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February 26, 2012

Condom Quickie: Zac Efron on the Red Carpet

Zac Efron recently had an embarrassing red carpet moment at the premiere of his new movie The Lorax. He reached into his pocket to get something to hand to his publicist, and in the process he accidentally dropped a condom onto the carpet.

This is like one of those goofy Cosmo Confessions stories come to life. (Or the 'a tampon fell out of my backpack right in front of my crush!' stories from our teen years.) It's kinda hard to believe that it actually happened.

The incident has been largely dismissed as just a random funny embarrassing moment. Most of the comments we've seen have been along the lines of 'haha, at least he's being safe!' and 'guess he's not in high school anymore'. But we have to wonder what the reaction would have been like if this had happened to a young female star. Can you imagine if Miley Cyrus or Vanessa Hudgens had done this? I feel like we'd be seeing a lot more stuff like 'why is she even carrying condoms?' and 'who is she trying to hook up with at the premiere of a kids movie?' and 'she's a Disney star, what kind of message does this send to her young fans?'

What do you think? Do you think the reaction would have been the same if this had happened to a young woman like Miley or Vanessa, or would there have been a lot more pearl-clutching and slut-shaming going on?

February 25, 2012

Rihanna calls a fan ugly, then claims cyberbullying

What the fuck is wrong with Rihanna? Yeah, I said it. I'm pissed. We were very quick to defend her when people criticized some of her actions after being beaten by Chris Brown, but now I'm disgusted.

You may already know about Rihanna's new collaborations with Chris Brown and may or may not be back in a relationship with him. (Yes, this is the same Chris Brown who put her in the hospital a few years ago and who showed off what he learned in anger management by throwing a chair through a window at "Good Morning America".) Now that might be enough to disgust some Rihanna fans (in fact, read responses from fans, celebs and experts: here, here and here) but that's not what's got us pissed off.

Obviously we don't understand her decision to forgive the man who beat her so badly, but she's not the first woman to forgive her abuser (and sadly, she won't be the last). It's not fair for us to hold her solely responsible for being Ms. Anti-Domestic Violence, even if it's kind of what we all want and expect. So yeah, we're disappointed in the collaboration and reconciliation -- and the message that it sends to other women and girls -- but it's her life and she's going to make the decisions she wants to make.

What we're so angry about is something that may seem insignificant and stupid in comparison, but is actually a pretty big deal in our opinion.

One fan in particular, tweeted something about being disappointed in Rihanna choosing to collaborate with Chris Brown and Rihanna's response was downright repulsive.

Yes, you read that correctly. Someone suggested that it looks bad to collaborate with someone who used to physically abuse you (the same opinion that has been expressed widely in the past few days, including by some domestic violence experts) and Rihanna responded by saying that her avatar photo was ugly. She didn't defend the song, claim that Chris Brown had changed, or say that it's her life and she'll do what she wants. Nope, she just called her ugly. Why? Because she stated what we are all thinking - that it looks bad to forgive (and record with) someone who beat the crap out of you not that long ago.

Can we please get past the point where our immediate reaction to any kind of criticism is to go to the "you're ugly" defense? It's really sad that in 2012 women are still calling other women ugly, for no fucking good reason. (Also, let's not forget that Rihanna's previously stated views on beauty are kind of messed up anyway. So no one should sweat being called ugly by her. But I digress.)

What happened next, makes my stomach turn. Rihanna's "loyal fans" lashed out at JuhReeV, laughing and calling her ugly, retweeting Rihanna's comment over 7,000 times. JuhReeV has been harassed on twitter en masse thanks to Rihanna's bitchy tweet.  (She also gained about 1,500 twitter followers, so clearly some people agree with her.)

We think that this is just unacceptable. Rihanna is a celebrity - and she's publicly showing off her reconciliation with someone we all know abused her - so she should be prepared to handle some criticism. Unless she's a total moron, she had to expect that people would feel this way and speak out about it.

We don't think there was anything wrong with JuhReeV's original tweet or the sentiments she expressed. It is the way a lot of people feel, including us. Rihanna has the right to face her critics and respond to them, but she should be more mature and proactive in the way that she handles this criticism. She should also be more responsible with the power of fame and social media. Rihanna has over 14,000,000 fans. When you have that many Twitter followers, you can't just make a stupid comment like that without expecting there to be a huge response (and in this case, JuhReeV was the victim of that response). Let's not forget what happened when Ashton Kutcher tweeted about Joe Paterno... with great power, comes great responsibility. When you're a celebrity on Twitter with that much of a following, you have to think before you tweet.

But it gets worse. JuhReeV responded a few times (because well, who wouldn't respond if Rihanna called yo ugly?)...

And then Rihanna had the nerve to claim that she was being cyberbullied, again calling JuhReeV by name. Really. A celebrity with over 14,000,000 followers calls a young woman ugly in front of all those followers (inciting them to also call her ugly and harass her) and then claims that she is the victim of cyberbullying? What? Someone is definitely being ugly here but it's not JuhReeV.

