is alright for them to talk about boobies and not be modest or respectful about them.
    My mother is a breast cancer survivor and a friend of mine was not so lucky and lost his mom to breast cancer.  It makes me cry (but then again I’m pregnant so many things make me cry) that these kids don’t have any clue about the reality of breast cancer.  How many of them have had to watch someone they love (or even remotely care about) deal with the reality of breast cancer.  It does take lives and cause a huge strain on families, but they don’t understand that.  I have so much guilt because I was scared by my mother’s cancer and didn’t deal with it at all.  I’m glad my older sister was there for my mom because I feel like I really let her down!  All these kids see is that they get to wear a bracelet that publicly declares their love for boobies.  Of course they love boobies, if they are male and not homosexual, that is practically a given.
    I’m not going to go on a rampage with the random kids I see working at the local PetSmart wearing these bracelets, but if I had a kid at church or a friends child who wore this bracelet around me, I’d be tempted to ask them what they are going to do about it.  Have they looked into volunteering at a woman’s cancer center or anything of the sort?

    Wow…I’m sorry to go on this little tirade.  I didn’t realize I was as passionate about this issue until I started typing.  But it does pain me that these are not worn because someone actually is concerned about the effect breast cancer has on a woman or the family of women who have it…they just think it’s funny, and that upsets me!

  10. Michele Nov 23 at 9:43 am Reply Reply

    Wow, I must live under a rock because I didn’t even know there were bracelets that said “I Love Boobies.” Let alone that it was a fad amongst boys to wear them. No way would I let my son wear one. I find that totally offensive. He is only 7 years old and is only into silly bands thankfully.

  11. Kathy from NJ Nov 25 at 7:42 am Reply Reply

    I am quite sure that the purchase price does NOT go toward breast cancer research. Also men can get breast cancer and it’s just as deadly.
    I am not a parent, I’m a loving aunt and great-aunt and I vote NO.

  12. tiffany Nov 26 at 3:26 pm Reply Reply

    I couldnt agree more….i find that 12 yr old boys wearing them makes me throw up alittle in my mouth. My 14 old nephew has been wearing one for at least a year. my school district will confiscate them if seen on the kids arms….they still find other ways to wear them.

  13. Mom, Ph.D. Nov 26 at 3:49 pm Reply Reply

    Wow–these haven’t hit our part of the country yet. I agree with most everything said. I would not let my son (10) wear it. I’d be irritated with his friends if I saw them wearing it.

    I’d prefer the school not get involved–the forbidden can be all that much more exciting. All the better to use this as an opportunity for the school to talk about breast cancer. Bring in a giant breast poster, talk about monthly exams, what what women (and men) should look for, what kind of treatments are available, etc.

    If the school had a breast cancer assembly for the whole school, I bet you’d see one of two things. Either you’d see less boys wearing them. OR you’d see more kids wearing them, but at least some for more enlightened reasons.

  14. Melody Nov 26 at 9:06 pm Reply Reply

    I totally agree. I teach 3rd grade Sunday school at my church, and one of the 8 year olds had one of these bracelets on. Well being my kids are homeschooled, I had never even seen these before. But he instantly said “It’s for breast cancer awareness.” Uh-huh. Regardless of what it’s “raising awareness” for, it’s inappropriate. I had him cover it up with his sleeve.

  15. Leah Nov 26 at 9:13 pm Reply Reply

    I’m SHOCKED that any school would allow children (or adults!) to wear these!  There is no question in my mind that they should be considered sexual harassment:  think of a tween girl in a classroom, trying to be taken seriously as an intellectual equal, with the boys around her brazenly stating that her boobs are their favorite part of her body.
         Beyond the harassment, these bracelets absolutely sexualize a serious medical issue- instead of raising consciousness, this joke reduces cancer to just another “women’s condition” that men don’t need to take seriously.  How infuriating.  

  16. Sara Nov 26 at 9:58 pm Reply Reply

    As someone who is a breast cancer survivor, I question anything with a pink ribbon on it and where the money actually goes. And yes, it’s sexualizing a disease that leaves women feeling anything but good about themselves. I had my bilateral mastectomy just last month and am now in the process of reconstruction. At 31 years old this is the last thing I ever thought I would be doing. Whenever I see those bracelets I wonder if any of these boys realize how horrible I feel that I no longer HAVE boobies. It’s not as if I need to be reminded that boys (and men) love them. I doubt that any one of those boys thinks anything of the fact that 1 in 8 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer.

  17. Kim Nov 27 at 12:17 am Reply Reply

    Come on…if it feels wrong it’s wrong……..this is not about cancer awareness this is just trying to be cool cause you have something on your wrist that says boobies.

    Come on let’s get them out of the schools and Mom’s stop paying for them!

  18. Stephanie Nov 27 at 3:29 am Reply Reply

    Wrong. Just wrong.

  19. Holly Nov 27 at 9:15 am Reply Reply

    I couldn’t agree more. It is completely distasteful, as are the other sayings, “save the tata’s, etc.” and I am sure, supporting breast cancer awareness has nothing to do with why they are wearing them. 

  20. Brigitte Nov 27 at 9:46 am Reply Reply

    A friend died at 33 from breast cancer, despite having the doctors treat it more aggressively than even they thought was necessary (bilateral mastectomy, bone marrow treatments, etc.). If it was her husband wearing the bracelet and actually supporting the cause, I’d say fine.

    Otherwise, NO.

  21. Courtenay Nov 27 at 10:59 am Reply Reply

    i totally agree with you. even more distasteful – that whoever MADE these bracelets totally knew wth they were doing. epic fail, all around.

