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Saturday, May 7, 2011

Judge Mary McLaughlin may know law, but ...

...she doesn't understand reality.

Apparently, last December a couple of girls wore bracelets to school that said "I (heart) boobies."  The bracelets come from the Keep Abreast Foundation.  The girls were suspended.  Their families filed lawsuits.  And this month, Judge Mary McLaughlin ruled, "The bracelets ... can reasonably be viewed as speech designed to raise awareness of breast cancer and to reduce stigma associated with openly discussing breast health."

I don't want to get into the psychology of the teen mind here, but I'm quite sure that teens are capable of talking about "breast health" without resorting to words like "boobies."  This is not the 1950s or 1970s or even the 1980s when songs such as Prince's "Let's Pretend We're Married" raised eyebrows. I'm pretty sure today's youth can say the word "breast."  Yep.  I pretty much guarantee it.  Here, let me ask a few.  Just did it.  Yep.  It can be done.

See, women die from breast cancer.  Not ta-ta cancer.  Not second base cancer.  Not boobie cancer.

I didn't tell my husband one evening, "Hey, I went for my annual exam today.  I got yanked and cranked. Oh, and my ta-ta has a lump in it."

I didn't pop two xanax and sit around the fire pit with my boys and tell them that I had boobie cancer.

I didn't call my best friend and say, "Yo, beotch, looks like cancer is stealing second..."

No, I said "I have breast cancer."

We certainly lose breasts to cancer, but we lose so much more.  We lose health.  We lose longevity.  We lose energy.  We lose our lives.

About 260,000 women were diagnosed with breast cancer in 2010, according to the American Cancer Society statistics.   The National Institute of Health says that about 40,000 women and 400 men will die each year from breast cancer.  That's more than the population of my city.  Imagine the uproar if an entire small college town was decimated each year.  Obliterated.  No one would be selling sexy tank tops with hand imprints over the breast area to "raise awareness."

So, Judge Mary McLaughlin, I will not argue that the girls in question should be permitted to wear bracelets with the word "boobies" on them.  No question asked about that.  In the USA, that right is guaranteed.  Personally, if girls want to dye their hair chartreuse and wear bikinis to school, so be it. I'll go to bat for them to have the right to do so.  However, Judge McLaughlin, you are wrong when you say the bracelets themselves "raise awareness of breast cancer" and "reduce the stigma of discussing breast health."

For starters, unless a young person has been in a coma his or her entire life, by high school age (if not most probably before), he or she is "aware" of breast cancer.  (I'll save the whole discussion asking what awareness even means for a future entry.)  Come on, Judge.  One in eight women in the USA (although I've also seen in places that it's now 1 in 7), or just slightly over 12% of the female population will develop breast cancer at some point in their lives.  After all, breast cancer is the most common cancer in women in the USA, according to medicinenet. There's an entire pink month devoted to breast cancer.  There are pink ribbon barbies. People are aware of breast cancer.

Furthermore, kids these days certainly don't need to use words like "boobies" if we want them to take breast health seriously.  Parents don't encourage teens to take necessary medicines by pretending the spoon is an airplane.  Doctors don't look in teens' ears and pretend to find hidden toys during exams.  And teens don't need to be encouraged to "feel [their] boobies" or "save the ta-tas" or to discuss "boobie health."

We don't say "willie" and "ya-ya" when we discuss reproductive health.  We say "penis" and "vagina." We talk about "greater than" and "less than" signs not "Mr. Alligator chomping" with young adults.
We say "obtuse and acute triangles" instead of "fat and ice cream cone triangles."
I think we can say breast.

So, Judge Mary McLaughlin, stick to First Amendment rights and stop trivializing us all.  Reality is a bitch, but it's also so much more than boobies and bracelets.

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