Of course, no doubt that "cyberbullying" tweet incited her 14,000,000+ followers to harass JuhReeV even more. Who's the real cyberbully here?

I find it extremely offensive and irresponsible that  Rihanna is claiming that she was cyberbullied. Sorry, but no. Cyberbullying is a real thing and this is not it. Telling a singer that you disagree with her choices is not cyberbullying. Responding when someone calls you ugly is not cyberbullying. Defending yourself against hundreds of rabid Rihanna fans calling you ugly (among other things) is not cyberbullying. Rihanna's claiming to have been cyberbullied is offensive to anyone who has ever dealt with real bullies (cyber or otherwise).

Apparently Rihanna is more forgiving of someone who punches her in the face, than someone who dares to disagree with her questionable choices. And that is ugly.

Related posts:

February 18, 2012

We jumped on the meme bandwagon!

We've seen a lot of those "What my friends think I do/what I actually do, etc" memes floating around... so we decided to create our own. Can you relate?

Disclaimer: Obviously this isn't true of all feminists. This is just our own personal take on the meme. If you read our blog at all, you'll get it.

February 15, 2012

I'm Still Not Over Chris Brown at the Grammys

Yes, I know, the Grammys were Sunday night and everyone is moving on. But there's still a valuable conversation going on about the presence of Chris Brown on the Grammy stage and why it matters, so we wanted to address it.

I happened to be on twitter during most of the Grammys, so between that and talking to people after the show I know that I was far from the only one who was not happy that Chris Brown was invited to perform. (He also ended up winning an award.) If you were wondering about the thought process that led the show's producers to decide to invite Brown to perform, especially with Rihanna also scheduled to attend and perform, Grammy Executive Producer Ken Ehrlich answered that by essentially explaining that Rihanna wasn't the most important consideration:

“I think people deserve a second chance, you know," Ehrlich said. "If you’ll note, he has not been on the Grammys for the past few years and it may have taken us a while to kind of get over the fact that we were the victim of what happened.”

He went on to say that "what (Brown has) done to reclaim his career and seemingly the kind of person that he has become makes him -- I don't even want to use the word eligible -- but you know, it's time."

Oh, now I get it. The producers' decision was never about what Chris Brown did to Rihanna - which was beat her so badly that she ended up in the hospital, and is documented in a police report if you know anybody who's forgotten about it like Ehrlich apparently has - it was about what Chris Brown did to the Grammy Awards. It was about Ken Ehrlich and his fellow producers giving Brown their version of the silent treatment for a whopping three years while they decided whether they could find it in their hearts to forgive him for the horrible crime of forcing them to rearrange a small portion of their awards show. Keep in mind that this is the same Grammy Awards that banned Janet Jackson for her Super Bowl wardrobe malfunction, but Chris Brown violently assaults his girlfriend while threatening to kill her, shows little to no remorse for his actions, and gives indications that his violent behavior is not under control, but hey, Ken Ehrlich says "it's time" for all of us to welcome him back to the Grammy stage.

I found Ehrlich's choice of words to be really interesting, and also really infuriating. He doesn't say that they were giving members of their viewing audience a chance to get over what happened, and he doesn't show any concern for Rihanna or any other victims of domestic violence that may have strong feelings about Brown's participation. He doesn't say 'we were wary about inviting him back because in a very small way we were also kind of a victim of what happened due to the timing'. He says "it may have taken us a while to kind of get over the fact that we were the victim of what happened". Rihanna who? This is all about Ken Ehrlich's pain, guys. Let's all admire his strength in finding a way to forgive, and also his audacity in thinking that these comments were remotely acceptable.

Of course, some people will inevitably say that it's just an awards show, but this sends a message and that message matters. Right after the show Buzzfeed compiled a list of 25 extremely upsetting reactions from twitter, with women saying things like "I'd let Chris Brown beat me up anytime". And Brown himself tweeted, and then deleted, this mature and thoughtful response to the controversy and his critics: "HATE ALL U WANT BECUZ I GOT A GRAMMY Now! That's the ultimate FUCK OFF!" Clearly Ken Ehrlich is seeing something that I'm not when it comes to the question of the kind of person that Chris Brown has become. As media critic Jennifer Pozner put it, "Dating violence, just like domestic violence, is deeply misunderstood and not taken even remotely seriously, even though it happens in epidemic numbers...That's part of the reason why it is so dangerous for the Grammys to embrace and showcase Chris Brown after his violence against Rihanna."

If you'd like to join us in sending a message to the Grammys about their support of Chris Brown, there's a petition on change.org right now asking the Grammys to apologize, and to "make that apology meaningful with a donation to an organization that works on behalf of domestic violence victims and survivors". It currently has more then 5500 signatures, so maybe if enough of us speak up we can help Ken Ehrlich to realize that "it's time" for him to rethink his point of view.

