It’s something many of us do. You see a post on Facebook, feel a bit of outrage, and post a snarky comment. I did this a few days ago when I saw a post about a girl sent home from school with a note saying that her Wonder Woman lunchbox was against the schools “anti-violence” dress code. The lunch box featured a headshot of Wonder Woman, and another view of her full body, smiling and running with her golden lasso. There was no violence anywhere. In fact, the only words were “As lovely as Aphrodite, as wise as Athena.”
According to the official, type-written note, the school’s anti-violence campaign also targetd super heroes who “solve problems with violence.” This seems like an example of taking a point too far, and without much thought, I posted a comment to the effect of “I guess they can’t bring money to class either. I’m pretty sure George Washington solved problems with violence too.”
And then Dave, one of my Facebook friends, sent me a message.
“This sounds like another urban legend to me.”
I hadn’t given it much thought, but now that he’d said that, I felt compelled to find the source.
The original piece that I saw on Facebook was from somecards.com. It points out how over the top the note was, and how it completely ignored feminist issues, and the fact that Wonder Woman’s lasso of truth is actually a tool for avoiding violence. The last line of the piece is:
“So far, there’s been no response from the school, but we’ll let you know if the universal “WTF?” reaction online has any effect on this policy, which really just makes you want to punch something.”
Ok, so they’ve been in touch with the school, and we’re awaiting a response. And let me look up the name of that school…. hmm, it’s not mentioned the article. So let’s see if I can figure out where they lived… nope. There’s a photo of the note in the article, but it’s addressed to Daniel and Sarah, who apparently have a daughter. The top and bottom of the note are covered with napkins, presumably obscuring both the addressee and the writer.
So how did somecards.com contact the school?
I’m going to guess that they didn’t.
I did a Google image search on the picture of the lunchbox, and found dozens of sites using it in stories, complete with the same outrage as the somecards.com piece. Uproxx, The Mary Sue, Discussionist… all using each other as sources for the material. No names, no school, no location.
Each of these pieces had comments—many, many comments. The vast majority of them expressing outrage at this policy, and pointing out how ironic it was that they chose Wonder Woman to represent “solving problems with violence.”
A few of the pieces note that the story came from “a friend’s daughter.” Uh oh, big red flag there. And when you drill down through all these links and find the first source, it’s a picture on Imgur, the picture service most associated with Reddit. And when we trace it back to the account that posted it, the account has been deleted.
If you browse through the comments, interspersed between the profanity-laced expressions of outrage, you’ll see a few that say “Hey, are we sure this is real?”
No, we’re not. And neither is Snopes. As usual, I needn’t have done my own detective work because the folks at Snopes had already done it. Actually, that’s a lie. Even Snopes should be checked, and I found exactly what they did. They list the claim as “Undetermined.”
Is the note real? Is there a school banning super hero lunch boxes? It’s possible, but it’s far from proven. It’s possible that a “friend” heard this story, took a picture of the note, and posted it only to delete their account later when their “friend” protested that they didn’t want the publicity. The post remains, though.
It’s also possible that someone is fed up with what they see as “political correctness run amok,” and that they created a fake note to stir up controversy. Which they did.
Or it could be something else entirely. We simply don’t know.
But that’s not interesting to most people. Those comments that said “Is this real?” receive very few “up votes” on Reddit for example. The ones that make a sarcastic joke receive the most.
If people are given a choice between “It’s outrageous” and “It’s true,” it seems that a great many folks will choose “it’s outrageous.”
The folks at somecards.com “want to punch something.” I want to apply the lasso of truth. Thank you Wonder Woman, for showing us that we can solve problems without violence.