A federal judge in Philadelphia has held that two Pennsylvania students, age 12 and 13, cannot be punished for wearing bracelets that express their love for "boobies." The court ruled that middle schoolers have a constitutional right to express their views about breast cancer and to attempt to reduce the "stigma" associated with discussing breast health by wearing the “I ♥ Boobies! (Keep A Breast)” bracelets. The judge found that the bracelets reasonably can be viewed as speech intended to promote breast health.
The controversy has arisen over the bracelets are sold by Keep A Breast, a non-profit group based in California. The proceeds from the bracelet sales are earmarked for breast cancer research and education programs. As of October, more than two million of the bracelets had been sold, at about $4 a pop.
The bracelets were purchased in droves by school age kids last summer and worn as a symbol of support against the deadly disease. However, many school administrators banned students from wearing them, deeming the language “inappropriate.”
As a lawyer who has represented many breast cancer victims, I believe the campaign is more than inappropriate – I find it demeaning. Breast cancer is not the starting point for a bad joke – and calling awareness to the disease by referring to “boobies”, “tatas” or “second base” casts the condition in the light of cutesy bathroom humor.
Cancer in the breast tissue should not be minimized by sexual innuendo. Breast cancer threatens the lungs, liver and brain, all of which are likely destinations for rogue breast cancer cells that can break loose from the breast in a process called metastasis. Once cancer cells have traveled to these organs, breast cancer is considered incurable.
Those that argue the important work is getting the message out about the need for funding research are misguided. Cheap sexual exploitation is not appropriate messaging when raising awareness about a disease that primarily afflicts women. Breast cancer kills – and adolescent boys professing their love of boobies does not help negate that fact.