February 12, 2012

Some comments about same-sex marriage

We recently got a few interesting new comments on some old blog posts:  Mars Needs Moms. Earth Needs Less Homophobia and Sexism. (a blog about the film Mars Needs Moms and its possible homophobic and anti-feminist undertones, originally posted in March 2011) and Stupid Protest: The Million Moms Against Miley (a blog about the One Million Moms criticizing Miley Cyrus for advocating love, tolerance and acceptance, originally written in May 2009).

We're not sure why these blogs are getting some attention, so long after they were posted. Perhaps it has to do with the recent attention the OMM have gotten lately thanks to their misguided boycott of JC Penney and Ellen Degeneres or maybe they googled "same-sex marriage" or something. Either way, some anonymous commenter/s (it might be the same person) has revived two old posts in order to scold and educate us for being wrong about the gays.

We think their comments are both hilarious and sad, so we thought we'd share some of it with you all and respond.

From the Mars Needs Moms blog:
And what the hell..Are you saying this movie is against same sex marriage?It looks like you are some crazy homosexual trying to convince heterosexuals about your superiority and you see a threat in everything that is,among the majority of society considered normal.Saying things like "gay marriage may actually be better for kids" is unacceptable,just as much as saying that gay partners can't take care of children. [Feb 5, 2011]
We think we already explained in detail why we feel the movie comes off as anti-feminist, homophobic and biased against any non-traditional family, but if the commenter doesn't agree that's their opinion. But we felt we had to address their outrage over the "gay marriage may actually be better for kids" comment.

The actual line they were referring to was: "A lot of experts have stated that not only do the children of same-sex couples grow up just as well developed as other kids, but gay marriage may actually be better for kids." That's not our idea that we made up. We were simply stating that there has been evidence to suggest that same-sex parents might be better for children.

The theory is that gay parents may tend to be more motivated, more committed and more involved because they more often chose to be parents (while there's a 50% "accidental pregnancy" rate among heterosexuals). There is also evidence to suggest that children of same-sex couples are more tolerant, more open-minded, more empathetic and less likely to be held back by outdated gender stereotypes. [Here's just one source on this research: Gay Parents Better Than Straight Parents? What Research Says]

That's not to say that all children of gay parents will do "better" than all children of straight parents. It's just a theory based on averages. (Just as it's not fair to say that all children from two-parent households will do "better" than all children from single-parent households.)

While there is evidence that might suggest that same-sex parents are better for children, as far as we know, no one is out there making the claim that children need to be raised by same-sex parents (or single parents or grandparents or any other non-traditional family) in order to succeed. But there are a lot of politicians and government agencies that are making the argument that kids need two heterosexual married parents in order to succeed... even though the research doesn't support that claim.

And of course, the commenter called me "some crazy homosexual" because only gay people support equality, right? It's no one's business what my orientation is, but the fact is I'm heterosexual. But I'm also a single parent, another form of "family" that is dismissed as inadequate in the film. We responded to their comment and then a few days later two new comments popped up.  One on the Miley Cyrus blog:
This was an amazing action Miley Cirus took. God wanted everyone to love eachother and in that way she is dead on. However, God made marriage and it's between a man and a woman. Gays were around when Jesus was and he said it was a sin, but to love everyone regardless. Love them all, just don't let them spoil the marriage God made. [Feb 10, 2012]
To which we responded:
Not everyone believes in the same God that you do, so it's not correct to say that God made marriage. God made your understanding of marriage, not mine. Marriages take place outside of Christianity all the time and many Christians do not believe that marriage should only be between a man and a woman.

I can't stop anyone from practicing their religion the way they see fit, nor would I try to. No one is forcing Christian churches to perform same-sex marriages; civil marriage has nothing to do with your God or your religion.

Unless they're trying to marry you, there's nothing any gay couple can do to "spoil" your personal idea of marriage. Is your faith in God and Jesus so weak that you cannot have the marriage you believe in just because others happen to marry differently?

The greatest lesson to learn from Jesus is to love one another. And that's that. [Feb 10, 2012]
We also got another angry comment on the Mars Needs Moms blog: 
You people have a serious problem if you don't appreciate traditional families! How DARE you belittle families like the one I was raised in! I was raised by my Mom and Dad, and I wouldn't have it any other way! That's right! I call my parents "Mom and Dad!" Do you think I'm hateful and homophobic for calling them that? Well, let me tell you something! If it wasn't for Moms and Dads, the world would be completely devoid of people! What do you heterophobes have against men and women marrying each other and having children together? Do you not realize that it takes a man and a woman to conceive a child? Two people of the same sex cannot do that! Do you want to see traditional families dwindle out? I happen to love my Mom and Dad! I am honored to be their daughter! And nothing you people say to me will ever change that! [Feb 10 2012]
Now that was just annoying. They took the previous commenter's misconceptions and just doubled them. I get really pissed when people completely twist and distort what we write and then use that to make stupid assumptions about us. I also get really pissed when people are so grossly ignorant about... well... everything. She completely doesn't get what gay people are actually doing when they fight for equal rights. It's not about taking away anything from straight people. I feel like that is one of the dumbest arguments that anti-gay bigots make - the world will cease to exist if gay couples marry! Traditional families with dwindle out! (Plus the sarcasm in their comment was so barfy: "I call my parents 'Mom and Dad!'" Gasp!)

