So, my last post produced over 800 reads in one day- well over 8x what this boring little section of the internet usually sees. The reason was not because I titled the post "boobies", but largely due to the fact that it was picked up by two prolific blogging friends of mine with a much broader audience, mark oestreicher and adam mclane.
The result was, a slew of comments, reads, and several questions on multiple blogs and facebook. Because of the brief rant nature of my last post and I guess because it is national breast cancer awareness month, I touched a nerve in some.
Since I don't really want this to be the subject of my blog, I figured I could just drop this whole thing and move on. But, before I do that, here are my responses to some of the questions posed to me.
WHAT GIVES YOU THE RIGHT TO TAKE BRACELETS OFF OF 10 YEAR OLD BOYS, ISN'T THAT A PARENT'S JOB?
The ten year old boy I mentioned in my post, is a kid on my U12 boys soccer team I coach. He had to take it off for a game because it is considered illegal jewelry. Consequently, I was asked to keep it for him. I did so until the next practice when he asked me if I still had it. I asked him why he wore it and if he had anyone in his family with breast cancer. He said he liked it but that no one had cancer and then the conversation turned to all his peers telling him that at their secular elementary schools, they are not allowed to wear them either and that the principal confiscates them.
I don't "rip" things off 10 year old boys (or teens for that matter). However, I also do not see "I love boobies" bracelets as anything necessary to the task of playing soccer, and for the one boy who wants to wear it, I have asked him to take it off during practice too, as it is not needed... and for much deeper reasons, too far beyond the scope of conversation with a prepubescent boy.
And yes, I believe it should be a parent's job. No, I don't let my own kids (all of whom go to public schools) wear these. I see no reason to, regardless of who in my friend or family circles may or may not have breast cancer.
HAVE YOU RUN INTO SOMEONE WEARING THESE BRACELETS WHO ACTUALLY IS GENUINELY TRYING TO RAISE BREAST CANCER AWARENESS?
No, for guys. Yes, for one girl which I mention in the next question.
We do have a student in our ministry who has a mom who has been fighting cancer (not of the breast though) for the last 8 years, when she was given just 6 months to live. This month, he has a ribbon shaved into the back of his head, but no bracelet proclaiming his love for boobies on his arm.
AREN'T YOU MAKING A BIG DEAL OUT OF A MINOR ISSUE?
Yes and no. Yes, wearing a "I love boobies" bracelet is a minor issue. There are massively larger issues in the area of teenage sexuality at least. No, because it is a symptom of a much bigger issue.
I have worked with high school students for the last 16+ years of my life and I can tell you without a doubt, at least in California, the girls believe they have to look a certain way to be beautiful. They are unilaterally paranoid about breast size, waist size, butt shape, legs, noses... even skin tone and hair color. If you sit down in front of a group of American teenage women and tell them sincerely and with passion that regardless of the messages they've been told, that they are beautiful, loved, valued, and treasured... my experience says that at least 50% of the audience will be in tears and the reason the other 50% are not is they've been hurt too much to believe you. NO WOMAN OR GIRL in this culture needs another message from our culture telling her that her boobies matter or are loved by boys and men.
If you want a much better way to combat this issue, try the dove campaign for real beauty.
Here's one example of how I do deal with these bracelets in our ministry. (I already posted it in a comment on Mark Oestreicher's blog comment stream but I'll repost here for clarity).
This last summer, one girl in our high school group wore an "I love boobies" bracelet when we were going to work with the homeless. I explained to her that unless she wanted homeless men talking to her about her boobies while she gave them a sandwich, she should put it away… because they are not interested in fighting breast cancer, but they are hungry. She agreed and did so. I also talked with her that I thought it was degrading to her and others and that she should value her own body more than this bracelet communicates. I told her that I don't think she'd feel honored by me if I wore one, and that she should give it some thought if that's any different for she or her male peers.
No, I don’t have a bouncer a the door of youth group saying, “you can’t come in here with that”… though I’m not sure that is good. I really think I need to call both men and women to a higher ground. I believe that messages like the "I love boobies" campaign, however subtle that message is communicated, are incongruent with being a follower of Jesus who holds to a all women are created “in God’s image” view of creation.
I don’t think the average teen even thought at all about any of this before buying or wearing these bracelets. I think as a loving and caring adult, I must help them do just that.
DO YOU HAVE A PROBLEM WITH MEN LIKING BREASTS?
Ha! Adam McLane provocatively titled his link to my post, "Brian Berry Hates Boobies". Thanks Adam. And no, for the record and without giving you more info than the internet deserves, I don't hate breasts. I have very honest conversations with the young men in our ministry and my own 13 year old son about the beauty of God's design for sexuality. I think sex was created by God and is intended to have both reproductive and pleasure implications. I however don't think anyone in my ministry needs a bracelet to remind them or anyone around them that they are a fan of God's invention called breasts- cancer free or not.
WHO MAKES THESE WRIST BANDS ANYWAY?
This company/organization does.
These bracelets and shirts they make are being banned all over the place on public schools as distraction to the middle school and high school students. If you worked with any context that is saturated in pre-teen and teen students, you know instinctively why that is.
If you want to hear a story or read a story of a high school student who is an exception to this rule and who evidently really did know why she was wearing her bracelet, then read this blog post about Candice. Which, while I still don't like the slogan, I understand and respect her passion and story. As the article clearly states, she is the exception to the rule and her school district gave she and she alone a pass on their ban of the products.
- (for the most part, and yes, there are exceptions) we don't even begin to require or expect women in our culture to have a mammogram before they are 40.
- less than 5% of all breast cancer patients are under 40.
- some men can develop breast cancer, but it is extremely rare.
All of this seems to make it crystal clear to me, that there is zero reason for a 16 year-old young man in my ministry to be wearing this bracelet.