Last year, as a 7th grader, Malcolm bought this green rubber bracelet at a skateboard shop in the mall. It says I (heart) Boobies! and Keep Abreast. Proceeds from the sale of the bracelets support breast cancer causes.
When Malcolm wore this to school, other kids commented, teachers tsk-tsked, the front office was called, and what ensued was quite a kerfuffle (Chris and Jane, that word is for you! Because I know you (heart) it!).
Malcolm was called to The Office, where the bracelet was confiscated. He was told it represented Sexual Harrassment. If he went out and bought a replacement and wore it to school, he would be suspended. If the same thing happened again, he would be expelled.
We discussed this topic at the dinner table. Chris and I both felt the school had over-reacted, and Chris felt even more strongly, that the school was trampling on Malcolm’s rights. Ian and Hugh both weighed in with their memories of middle school dramas, and felt this latest skirmish was just another battle in the constant war between the adults and the kids.
The bracelet spent the summer in lock-up at the school, and then returned to its rightful owner. It stays at home now.
We all forgot about it, until one evening last week when Hugh and I were watching the local news. There was a teaser: “Coming up, a middle school student is suspended for wearing THIS rubber bracelet!”
We glanced and saw the Boobies band. Hugh said “I have to DVR this for Malcolm!” The story was very similar, except in this case, the student was a girl. So the charge of Sexual Harrassment presumably would not apply to her. The girl’s school district had ruled that the bracelets were inappropriate and distracting, and banned them entirely.
Most intriguing of all, the ACLU has offered to represent the girl for free. This made some people in our household wonder what would happen if Malcolm wore his green bracelet to school again – would he be a member of a class action? The ACLU’s position, as I understand it, is that the word is not obscene and the girl’s rights to personal expression were trampled upon.
You may be wondering what I, as a mom, think of the bracelet. I have mixed feelings. Boobies is a silly, juvenile word. While I don’t like the term, it’s not ipso facto offensive. I would have to say it’s in a gray area. If the bracelet was causing mayhem in the classroom as kids tittered and snickered about it, then it is a distraction – that would be a different argument, and a more valid one.
Personally, I don’t like the trend of cutesy slogans such as “Save the Ta-Tas” and “Save Second Base.” And yes, “Save the Boobies” would fit into this category. I find it disconcerting to draw a line between adolescent words for breasts, and breast cancer, which normally strikes women much later than their teens. To equate “second base” (teenagers grappling in dark cars) with “tumors” is just a case of cognitive dissonance. But maybe that’s just me.