Sometimes we're content to just let these kind of ignorant comments slide, but I felt the need to put this woman in her place because she was just so wrong and so angry about it. ("How DARE you!")

I quickly responded:
Where did anyone say we had a problem with "traditional" families? We just disagree with the bigots who have a problem with non-traditional families. I was raised by heterosexual parents and I am a heterosexual parent. So I don't know where you people are getting that idea that we're heterophobes or against men and women marrying each other. Get a grip.

I don't care if traditional families dwindle out, because I don't think that's the only valid family. But that doesn't mean I want it to happen. I just want same-sex couples (and single parents) to have the same rights and respect as anyone else. [Feb 10, 2012]

This caused her to backtrack a little bit... but only a little bit. And then she posted some of the most ridiculous drivel we've seen in a while here at Evil Slutopia:
Okay, Lilith, (and anyone else I may have offended), I apologize for my outburst. But I have to be honest here. I did read some things by you and some of the other people who commented on this blog, and those comments did sound heterophobic to me, whether they were intended to be, or not. Some of the people who commented said that children who were raised by same-sex couples are better off than children who were raised by their biological parents. I happen to disagree with that. Also, Lilith, that comment you made about not caring if traditional families dwindle out is, whether you think so or not, heterophobic. Believe it or not, the world needs traditional families. As I said before, I would not change a thing about the kind of family I come from. I do appreciate knowing that you yourself came from a traditional family and are raising your own children the same way. I would think that that fact alone, would make you appreciate traditional families more, and not want them to dwindle out.

If anybody here thinks I'm a horrible person, judging by what I've been saying, think again. People know me as a kind and loving person. I would never intentionally upset anybody, but to be honest, I do have a temper. The times we're living in are difficult, because there is so much hatred in the world. Look, I don't hate people who live alternative lifestyles. I love everybody. I just hate alternative lifestyles, themselves. I'm a devout Christian, and I believe that God created two different sexes for a purpose. Let's face it, God created Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve. If God had intended for two people of the same sex to marry each other, He would not have created Adam and Eve in the first place. But I know you people believe otherwise, and I can't change your minds. I pray that God will open your eyes to the truth one day. I hope you all will not think badly of me and my beliefs, and I do hope you will forgive me for my outburst the last time I posted. This will be my final post on this blog, and I will not be coming back here to read it, so let's call a truce, okay? 'Nuff said. [Feb 11, 2012]
Yes, she actually said "Adam and Steve" in all seriousness. Clearly I wasn't going to call that a truce. It wasn't even close to a truce. She was dead on wrong. Heterophobia is not a real thing. It's like when people throw around arguments about "reverse racism" or "sexism against men". It just doesn't exist in even remotely the same way that real homophobia, racism, and sexism does. I really hate when people try to educate me and preach to me, so I had to have the last word:
Oh geez. Okay...

First of all, I call bullshit on this whole "heterophobic" thing. The U.S. is extremely heterosexist and homophobic. If someone who feels that all people deserve the same rights and respect happens to fight against that homophobia and heterosexism, it doesn't make them heterophobic.

I think you are using the word incorrectly and you are just grossly misunderstanding everything that we here at EvilSlutopia are about. We are about equality for all. I also think you're very mistaken about what gay people are trying to accomplish when they fight for equal rights.

Also, pointing out that there is evidence to support that children of same-sex parents may actually be better off, isn't heterophobic either. It's just stating the findings of a study. I think I was more than clear (above) in fully explaining what that statement meant and what the findings of the studies were, so I don't feel as though I need to defend that yet again.

No, I do not care if "traditional" families "dwindle out" because if that is what is meant to be, that is what is meant to be. I don't think that society "needs" traditional families any more than any other families. The President of the United States was raised by a single mother and his grandmother - a non-traditional family - and he turned out okay. Children need loving parents/guardians. Period. So no, I'm not overly concerned with the possibility that traditional marriage will "dwindle out".

But I don't actually think that's even a remote possibility. I do not for one second think that that will actually ever happen and I just think that's one of the arguments that anti-gay bigots use to stop same-sex couples from marrying. It is propaganda and offensive.

Do you really think that if gay couples are allowed to marry then heterosexual couples will cease to exist? Do you think that there is a limited number of marriages that the U.S. is allowed to perform and that gay couples are stealing all the good spots? LOL.

