“I Love Boobies” bracelets

Have you read my personal story on Bravery Beads, the necklace for kids with cancer? These beads are wonderful. Far more controversial cancer jewellery exits. Today I love boobies bracelets (and the Tough Titties walks) are the controversy.

Awareness bracelets

We have known the wristbands or so-called awareness bracelets for some time now. They are made from fabric or leather, but usually from silicon. They carry different kinds of messages expressing support for political (“make poverty history”), religious (“godstrong”) or medical causes, with cancer as number one.

Pink ribbons

Since the 90’s we’ve also known the pink ribbon symbol that expresses support to women with breast cancer. The first ribbons were handed out to participants in the New York City race for breast cancer survivors in 1991. Pink ribbons symbolize the big battle against cancer and aim to create awareness about it. You even see pink ribbons covered by gems or Swarovksi.

Pink industry

The color pink gets breast cancer a lot of attention and awareness, which is great! But related to cancer, it is also criticized. Pink now has enormous marketing power for every product imaginable, also those not relevant to cancer at all. In the US – more so than in Europe – even M&M’s are pink. It makes one wonder whether ‘pink’ is still about a potentially killing disease or about sales. When buying pink you should investigate how much of your money goes to which cause.

I Love Boobies bracelets

The bracelet-campaign by Keep A Breast Foundation causes a lot of debate.  The bracelet carries the rather crude message “I love boobies” (Ik houd van tieten) and is supposed to make young people aware of breast cancer.

They cost only 4$ and 50% of the money goes to the educational program of Keep A Breast and in the US it became a complete hype. The kids who refuse to take them off have been suspended from school, since the bracelet with the word boob on it was considered offensive and for this inappropriate school attire.

Many survivors of breast cancer are offended by the bracelet for a different reason. They are angry because they feel as though this campaign trivializes breast cancer by focussing on the body part, and by doing so disregard the person attached to it. Imagine how this explicit marketing tool must feel like for a survivor who is trying to reconcile with her body and sexuality. And some ex-patients may not even care about whether or not they lost (a) breast(s), they just care about their health. It is a very sensitive subject and everybody fully understands the aversion to the bracelet-campaign.

On the other hand, the expression I love boobies is used only metaphorically and the campaigners of Keep A Breast are trying to be funny and make the subject accessible. I do have full confidence that the kids wearing the bracelets are able to see past the catchy phrase and – after an initial giggle – will think about cancer instead of sex. Despite the blunt text, I hope this campaign encourages younger people to have serious discussions in classes and playgrounds. Sometimes you have to go a little bit further to reach your goal.


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