Ugh. I hate girl drama. Two friends — I’ll call them Susan and Patty — have had a falling out and I’m caught exactly where I don't like to be: right in the middle. The whole situation is soooo middle school. But these are complete grown-ups and there are very serious things at stake — matters of life and death. Literally. So the whole thing is as frustrating as it is inexcusable.
Here’s what’s happening: There’s this powerful girl who runs in circles that sometimes overlap with ours — but more Susan's than Patty's or mine. You probably know her; everybody does. So, for the sake of this story, I’ll call her Regina George after the character in Mean Girls— because that’s exactly who she reminds me of. Regina and I are not friends. Never have been. Frankly, I can’t stand her. She’s the type of person who buys her friends and bullies people to get her way. And if she can’t buy or bully you, she spreads nasty rumors about you to both ratchet up the pressure and serve as a warning to others.
Patty and Susan have been friends for years, which makes total sense given how much they have in common. They’re both good people — genuinely nice, very caring and completely selfless. And given those characteristics, it’s as little of a surprise as it is a coincidence that they are both big in the nonprofit community. Their pet causes are similar, so they’ve been helping each other out for the past six years or so. It was an arrangement that benefited everyone.
But Susan has had an easier go of things lately, while Patty has been going through some rocky times, through no fault of her own. A big part of Patty’s troubles have been Regina’s making. Regina has had Patty in her cross-hairs for as long as I can remember. Despite Regina’s nonstop harassment and rumor-mongering, Patty tries to go about her business, which is not always an easy feat.
Recently Regina schemed up a new way to get to Patty. Regina befriended Susan and began showering her cause with money. If you're a middle school survivor, you can probably guess what happened next. Regina told Susan that if she wouldn’t stop being friends with Patty, Regina was going to stop being friends with Susan. Can you believe these are grown-ups?
And of course the threats didn’t stop there. Regina also let Susan know that if she didn’t cut Patty off, Regina would quit giving Susan’s cause money and, further, tell all her friends to stop donating to Susan’s cause, too. To top it all off, Regina let Susan know that she would then start painting Susan with the same ugly brush that Regina has been painting Patty with all these years. Some friend, right?
Well, Regina’s scheme totally worked and Susan caved under the pressure. Patty told me Tuesday that Susan was ending their friendship — including their arrangement of helping out each other’s causes. This means Regina’s bullying will create a ripple effect that negatively impacts tons of people. The most disappointing thing to me about all of this is not Regina’s behavior — it’s Susan’s. I knew what Regina was made of. But I always thought Susan was a better friend and stronger person than this.
So now I have to decide what, if anything, I should do in this situation. On the one hand, I am not directly involved. This is between Susan and Patty, not me. I can tell Patty that I think she’s been totally mistreated without letting Susan know where I stand. After all, everyone knows Susan is only doing this because of the extreme pressure that Regina is putting on her. So, when you look at it this way, Susan is a victim, too.
But on the other hand, my friend Patty is being treated really unfairly. It seems really chicken shit to simply acknowledge to her privately that I recognize she’s been wronged, but not have the guts to take a stand in her defense. If I remain silent, what kind of friend am I to Patty? And even more to the point, if I don’t have the guts to say something to Susan when I believe she’s doing something as short-sighted as it is wrong, what kind of friend am I to Susan?
It comes down to this: Sometimes being a real friend requires you to do things you really don’t want to do and say things that you wish you didn’t have to say.
So, listen up, Susan G. Komen for the Cure. (Yes, I just used your full name — and everybody knows what it means when you use someone’s full name.) You know I love you and have tremendous respect for the work you do. Over the years I have been proud to call you a friend. But what you did to Planned Parenthood — caving to anti-choice Regina George’s threats and bailing on your longtime friend — is wrong. You’re a better friend than that. And not just to Planned Parenthood, but to women everywhere.
By ending your friendship you are terminating the support that you’ve provided to Planned Parenthood over the past six years — support that has enabled 170,000 women nationwide (and almost 1,000 of them right here in Austin) to get clinical breast exams, breast cancer risk assessments and breast health education. These are low-income and underserved women — women who have few (if any) options when it comes to getting this kind of help.
I know you deny that your decision was in response to Regina's bullying. And I've heard the excuses you've offered, like you couldn't continue to support Planned Parenthood because it's currently the subject of a congressional investigation, or that your decision was simply part of a broad effort to use donations more efficiently.
But we both know the truth. Plus, by even mentioning the congressional investigation without further explaining that it's a GOP-led. anti-choice witch-hunt, you're now actively participating in the smear campaign against Patty. I hardly recognize you anymore.
Allowing yourself to be used as a pawn in Regina's game of manipulation, misinformation, bullying and spite, hurts you, your cause and our entire gender. It hurts you by limiting your reach to women in need of breast cancer exams, screening and education — something that is at the very core of what you’re all about.
It hurts Planned Parenthood by taking away critical funding for breast cancer services at a time when funds are already scarce. And it does nothing to reduce the number of abortions, which is ostensibly Regina’s whole angle.
In fact, this whole stunt looks like some sort of bizarre, self-fulfilling prophecy on Regina’s part. If what she hates about Planned Parenthood is that they provide abortion services, why would she engineer the elimination of non-abortion related health care services? If her real objective isn't simply to snuff out Planned Parenthood entirely, it seems like she would have no problem with its provision of these other services — and in fact, might actually support them.
So, Susan, when you are willing to stand up to anti-choice Regina and her bullying, I'm 100 percent here for you. Together, we can fight the bully, race for the cure and provide reproductive health care all at the same time. A total Girl Power combo.
Until then, however, whatever donations I would have made to you will instead go to Planned Parenthood to help close the gap caused by your capitulation. Let me know what you decide. And remember: girls rule; breast cancer — and bullies — drool.