Straight people will continue to be straight, even if gay people are given equal rights, so what are you so scared about? You will still have the same chance to raise your children the same way you've always wanted to so get over this fear-mongering misinformation and follow Jesus's teachings about love and tolerance. You can hate the "alternative lifestyles" as much as you want, but keep it to yourself unless you want to come off as a hateful person... because not everyone shares your religious beliefs and your values.

To quote Ellen: "I stand for honesty, equality, kindness, compassion, treating people the way you want to be treated, and helping those in need. To me those are traditional values." [Feb 11, 2012]

We don't know if she will respond again or if she will even get to read that. Who knows if any of the other anti-gay marriage commenters will come back either. But we felt it had to be said (and shared). We're so sick of the fear mongering that anti-gay bigots use to support their homophobia. We can't force anyone to interpret their religion the way that we do... but we definitely won't let them pressure us into sharing their warped beliefs.

February 5, 2012

Susan G. Komen for the Cure Shows Their True Colors

By now almost everyone has heard about the controversy surrounding Susan G. Komen for the Cure's decision to stop giving grants to Planned Parenthood for breast exams and cancer screenings. After a huge outcry that included thousands of social media comments, signatures on petitions, and pressure from politicians and other public figures, the Komen foundation put out a statement yesterday apologizing (kinda) and reversing their decision (maybe).

If you haven't been following the story that closely, you might think that Komen's apology represents a happy ending and that we can all go back to supporting both organizations. But this incident has brought so much information to light that many people are rethinking their support of Komen. (As we mentioned in our last post, we've done the Race for the Cure in the past but more recently we've been critical of the Komen foundation as well.) There's so much info out there and so many questions being raised, so I thought I'd put together an overview of the main issues with Komen that are being discussed right now. It's packed with links so you can read more about any aspect of this that you're interested in.

-Komen's official explanations for their decision don't make much sense

Komen initially claimed that Planned Parenthood was getting cut off because they were adopting new rules that prevented them from giving grants to organizations that are under investigation. People started poking holes in this right away, pointing out that the current investigation of Planned Parenthood in Congress is being carried out by anti-choice Republican Rep. Cliff Stearns (who just might have an agenda), and that it had been ongoing for months with Planned Parenthood's full cooperation and had yet to turn up evidence of wrongdoing. Also of note is the fact that Komen didn't pull any of their grant money from Penn State, which would most definitely qualify as "under investigation" at the moment. (And they're not alone - Komen gives and takes money from quite a few organizations that are being investigated.) But strangely there didn't seem to be any other groups besides Planned Parenthood that were actually affected by these new rules.

After people started raising these questions, Komen seemed to change course and started claiming that the decision wasn't about investigations and they just wanted to give more grants directly to providers of mammograms and less to groups like Planned Parenthood that mainly do referrals. This new explanation contradicted the statements that Komen board member John D. Raffaelli made to the New York Times, as well as Komen's own internal documents about the issue, so by this point most people weren't buying either explanation.

-Komen's response to the criticism was detached and dismissive

The Komen foundation's response to this controversy is a textbook example of a social media and PR fail. First, they allowed the outcry to rage all over the internet for more than 24 hours and get picked up by the media before they said anything at all. When they finally did respond, it was with a video called "Straight Talk" in which Komen founder Nancy Brinker rather blandly explained that their new granting strategy had been "regrettably mischaracterized" and would actually allow them to help more women. She insisted that the decision wasn't about bowing to political pressure, but never mentioned Planned Parenthood by name and didn't address the critics of the decision in any meaningful way, except to complain that the "scurrilous accusations" against the organization were "profoundly hurtful".

The next day, Brinker took her show on the road and did an interview with MSNBC's Andrea Mitchell which did not go too well for her. Mitchell, a breast cancer survivor and Komen supporter, was clearly upset about the situation and asked some tough questions that Brinker didn't seem prepared to answer. The highlight came when Mitchell asked about the massive outcry against Komen's decision and Brinker dismissed it entirely, saying "All I can tell you is that the responses we are getting are very very favorable. People who have bothered to read the material, who have bothered to understand the issues. Again we work from mission." So if you're mad, it's because you're uninformed and you don't get it. Damage control couldn't possibly get smoother or savvier than that, right?

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Komen board member John D. Raffaelli got in on the act too in his interview with the New York Times, implying that Planned Parenthood was unfairly making a big deal out of the situation just to raise money: “Why are they going nuts?” Mr. Raffaelli asked rhetorically. “And the answer is that they want to raise money, and they’re doing it at the expense of a humanitarian organization that shares their goals and has given them millions of dollars over the years.”

And let's not forget this retweet from Komen VP Karen Handel (more on her in a minute):

These examples are a good illustration of Komen's response as a whole. They came across as totally detached and never seemed as if they were trying to really understand why people were upset, even when the criticism was coming from longtime Komen supporters. They treated the entire thing like an inconvenience brought upon them by ignorant people who couldn't understand how great their decision really was, so it's no wonder that many people have been very slow to forgive and forget.

