How To Handle Komen, Bullies, And People Who Suck

The virtual world of the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure is officially on fire today, fueled by the not-so-shocking announcement that they are withdrawing support for Planned Parenthood.

I’m not going to write about what’s wrong with this move because I know that I don’t know enough about it to be useful here. If you want the finer details or to follow the evolution of this story, I recommend you Google it. (And if you oppose this move, go ahead and tell Komen here.)

What I do know is that people are freaking out. And when people are freaking out, I get excited because there is something we can all learn, something that we can use to make our own lives better. Yes, public relations nightmares are the sandbox in my playground.

When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time. - Maya Angelou

If it is true that Komen made the decision to distance themselves from Planned Parenthood because of the abortion services provided there, then what’s happening here is simple. They are showing us who they are. If Komen wants to preserve their integrity as a conservative organization by withdrawing funding for breast cancer screenings from an organization that primarily serves poor women, then so be it.

There are some of us who never supported Planned Parenthood because the services offered aren’t aligned with our beliefs. There are some of us who never supported Komen because of concerns about how many of the oodles of dollars raised actually make it to “the cure” (as opposed to administration and brand management).

And there are some of us who’ve supported both organizations now feel outraged, betrayed, or perhaps abandoned by their sacred pink mafia. They are certainly experiencing a surge of emotion around this decision. Let us remember that we need to take a moment to recognize what we are feeling. Being still for a moment to experience that anger, sadness, grief, or whatever it is that’s flowing through us at this time, will allow to take more intentional action.

Just be still for a moment… and feel. (It always comes back to that with me, doesn’t it?)

Next, we must be willing to believe them. If the way Komen is showing up in the world is not in alignment with our own beliefs, then we can stop doing business with them. We can stop walking, running, and donating. We can stop wearing the t-shirts and hats. We can unsubscribe from their email lists and unlike their assorted Facebook pages.

We can put some space between ourselves and those with whom the relationship no longer serves us. We have the power to say, “Thanks for showing me who you are, Komen. Go now, in peace, and serve the community that you have declared yourself dedicated to.”

A fabulous example of this very healthy space–something my family refers to as the “Be nice or leave” policy–happened recently in Knoxville, Tennessee (of all of the incredibly unlikely places).Last week, Tennessee State Senator Stacey Campfield made an international spectacle of himself (and Tennessee politics) with yet another woefully ill-informed, hate-filled, anti-gay outburst. In fact, it was a series of outbursts that we may more accurately label as a woefully ill-informed, hate-filled, anti-gay dialogue that when combined with the tragic suicides of children who were bullied because they were gay, cultivated a great deal of shock, awe, and action from people around the world.

On Sunday morning, he tried to have brunch at a the Bistro at the Bijou and was sent away by the owner, Martha Boggs. Yes, you read that right. She declined his business. She simply put space between herself and a man that she felt had, “gone from being stupid to dangerous.”  I’m sure she also won’t be contributing to his campaign, giving him her vote, or distributing campaign materials on his behalf.

She took a stand and gave him some space.

This is the essence of “Be nice or leave.” It was basically an invitation to not bring his hate speech into the nice, safe, inclusive, respectful environment that she’s created in the community. She refused to serve him because it would compromise her integrity to do business with someone who has gone to such great lengths to do harm to the lbgt community which she respects, accepts, and supports.

The same thing applies if someone who claims to love you is showing up in your relationship in a way that no longer serves you. It’s the sibling who wishes to “pray the gay away.” It’s the in-laws who think you must have done something to make their baby boy beat the shit out of you. It’s the father who tells a woman in a size two dress that she needs to get that extra ten pounds off.

Be nice or leave. It’s not always easy but it is that simple.

There is no reasonable “call for compromise” which requires us to accept being treated unfairly, to share our resources with a cause which is misaligned with our values, or to feel we need to be someone or something that we simply cannot be.

Give these people and organizations the space their actions show that they desire and then, let us cultivate the community (non-profits, companies, public servants, professionals, family, friends, teachers, etc.) we desire and deserve.

Release. Release. Release. And then, rebuild. We’re all worth it.


