Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Be the Change

Lately I’ve been talking to my daughter about bullying and what behaviors constitute being a bully.  I’ve told her repeatedly that if she witnesses bullying in her school and does nothing about it, she is basically being a bully herself.  In other words, remaining silent is just as bad as calling someone a name or excluding them.  It’s tough being a preteen when everyone around you is aligning themselves with cliques and trying to be in the “in” crowd.  One day your friend decides that she doesn’t want to be friends with you anymore and you don’t know why.  I remember those days and it just adds to the horror of middle school and raging hormones and acne dotted skin.  I was called frizz head, had gum thrown in my hair, and was taunted by kids for my weird clothes.  True, it gave me character, but at the time, I didn’t particularly like it.

The other day, someone I was acquaintance “friends” with on facebook posted a picture she’d taken with her phone on her homepage. The picture was of a slightly heavy woman seated in a chair.  Since the woman was leaning forward, the top of her thong was exposed.  My “friend” commented that some people need mirrors or something to that effect.  I have been deleted as her friend, so I can’t copy it verbatim.  Someone chimed in that that look was trashy.  I looked at the picture for a moment.  My first thought was just to ignore it and move on.  But my thoughts kept returning to “What if that picture was of my daughter, my mom, my friend, or me?” I didn’t know the woman in the photo, but I felt like standing up for her. Somebody had to.  And I did.  And it was uncomfortable and it will be awkward the next time I see the acquaintance, if I ever do, but I refuse to remain silent, especially if I want my daughter to respect me.

I don’t know what happened after I posted my comment on the thread because I was writing and frankly I didn’t care to get caught up in the dramatic aftermath.  But today I noticed that I have one less facebook friend.  And you know what? 

I'm perfectly okay with that.

2 comments:

  1. Thanks for taking on this topic and reminding us that bullying is not just something that teens and preteens face. Social media has made it all too easy to spread hurtful criticism and vitriol. Often we think we are being clever or funny, when in fact, we're just being mean.
    I was struck by your comment to your daughter that if she doesn't stick up for someone who is being bullied then she is also a bully. I remember telling my very young daughter that she should intervene if kids were saying or doing mean things to someone else. She responded that she just couldn't. She wasn't that kind of girl. After reflecting on that, I realized later that she was right. She is painfully shy and although she feels deeply empathetic for others, she is unable to speak out. I think that's fine because there are many other ways to support someone who is being bullied. She could say something privately to the bullied kid to let her know that she wasn't alone; she could anonymously report the incident; she could, depending on her age, even blog about it to educate others.
    You were good to speak out against the sniping on facebook. I'd like to think I'd do the same. But not everyone has it in them to step up in that way. And some people just don't have the skills of persuasion. I know a lot of people who speak out for what's "right" but do it in such a angry way that they are merely inciting more bitter reaction than helping to enlightened others.
    There are other ways to make a statement and I think "unfriending" someone is a fine response for those who don't have the courage to speak out.

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  2. Diana:
    Thanks for posting such thoughtful comments on my blog! I totally appreciate it.
    And you are correct about kids doing other things to support the person who is being bullied. I think I just wanted to let my daughter know that her voice counted and that she could make a difference. I also wanted to make her aware of her own behavior and how she treated others as she navigates the tumultous waters of adolescence.

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Comments are welcome and appreciated!