-The incident revealed a conservative culture within Komen

Soon after the news broke about Komen's decision to defund Planned Parenthood, fingers started pointing at Karen Handel, Komen's recently hired Senior VP of Public Policy. Handel is a self-described conservative Republican who was endorsed by Sarah Palin when she ran for governor of Georgia in 2010. She's anti-choice and has publicly stated that she does not support the mission of Planned Parenthood. Komen claims that Handel had nothing to do with the decision to defund Planned Parenthood, but anonymous sources within the organization (and common sense) would suggest otherwise.

To be fair, Handel's not the only anti-choice conservative in the Komen family:
Komen’s board includes Jane Abraham, the General Chairman of the anti-choice Susan B. Anthony List (SBA). SBA constantly spreads false information about federal government funding of abortion and public health and medical evidence surrounding safe abortion care. Abraham is also closely tied with the Nurturing Network, which exists for the sole purpose of convincing women that abortions cause a range of unrelated health problems, like promoting the mythical link between abortions and breast cancer. Jodi Jacobson at RH Reality Check rightly asks, “Can you trust a breast cancer organization whose staff and board members lie about breast cancer?”
And then there's Susan G. Komen for the Cure founder Nancy Brinker. Brinker has given more than $175,000 to the RNC and Republican candidates since 1990 and was a huge supporter of George W. Bush, even serving as ambassador to Hungary in his administration. It's also been confirmed that former Bush press secretary Air Fleischer has been involved with developing Komen's strategy regarding Planned Parenthood. So it may be fair to say that Handel isn't responsible for pushing Komen's leadership to the right; she's actually just a reflection of where they already stand.

-Komen's apology and "reversal" doesn't really reverse anything

On Friday, Komen issued a new statement with an apology of sorts:
We want to apologize to the American public for recent decisions that cast doubt upon our commitment to our mission of saving women’s lives. The events of this week have been deeply unsettling for our supporters, partners and friends and all of us at Susan G. Komen. We have been distressed at the presumption that the changes made to our funding criteria were done for political reasons or to specifically penalize Planned Parenthood. They were not.
They went on to say that they would amend their criteria for grants again to "make clear that disqualifying investigations must be criminal and conclusive in nature and not political. That is what is right and fair. " Regarding Planned Parenthood specifically, it states that Komen "will continue to fund existing grants, including those of Planned Parenthood, and preserve their eligibility to apply for future grants, while maintaining the ability of our affiliates to make funding decisions that meet the needs of their communities."

This was widely reported as a "reversal" on Komen's part, with many headlines announcing that Komen will continue to partner with Planned Parenthood. But some pointed out that the statement doesn't actually reverse anything or make any promises about future grants for Planned Parenthood. It says that Komen will continue to fund its existing grants to Planned Parenthood, which they had said they would do all along, and that Planned Parenthood will be able to apply for more grants in the future. It doesn't guarantee that any of those future grant applications will actually be approved, so basically all the statement does is buy Komen some time to come up with more new rules that allow them to deny Planned Parenthood in the future. (A Komen board member confirmed to the Washington Post that the statement guarantees nothing to Planned Parenthood because that would be "unfair".) Even the apology was of the 'sorry we got caught/sorry you're offended' variety, so it's not surprising that it left many Komen critics unsatisfied.

-Komen's position on stem cell research may also have changed

Almost lost in the controversy surrounding the Planned Parenthood decision was the news that Komen may also be pulling their funding for stem cell research:
Anti-abortion groups are also declaring victory in their parallel attempts to pressure Komen on embryonic stem cell research, another hot-button issue. Anti-abortion groups have targeted Komen for providing funding to any medical institution that also conducts that type of research (even if Komen isn't directly funding it). A few weeks ago, Texas Right to Life flagged a Komen press release from late November explicitly stating that they don't support research that involves "destroying a human embryo" and have never funded that type of research. Both Life News and the National Catholic Register noted the Komen release on Wednesday evening, and Life News reported further that Komen appears to have also ended grants to institutions that conducts embryonic stem cell research. The link to the press release on the Komen site is dead now, and the press release is no longer posted in their media section. The organization did not respond immediately to a request for comment on whether they've changed their policy on this topic as well. [Mother Jones]
Komen's claim that their decision about Planned Parenthood wasn't political and had nothing to do with abortion was already difficult to believe, but if their position on stem cell research has also changed it becomes pretty much impossible.

-So how much of Komen's money actually goes to breast cancer research anyway?

