My publisher made me aware of an anti-bullying campaign happening across social media called, Writers Against Bullying, and has asked me to join in on the movement and speak up.
I thought for the sake of this post that I would look up the definition of bullying. Most people seem to assume it only, and I use the word ‘only’ very, very lightly here, means being knocked around. It doesn’t.
The definition per StopBullying.gov defines bullying as the following:
Bullying is unwanted, aggressive behavior among school aged children that involves a real or perceived power imbalance. The behavior is repeated, or has the potential to be repeated, over time. Bullying includes actions such as making threats, spreading rumors, attacking someone physically or verbally, and excluding someone from a group on purpose.
I never thought I got bullied as a kid, and then I read this definition and realized I was wrong. Honestly, after reading that definition it would be safe to assume that everyone has been bullied at one point or another.
I write young adult fiction, and I remember being a teenager very clearly. Everyone talking about everyone else, spreading rumors, excluding people, making fun, it seemed so normal. Thing is, bullying can have life long, and sometimes devastating, consequences. When I was in middle school, a guy grabbed my butt in the hallway. I sank my nails into his arm, detaching his hand, and he called me a bitch and slapped me. Across the face. In a crowded hallway. And No One did anything. Including me. I was shocked and pissed and suddenly afraid. Too afraid to say a word to a teacher, or the dean, or even my mom. I didn’t think that was bullying. But it was. Hell, when I was in middle school, no one even talked about bullying. I avoided that kid like the plague for two years in middle school.
Now, I’m a mom, and I dealt with my son getting bullied on and off from Kindergarten through Fourth grade. I was told by more than one teacher that, “Boys will be boys.” Those words triggered the same anger I felt in the hallway when I was 13 years old. Boys will be boys. Boys can do what they want and not get in any trouble for it, because, you know, that’s what ‘boys’ do. Thing is … it’s NOT what all boys do, and it’s NOT okay to use a cliche as an excuse for that kind of behavior.
After my son got punched in the stomach, I told him to fight back. He did. The bullying stopped. And that’s the messed up part. As a parent you want your kids to be safe, follow the rules, do the right thing, but … when bullying keeps happening, and that’s just the issue, it can and does in some circumstances, go on and on and on, what then? What’s the right answer to tell your kid then? Be afraid? Avoid that other kid the way I did, always wondering when he’ll do it again. Let him stare you down in the hallway? I told my kid to fight back after he’d been knocked around too many times, and the school did next to nothing, because by that point, I knew he had to defend himself or it would continue. Bullies like having the upper hand. It’s a power trip.
I’m not telling anyone to haul off and hit someone, don’t misread me. But we do need to teach our kids to speak up. Tell someone. I should have, and I think a lot of kids, like I was, are too afraid it will happen again, or get worse, if they say something. But it’s never okay to lay your hands on someone. Guy, girl, kid, adult, alien, superhero, whatever, it needs to stop.
And sadly, I’m only talking about physical stuff in this post. Verbal attacks, being excluded, and singled out, can be just as bad, if not worse. As a girl, I know how mean other girls can be, so don’t think I’m not calling the girls out, too. Girls should be supportive of each other instead of tearing each other down. I have never understood what that’s about.
As writers we have a strong voice that can be heard by a lot of people, so this is a call to all you writers out there to get behind the #WritersAgainstBullying movement. Post pics on Twitter, Facebook, (your page and the Writers Against Bullying FB page), your blog, wherever you’re on social media, and speak up.