TAMPA, Fl. – “I (heart) boobies,” the slogan that has caught the attention of students around the world in the past five months, may be considered by some to be offensive, while others praise its success for raising breast cancer awareness in youth.
As found on the campaign’s website, keep-a-breast.org, the mission statement clarifies, “our t-shirts and bracelets act as an awareness-raising tool that speaks directly to our target audience in a way that is authentic, inspiring and refreshing.” The question is then posed, if these bracelets are meant to raise money for a cause then why are they making waves in school districts around the United States?
“The bracelets are just a way for the company to raise money for a cause, I think it’s stupid schools are banning them,” said Nick Bell, a former East Bay High School Student. “I remember a few of my buddies last year were made to take theirs off in the lunchroom, until the administration realized that this popular bracelet was going to be there for a while,” said Bell.
In an e-mail interview with Kimmy McAtee, the PR, Marketing Manager for The Keep A Breast Foundation, she replied to negative feedback the bracelets generated by saying, “Keep A Breast Foundation feels strongly that “boobies” is not a four-letter word. We have an amazing Board of Directors and Advisory Board, many of whom are survivors, that we pass all of our messaging through before we release it to the public.”
“Lots of teachers and students contact us asking questions and wanting to further understand our programing. It’s been great to open a dialogue with schools,” said McAtee about the bracelets presence in school.
“It seems to us the media is more distracting than the students. We’ve been making these bracelets since 2004 and never heard anything about the fact that they were distracting until these last few months,” said McAtee.
Despite the company’s efforts to avoid public turmoil, the media attention has remained on the issue of students being banned to sport them in schools. On April 21st, 2011, Tampa Bay’s Channel 10 news followed the I (Heart) Boobies controversy into the courtroom of U.S. Judge Mary McLaughlin, where they reported the judge sided with the students rather than the school administrators from Easton high school in Pennsylvania.
The judge found in favor of the two teenage girls because the administrators had no proof the bracelets were distracting and because students have rights to free speech and the schools have limitations on censorship.
“ I do not personally find the bracelet offensive, but I guess I could see how some older professors would be offended or in shock that students are actually wearing bracelets that say I (Heart) Boobies!, even if they are for a good cause,” said Matthew Rainey, a USF junior majoring in Business.
It is evident that even at the college level the bracelets have made impact enough to cause students to think about the meaning of the bracelets and how the text on them is a probable cause for controversy. So why hasn’t Keep-A-Breast thought of this? They have.
On Keep-a-breast.org, there is a section of frequently asked questions, and there was a question posted that asked what many think when they see the bracelets, “Why does keep-a-breast make “I LOVE BOOBIES” merchandise instead of a pink ribbon?” The KAB foundations response is “The purpose of Keep A Breast’s “I Love Boobies!” Campaign is to speak to young people in their own voice about a subject that is often scary and taboo. Our t-shirts and bracelets act as an awareness-raising tool that speaks directly to our target audience in a way that is authentic, inspiring and refreshing”
The KAB foundation has found a way to get through to the youth and to spread the word about breast cancer and to raise awareness in the current generation, but at the rate in which schools have begun taking an authoritative approach in banning the bracelets, there is no way to tell if the campaign will continue to survive and educate.
After the seven years the company has been making the bracelets there have been multiple schools across the country in many different states, such as, Massachusetts, Florida, Louisiana, Pennsylvania, California and many others that have banned the bracelets at their institutions. The question remains if this trend will continue to hold the media spotlight and captivate teenagers, or if the trend will ultimately be pushed out of view due to the controversial affects it has within the American school system.
On Wednesday April 13, the University of South Florida‘s P.R.I.D.E. Alliance welcomed Jessica Pettitt, a transgender, who spoke and joked on the heavy issues of diversity and social judgment.
This is the second transgender event I have gone to in the past year. The first event I ever attended was in December of 2010, where I listened to the heartbreaking stories of Giana Love and a few other women. That event was a candle lit visual for remembering all of the transgendered lost to bullying and social pressures.
Jessica Pettitt’s event, however, was an outline of a lot of the same material, but was made fluffy and light by her sense of humor. Pettitt talked on issues from gender identity to sexual identity and breaking the binary.
The speech Pettitt gave even inspired me, a non-transgender; it made me feel like I had a lot to believe in. It was uplifting when she told the audience that we all are unique.
USF P.R.I.D.E. members were scattered among the crowd, but the club was surprisingly not the sponsor. Instead, the Office of Multicultural Affairs was responsible for bring this diverse guest on campus.
