Monday, July 2, 2012

Breastless Cancer Survivor Swims Topless and Gets Banned

Jodi Jaecks is an inspiration whether you've had breast cancer or not.

Jaecks, who underwent a bilateral mastectomy in 2011 and is a lifelong athlete, was referred to Seattle's Medger Evers public pool by her breast cancer support group once she was ready to resume working out. The pool is known for it's warm water and low-chlorine levels.

Like many mastectomy patients, Jaecks suffers from skin hypersensitivity and experiences an intense burning sensation on her chest when anything tight, like a bathing suit, makes contact. She prefers instead to swim topless.

When she politely and responsibly told the front desk about her apperance so no one would be alarmed, she was promptly denied access.  

The claim: Jaecks was violating the pool's "family-friendly environment."

Seattle city law doesn't even prohibit public nudity! In fact, Seattle is home to the Fremont Solstice Naked Bicycle Parade.

A parks department spokeswoman said, "She made it clear she wanted to show her scars as a 'badge of courage' and wanted to use the pool to spread her message." But superintendent Christopher Williams, a cancer survivor himself, later issued a statement overturning the decision; the caveat however is that he would only do this for Jaecks. He said he would hear similar requests in the future on a "case-by-case basis."

Seattle city council member Sally Bagshaw thankfully says it's time for the policy to be reviewed. She further dismissed the parks department's argument that seeing Jaecks' scars would be disruptive to the family environment.

Jaecks, a lesbian, describes herself as "pretty androgynous looking." With her short hair and barely visible scars she says her appearance basically looks no different than any "dude."

Regardless, does this defense actually need to be made? What if the city banned use of the pool to leg amputees or burn victims? What evil exactly are we shielding our children from? And isn't it better to explain differences and teach kids acceptance, tolerance, understanding, and compassion rather than to perpetuate fear and ignorance?

The pictures don't lie. What do you think?

breastless cancer survivor Jodi Jaecks
photo courtesy of:

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1 comment:

  1. This is an interesting topic. The mindset I think many people have is that "she's still a woman." Therefore, I think people will have an automatic emotional response of shock and disbelief when she swims without a top. This is because we know she is a woman, and we expect women in this country to cover up. It doesn't matter whether or not they have had a b/l mastectomy. It's the perception that her breasts are still there. What I would coin as "phantom breasts". Psychologically speaking, we don't experience the same response when a different type of amputee presents to a public arena like a pool. People are more comfortable seeing a person swimming with 1 arm or leg because they have been exposed to this scenario more frequently. There also is the inherent sexual connotation set forth by breasts being involved as opposed to a non sexual and less emotionally cathexted body part like a limb. Now I am not suggesting that Jodi be forced to cover up. I applaud the pool's director for defending her position and fighting the mainstream response that so many of us unfortunately have. I especially applaud Jodi for knowing who she is as a person, and pursuing her passion for living and doing the things that make her a complete person. She's not wearing any badge of anything, as that ignorant pool representative suggested. Remember. It was Jodi herself who informed the pool staff of her wish to swim "topless."