Release. Release. Release.” is one of the themes for my Sick of Being Stuck Program. Click here for more information.



Debbie Crowe
Debbie Crowe4 years ago

I really like “Be nice or leave.” I have a step-sister I'd like to say that to. Luckily, I don't have to see her very often or I would say it.

Michele Wilkinson

Thank you

Kirsten Durward
Kirsten Durward4 years ago

I like this. Well done Martha! More people should do this. I won't use a business that I know has an owner that treats his staff unfairly. I quit working for one company because I found out it was owned by British American Tobacco. If we don't stand up for what we believe in, no-one else is going to do it for us! As for the suggestion that children get taught respect and responsibility at school, well I am now a teacher, in primary/elementary. And it's in every curriculum - mostly it is called PSE (personal and social education) And it has been done for years. Every single day we discuss making positive choices for ourselves and others. But current research shows that children's value systems are developed and influence much more by their families. So where schools can make small strides in this, families can make huge ones, if they start making better choices too! I'm sure Martha's kids, if she has them, are not afraid to stand up and be counted either!

Tony C.
Tony C.4 years ago

A class in RESPECT AND RESPONSIBILITY should be taught from Grade one to graduation, children should be taught that anything is permissible as long as it does not hurt themselves or anybody else. Common sense would dictate that if children are taught at a very early age that every child has their own strengths and weaknesses and that they should use their strengths to help not tease or bully others. It should not matter if a child comes from a FAMILY of a mother and father, 2 mothers or 2 fathers as long as they are loved.
Sex Education should be taught from LGBT, Contraceptives, Masturbation and all forms of sex. Let us face it whether we like it or not children are curious and are having sex earlier and earlier. Children should be taught the joys and the consequences of having sex ( Pregnancy,STD, AIDS ) But you say when will this be taught. Cut out Geography or History early on then put it back in and remove Geometry and Algebra. They can learn this in college if need be. I believe this is a solution. Nipping it in the Bud so that Bullying, Sexual Assault, and many others will be greatly diminished if not eradicated. It is my belief that when children graduate with these principals where they are taught RESPECT for themselves and others and to take RESPONSIBILITY for their actions. If children grow up with these principals I believe business and government would benefit greatly. Within a few generations this world would be a much better place to live in.

Andrew Carvin
Andrew Carvin4 years ago

I made a video about why abortion should be easily available, and free for any woman that wants one. Here’s the link:

Watch it, share it, and join the fight against the evil anti-abortionists.

Teresa Cowley
Teresa Cowley4 years ago

"When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time"--this quote from Maya Angelou is so ultimately simple and sensible. Just living by this belief can save alot of hurt, grief and problems.
An excellent article, thank you!

Joe R.
Joe R.4 years ago

Excellent article Christy. Thanks. I have stopped clicking on the Komen tab on Care2's click-to-donate. I thought of maybe giving them a second chance somewhere down the road ... but not anymore!

Roxanne N.
Roxanne N.4 years ago

I disagree on certain points. People were upset because they have donated money to Komen, run in thier races, and believed the media spin coming out of their mouths. And then suddenly, when Komen pulls a stunt like this, then lies about the reasons, then sort of back tracts,etc, people feel betrayed. They have already donated and put effort into this organization. Some folks who protested are very involved with this group, so no, its not as simple as be nice and walk away.

I have never liked Komen, and thus have never clicked on the Care2 link. They seem to be more interested in their pink ribbons and collecting money, than real women's health. This past stunt just showed their true colors. Breast Cancer Action Network is a very good breast cancer group to donate to. They are not into pink ribbons and running races--they are into preventing breast cancer and getting some action done.

Anne P.
Anne P.4 years ago

Excellent viewpoint! Thanks, Christy.

Kiana Siino
Kiana S.4 years ago

"Be nice or leave" sounds like a very good policy to me!

I think Maya Angelou's quote, "When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time," is especially interesting here as the Susan G. Komen foundation has just reversed its decision to defund Planned Parenthood. They might have backed down, but they showed us who they are and I have a feeling that a lot of people won't be so trusting of them in the future. I certainly won't be!