Pettitt’s speech was an enjoyable experience to both hear and watch. The entire crowd, myself included, were constantly laughing — a clear indicator that her words were easily understood. She came to USF and I believe she broke down some little barriers that stood between the USF students and their acceptance of diversity in the form of gender identity and orientation.
University of South Florida’s P.R.I.D.E. Alliance has begun preparation to throw its first gay prom on Monday, April 25, at 7 p.m. in the Marshall Student Center ballroom.
Although USF P.R.I.D.E. is “the oldest continuously funded gay student organization in the state of Florida,” according to their website, this year will be the first year they host a gay prom event.
The event is free and open to all students (gay or straight), calls for semi-formal attire and even offers incentives for students to attend, such as, prizes for best dressed. P.R.I.D.E. is throwing this gay prom for the individuals who were unable to go to their high school’s prom with their significant other or attend in whatever attire they wanted to wear; for example, a woman in a suit.
“I remember at my high school I couldn’t bring my girlfriend with me because they didn’t consider her my ‘date.’ I am glad USF is doing this so that her and I can dance together in the prom setting,” said Amber Harbour, a sophomore majoring in chemistry.
The P.R.I.D.E. Alliance is hoping for a good turnout so that this event can eventually become annual. The club is already looking forward to next year hoping to schedule gay prom around another popular event, F.C.P.C., the Florida Collegiate Pride Conference, which USF will be hosting.
With 133 people R.S.V.P –ing to the event on Facebook and another 174 students possibly attending, the gay prom will most likely be the place to be next Monday night.
On March 24, the University of South Florida’s P.R.I.D.E. Alliance devoted their two hour meeting to discuss the variety of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and the precautionary steps to keep one safe.
USF’s P.R.I.D.E. Alliance is known around the University’s Tampa campus as a, “vibrant, well-known organization,” said Ilana Aramati, a sophomore majoring in pre-medicine.
P.R.I.D.E. has been an on-campus student organization at USF since 1974 and strives to not only create a safe environment for LGBTQA, but also to educate and inform this group of threats they themselves can control.
At the March 24 meeting, P.R.I.D.E. brought in two guest speakers from the USF Wellness Center to speak about the seriousness of STIs, such as herpes and syphilis, and ways to prevent them. The two women were very knowledgeable and found a way to connect with the audience by creating a fun atmosphere and including many interactive activities such as “Sexual Jeopardy.”
Although safe sex education has been pushed as early back as middle school, the topic never becomes irrelevant in any environment. Statistics were provided at the meeting and every sexual risk discussed was geared toward the homosexual community. For example, anal sex and oral sex were the main acts for contracting a STI that were covered.
Not only was the conversation interesting and targeted towards the audience’s personal preference, but there were also free condoms being passed around.
“I felt awkward in the beginning of the meeting because of the topics, but once the dental dam was passed my way to feel, the ice was broken,” said Tarrah Cameron, a sophomore majoring in nursing.
The Wellness Center at USF provides many services when it comes to keeping the campus STI rates low, from passing out free condoms to putting on many events, such as the Candy Shop.
“Day of Silence is not only an event I enjoy participating in, but also an event I feel I need to,” said Sarah Lee, a junior majoring in psychology at the University of South Florida. Lee has been a member of P.R.I.D.E. for three years and has participated in this event ritually.
Day of Silence is a national event in which people go the day in silence in order to call attention to anti-LGBT harassment and bullying. The national day of silence is on April 15, but USF P.R.I.D.E. is holding theirs on their meeting day, April 14.
On that day, USF can expect to see some of its students walking across campus and sitting in class in silence. While some participants are members of P.R.I.D.E., there are also those not affiliated with the club who are active participants during this event. In front of Cooper Hall, a large whiteboard is going to be on display where passersby can write every derogatory word they have been ever called.
This whiteboard, known as “the Wall of Hate,” is destroyed on the Day of Silence at 5 p.m. to symbolize the breaking down of hurtful words and harassment to those of the LGBT community and to give them a sense of empowerment to move forward despite what may have held them back.
The Day of Silence is promoted throughout the campus every year by shirts and buttons sold by P.R.I.D.E. The LGBT community that find themselves in P.R.I.D.E. also find themselves surrounded by love on this day from their fellow members.
“Day of Silence brings everyone closer together. I will never forget my first Day of Silence at USF — it was unbelievably empowering,” said Christopher Mills, a sophomore majoring in international business. “I have been participating in Day of Silence for five years now. Even before I ‘came out’ in high school I still participated,” he said.
According to many P.R.I.D.E. members, they are trying to make the 2011 Day of Silence more successful than it has ever been on USF’s campus.