Jodi Jaecks: The only woman who can swim topless in Seattle pools. Other cancer survivors will be considered on a "case-by-case basis."
Responding to a Stranger article that hit streets this morning, Seattle Parks and Recreation Superintendent Christopher Williams issued a statement minutes ago about breast-cancer survivor Jodi Jaecks. City officials had refused since March to let her swim topless in public pools, Cienna reported, even though both of Jaecks's breasts have been removed (she has only two thin scars and bare skin).
Now the city is overturning that policy for Jaecks—and Jaecks alone. Williams says he will consider future requests from breast cancer survivors with double mastectomies to swim topless only on a "case-by-case basis."
While Jaecks says she "never expected that the response would be so quick," she is upset that the rule was construed so narrowly to apply solely to her.
"It puts the onus on the individual to ask for permission. It has the potential, then, for women to think that they should be ashamed or try to pass—that they should cover themselves up," she says. "It's not a policy then, really."
While the olive branch is a welcome gesture, it's a minimal gesture. Asked why the department didn't create a new policy for all women like Jaecks, parks spokeswoman Karen O'Conner was stumped. "I don't know the answer for that," she said.
Williams offered his thinking: “After looking at the situation again, I decided to reconsider based on the circumstances of the case. Our original concern stems from our responsibility to accommodate the needs of all our patrons. In this case I see nothing that might alarm the public. I think our staff were correct to follow our policy at the time the earlier decision was made, and my decision is based on new information.”
What "new information" did the city have between last week and this week? Bad press. Parks officials note that The Stranger "ran a piece that showed a photo of the cancer survivor."
Which raises the question: Does every breast cancer survivor who wants to swim topless need to be bold enough to have her topless photo published in the newspaper? Is that the standard for persuading Superintendent Williams? Or even submitting a photo for review? That's an awfully high bar—an intimidating barrier that most women would probably refuse. The whole point is that women in this position don't want to be treated as freaks. Unless the city makes this policy for all women like Jaecks—which they should do immediately—this seems like insincere damage control from a tone-deaf PR department.