Last year the blog The Cancer Culture Chronicles analyzed Komen's 2010 financial statements to determine how much of their money actually goes to breast cancer research. (There's also a great critique of Komen's four star rating on Charity Navigator.)
In 2009 the Research program received $70.1M or 21% of total revenue, and in 2010 it received $75.4M which, although a slight increase in terms of dollars, only represents 19% of total revenue...relative to dollars earned, allocations to the Research program (purple line) seem to be on a definite downward trend, whilst the other programs remain fairly flat, and Administrative Expenses (orange line) seem to be on the increase.

Analyzing further the financials for Komen's Research program, I find that from the $75.4M allocated to the Research program, that only $62.7M was spent on actual research awards and grants with the remaining $12.7M spent on Professional Fees expense of $6.3M; Salaries and Benefits of $2.8M; and other Operating expenses of $3.6M.

To recap; although the Research program was allocated 19% of total revenue only 16% of total revenue was used to fund actual research! And why the need to spend $6.3M on Professional Fees expense, which is generally fees like accounting, legal, public relations, financial management etc.? 16% to Research is significantly less than the 25% Komen repeatedly claims is used to fund research. And the annual Research program allocation percentage, when compared to total revenue, keeps decreasing!
Also of note is the fact that from 2008-2010, Komen paid an estimated $1.9 million in severance, including large packages for some people who had only been with the organization a short time. Komen's grants to Planned Parenthood are actually a very small piece of their multi-million dollar pie, but their decision to split with Planned Parenthood has opened the door for many people to ask some big questions about their financial integrity.

-Komen, corporate partnerships, and pinkwashing

The Komen foundation has a lot of corporate partners and lends their name to a lot of products that supposedly raise money and awareness "for the cure", which means they are frequently accused of pinkwashing. It often seems like they're putting partnerships, products, and profits above women's health. Examples include their partnership with KFC on pink buckets of fried chicken (healthy!), a pink ribbon credit card by Bank of America (currently being investigated!), and Yoplait's fundraising campaign which requires people to mail in yogurt lids in order to generate a 10 cent donation to Komen (not only not cost effective, but the yogurt itself used to contain the hormone rBGH until a campaign by Breast Cancer Action persuaded Yoplait to remove it). And don't forget your pink gun!

And then there's "Promise Me", a perfume commissioned by Komen last fall. A bottle of Promise Me costs $59, but only about $1.50 of that money actually goes to breast cancer research. The perfume also contains two potentially harmful chemicals not listed in the ingredients.

There's also the fact that Komen downplays and dismisses the potential link between the chemical BPA and cancer, even though there's a lot of evidence to support such a link. Of course, they deny that there's any connection between their stance on BPA and the fact that they partner with so many companies that use BPA in their products (including many of those pink products that raise money for Komen).

-Komen has engaged in some questionable lobbying efforts

This current controversy has caused people to take another look at some past criticisms of the way that Komen lobbies for and against certain legislation, including questions about what kind of help Komen believes poor women should get to pay for cancer care, and about whether Komen really supports research into potential environmental causes of breast cancer. Here are a couple of excerpts:
In 2000, when I first became a breast cancer activist, one of my first assignments was contacting the senators and members of Congress in my area to encourage their support for the Breast & Cervical Cancer Prevention & Treatment Act. The bill was to provide Medicaid coverage for uninsured women diagnosed through the Breast & Cervical Cancer Prevention & Screening Act, which had been passed several years earlier. IOW, the Treatment Act was necessary because uninsured women were getting no-cost breast cancer diagnosis, but still had no means to pay for treatment.

...Upon calling my GOP senator and speaking with his aide, I was shocked to hear her tell me "Sen.__ can't sign on as a co-sponsor to the bill because all the breast cancer groups aren't in agreement on it." Shocked, I asked her who was opposing it. She told me that Komen opposed the bill. When I asked her why, she explained that Komen felt that treatment for uninsured breast cancer patients should be funded through private donations, like the pink ribbon race. I was speechless, in shock. A phone call to another activist confirmed it was true - Komen was lobbying behind the scenes to kill the bill. A moment later, Sen.__'s aide called me back and begged me not to repeat our conversation to anyone, that she had given me the information by mistake.

...In 2009, Komen lobbied behind the scenes to weaken the health care bill (ACA) as it was being debated in Congress. They hired Hadassah Lieberman, wife of Joe, in an effort to convince Joementum to vote against the Public Option. Komen spent over $1 million in 2008 & 2009, on behind the scenes lobbying related to the health care reform bill, so who knows what else was on their agenda.

...They worked for several years to stall or kill the Breast Cancer & Environmental Research Act. In the end, they eviscerated it by removing new funding for environmental research and substituting a panel to review all research on breast cancer & environment. Using private funds, they recently collaborated with the Institute of Medicine to develop said report. Released last December, it sadly detailed the same old arguments that there's no evidence of links between environmental toxins and that no further research should be done on the subject since everyone has those toxins in their bodies already. Instead they chose to blame breast cancer patients for getting the disease (more here).[Daily Kos]

...most people would be shocked to find that the Komen Foundation helped block a meaningful Patients Bill of Rights for the women it has purported to serve since the group began in 1982.

