Cheerleaders' cheeky breast cancer shirts spark controversy in Ariz.

breast cancer awareness, gilbert high school
CBS/KPHO

(CBS) Breast cancer awareness efforts have hit a few bumps in the road.

Pictures: Pink planet? Breast cancer awareness around the world

The latest flashpoint: Gilbert High School in Ariz. has banned its cheerleaders from wearing a breast cancer awareness t-shirt because of what it considers an objectionable slogan, CBS 5 KPHO in Phoenix reported.

The 56-member cheerleading squad printed pink t-shirts that read "Feel for lumps, save your bumps," that they planned to wear during a breast cancer fundraiser. But the school threatened the team with severe consequences if the girls wore the shirts.

"We're not saying anything a doctor wouldn't say," 17-year-old Natalie Skowronek, a Gilbert High junior, told the Arizona Republic.

The school's principal, Dr. J. Charles Santa Cruz, made clear he wasn't against breast cancer awareness, just the slogan. He said students are encouraged to wear pink shirts, caps, socks, and ribbons.

"In no way is the school administration against Breast Cancer Awareness Month or initiatives students might take in support of it," Santa Cruz told the Republic. "We just want to make sure we're in the bounds of appropriate boundaries of a school setting."

The girls' campaign is far from the only controversial one. Schools across the country are also banning the advocacy group Keep A Breast's "I <3 Boobies" bracelets. A post on Keep A Breast's website even includes a fill-in-the blank template that students and parents can send to their school's administrators to explain their support of the campaign.

The letter reads: "Charaign Sesock, a spokeswoman for The American Cancer Society states: 'The "I Love Boobies!" campaign is targeting teen years and college ages so that they can empower themselves to be advocates for their own bodies. If you can start raising awareness early on, it will only benefit them as they grow older.'"

Despite these programs spreading awareness and raising funds, some breast cancer survivors and advocates are just plain sick of the awareness month, dubbing it "pinkwashing."

"The pink drives me nuts," said Cynthia Ryan, an 18-year breast cancer survivor who volunteers to help other women with the disease, CBS News reported. "It's the cheeriness I can't stand."

These critics point to initiatives like the NFL's month-long uniform campaign, manufacturers who use the month to sell products like pink handgun grips, or even a pink bucket of fried chicken.

"What's next, pink cigarettes for the cure?" Dr. Samantha King, a professor of health and gender studies at Queens University in Ontario, told the Associated Press. "I think this really speaks to the fact that they've lost sight of their mission. Their primary purpose appears to be to sell products."

Groups that raise research funds are not sorry for all the campaigns.

"Research doesn't come cheap," Susan G. Komen for the Cure spokeswoman Leslie Aun, told the AP. "We need to raise money and we're not apologetic about it." Komen says it has raised nearly $700 million in research funds, and over $1 billion in community programs for women with breast cancer - and a lot of it has to do with these marketing awareness campaigns.

"We're able to make those investments in research because of programs like that."

What do you think? Have breast cancer awareness efforts gone too far?

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