  22. Michelle Nov 27 at 4:23 pm Reply Reply

    I couldn’t agree more. They are a form of sexual harassment under the guise of breast cancer awareness. Since many women who have breast cancer lose their “boobies” (a word I dislike because I feel it is demeaning, BTW), it’s even more distasteful. As a former teenage girl, I know exactly what’s on the mind of teenage boys. And it has nothing to do with cancer awareness.

  23. Lucinda Nov 28 at 4:24 pm Reply Reply

    For a young girl, these absolutely are sexual harassment.  Girls at that age are self-conscious enough about their body.  But we are going to let the boys reduce them to a single body part?  All in the name of “freedom of expression”.  If those boys cannot explain what they are expressing, they are not exercising any kind of freedom that my taking the bracelet away might  infringe upon.

    I actually haven’t seen these bracelets but a friend (male) of mine has a “save the ta-tas” sticker on his laptop that I find highly offensive.  But he says “breast cancer awareness” and suddenly I’m supposed to be ok with it.  Ugh.  

    Just like many things relating to women, society has taken a serious issue and sexualized it and capitalized upon it to the point that the women truly suffering have been lost completely.  It makes me sick.

  24. Elena J Nov 28 at 10:14 pm Reply Reply

    I agree with you completely. I hate those bracelets (and the t-shrts, stickers, etc.). It’s totally demeaning, and trivializes a very serious disease.

  25. Ingrid Nov 29 at 2:13 am Reply Reply

    Totally agree.  Awful.  

  26. ~annie Nov 29 at 9:04 am Reply Reply

    What I’d really like to know is: Who came up with these “awareness” ideas/slogans in the first place? A woman? An actual breast cancer survivor? Whoever it was, what exactly were they thinking? FAIL.

  27. Jackie C. Nov 29 at 1:13 pm Reply Reply

    I totally agree with you on these bracelet’s. My son wanted one too and I wouldn’t go for it.

  28. BerniG Nov 29 at 2:41 pm Reply Reply

    As a mammographer, my whole career is about breast cancer awareness, I feel that the bracelets are not about awareness, but about liking boobies! I have teenagers too, and I know how much they really care about cancer and it’s not a lot. I agree that the bracelets are offensive.

  29. Marci Nov 29 at 4:15 pm Reply Reply

    I’m not sure how I feel about these. I have seen some teenage boys AND girls wearing them. They all knew the purpose behind the words – beast cancer awareness.

    I did a little research on who came up with the slogan in the first place. It’s a non-profit called Keep A Breast. (www.keep-a-breast.org). Proceeds go toward education and awareness – target market of the youth.

    I think the best ideas I have seen from the previous comments were to pair the bracelet with volunteerism and the “I Love Balls” bands. Goose and gander, I always say.

  30. Tonuala Nov 30 at 8:54 pm Reply Reply

    My 16 year old step daughter wears a bunch of them. I think they are dreadful. She doesn’t wear them for breast cancer awareness. I think her exact quote was “They are for breast cancer… or something” – she clearly wears them to push buttons and boundaries. She also wears a couple of Livestrong bracelets – does that balance it out??

  31. Deborah Nov 30 at 11:10 pm Reply Reply

    I am in the panhandle of Florida. I have yet to hear of these, but then my youngest is in the 9th grade in high school. l would put these right up there w/ the “save the tata’s” stuff – I don’t like that slogan either.

  32. Pam Dec 01 at 3:16 pm Reply Reply

    I’m a 40 yr old female with several friends who are breast cancer survivors. We all have a Save the Tatas sticker on our car. My 19 yr old son wears a boobies bracelet too. When he brought it home, we discussed breast cancer. Yes, he mainly wears it to trigger buttons, but the bottom line is this: it was used to open a discussion.

  33. Tracey Dec 01 at 8:32 pm Reply Reply

    I have never seen one of these bands up here in Canada. I find them totally offensive, I do not appreciate immature teen boys objectifying girls and women, in any form or fashion. (or grown men, for that matter). I have two teen sons and I would never allow them to wear this bracelet. I am, however, very proud of them to wear Livestrong bracelets and other bracelets of support (classy ones, that is). If these show up around here, I am going to make sure they never see the light of day at my son’s schools. And no, I don’t think that is ‘overreacting’.

  34. Helen Dec 01 at 8:54 pm Reply Reply

    This blog post says it all, better than I ever could:
    http://www.aliveandyoung.net/2010/10/hypersexualization-of-cancer-how-i.html

  35. s Dec 02 at 8:24 am Reply Reply

    I completely agree with you! When did it become ok to wear stuff with sexual connotation on it, regardless of what cause it is supporting? Would we let our girls wear something supporting testicular cancer with pictures of a penis around their wrists??

    And how does these breast-focused slogans make those women feel who HAVE lost their breasts due to cancer – are they less a woman? less sexual beings?
    I’m with ya – these kids are wearing them completely obvious to the meaning behind the bracelets – and their parents? Obvlious too and probably just not up to the fight of standing their ground on inappropriate clothing/accessories.

  36. RD Dec 04 at 9:13 am Reply Reply

    I agree with 99.9% of what you say here. But you did write that it “doesn’t affect [the boys].” Please don’t forget that breast cancer very much affects boys/men. I personally know two men who have had breast cancer; it’s very real. “The most recent American Cancer Society estimates for male breast cancer in the United States are for 2010: About 1,970 new cases of invasive breast cancer will be diagnosed among men
    About 390 men will die from breast cancer.” Just wanted to make sure that’s never forgotten.

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