Despite proclaiming herself before a 2001 Congressional panel as a "patient advocate for the past 20 years," demanding access to the best possible medical care for all breast cancer patients, Federal Election Commission records show the Komen Foundation and its allies lobbied against the consumer-friendly version of the Patients Bill of Rights in 1999, 2000 and 2001. Brinker then trumpeted old friend George W. Bush in August 2001 for backing a "strong" Patients' Bill of Rights, while most patient advocates felt betrayed. [AlterNet - Read the whole thing. Seriously, go. I'll wait.]
You can go to OpenSecrets.org for more information on just how much money Susan G. Komen for the Cure spends on lobbying and where they direct their efforts, and thanks to this current controversy I think we can expect for questions to be raised and more information to come to light about exactly what they're lobbying for, and against, and whether those efforts really match the mission they keep telling us they care so much about.

-Komen takes legal action in defense of their brand at the expense of smaller charities

The Komen foundation is very devoted to protecting their brand. So devoted, in fact, that they've spent thousands of dollars taking legal action against smaller charities that use any variation on the phrase "for the cure".
So far, Komen has identified and filed legal trademark oppositions against more than a hundred of these Mom and Pop charities, including Kites for a Cure, Par for The Cure, Surfing for a Cure and Cupcakes for a Cure--and many of the organizations are too small and underfunded to hold their ground.

"It happened to my family," said Roxanne Donovan, whose sister runs Kites for a Cure, a family kite-flying event that raises money for lung cancer research. "They came after us ferociously with a big law firm. They said they own 'cure' in a name and we had to stop using it, even though we were raising money for an entirely different cause."
I doubt this is what most people envision their money being used for when they make a donation to the Komen foundation.

-This incident has given new life to the myth that abortion causes breast cancer

One negative side effect of this whole mess is that some in the anti-choice community have used the situation as an opportunity to promote the myth that abortion causes breast cancer. There were many comments from anti-choicers on Komen's facebook page touting the supposed link between abortion and breast cancer as a reason why Komen never should have partnered with Planned Parenthood in the first place, and the "theory" that abortion causes breast cancer was cited by several anti-choice organizations in their responses to Komen's decision to split with Planned Parenthood.

For the record, Komen's website lists abortion as a factor that does not increase the risk of breast cancer and states that "research clearly shows no link between the two". So while Komen can't be held responsible for every misleading report from a pro-life website or ignorant comment on their facebook page, it's unfortunate that they've opened the door for so much harmful misinformation to be spread and will most likely do nothing to help correct the record.

I'm sure I've missed a lot, but this overview should give you an idea of just how big the Komen story really is. Komen may have apologized, but many people now have a new perspective on the organization, and the debate continues. Here are a few of the recent comments from Komen's facebook page:
Nancy and Karen ran this charity like a Jr League bake sale. They need to be called out for all the things that most people never knew they were doing. The bullying of smaller orgs, the paltry sums spent on research, the huge severance packages to short term employees, the lobbying against patients rights....this is merely the last straw.

To me they appear to have actually been a money laundering business instead of a charity. I'm glad that I learned so much more about the underlying issues of this charity. Selling a bunch of pink crap doesn't make a charity for which it was founded - it was founded to find a cure for breast cancer - why then would they squash things that could have been a cure.

I actually had no idea about this organization until all this stuff hit the fan, but it's been fascinating to see all their dirty laundry finally aired out.

I so agree with you. We've all been looking at the world through the Komen Foundation's "pink-colored" glasses.
Some are calling on Komen to take further action - there's a petition on change.org right now asking that the organization get back to their mission by firing Karen Handel and returning to "a non-partisan, science-based approach" to finding a cure. I understand this effort, but also feel that Komen's "mission" is exactly what they want it to be right now. They wanted to hire Handel and they wanted to walk away from Planned Parenthood, just like they want to engage in constant pinkwashing and collect as much money from corporate partners as possible. At this point, I feel like the best course is to continue to hold Komen accountable, but also work to make them less powerful and relevant, and give our support and money and time to other organizations whose missions are truly worth that support.

The good news in all of this is that Planned Parenthood has raised thousands of dollars since this story broke, including a $100,000 grant from LiveStrong and $250,000 from New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, which means that a lot of women are going to get the care that they need.

The situation has also raised awareness for some of the other breast cancer organizations that are out there doing great work with a fraction of the budget and the publicity that Komen enjoys. One organization like this that we support is Breast Cancer Action. For years they've been teaching people how to "think before you pink" and running successful campaigns against pinkwashing, they have a strict policy about corporate contributions, and they're committed to challenging the status quo of breast cancer and working to turn awareness into action. Susan G. Komen for the Cure could learn a lot from them if they ever took off those pink-colored glasses.