How our stance on bullying echoes the adult world
We’ve all heard it before. “If you’re ever bullied, tell an adult. Tell a teacher, tell your parents, tell somebody.”
I’m also betting that most of you have done it before. You’ve been bullied, and you told someone.
More to that point, I bet you got a response like I did. I still remember the response I got when I told my favorite teacher- not just any teacher, but the one who treated me like a real, adult person, not the 12 year old pseudo-person everyone else saw me as- that the kids who were endlessly harassing me were… endlessly harassing me;
“That doesn’t seem like something they would do.”
I still remember the feeling of the world crashing down around me, of, well, my suspension of disbelief breaking and mentally screaming “Are you fucking KIDDING me?” You had one job, teacher. You had one job to not enable your supposedly favorite student to be bullied. You probably told someone at one time to talk to you if they were bullied. But when someone does, suddenly you and the rest of the world laugh and says “Oh, oh shit, you thought we would do something? Up yours, kid.”
Stuff like this happening, well… it ain’t new or unusual. Here’s just the most recent story to pop up in my facebook feed, this time about a transgender girl who was bullied for being trans*, and, surprise surprise, is now being punished for fighting back.
But this story made me realize something. School is for preparing us for the real world, and when stuff like that happens… well, it really is preparing us for the real world. See one of the many adult parallels to that news story, CeCe McDonald. Which isn’t to say that that is okay, but in fact the opposite.
The way that our culture deals with bullying should not mirror the fundamentally flawed way our justice system works. In no other subject do we attempt to teach the often bleak reality in favor of teaching for a potentially better future. When we see a society that isn’t well educated, that doesn’t understand critical thinking or has a literacy rate short of 100%, we aim for a brighter future. We aim to start teaching to children what the adults don’t know, to make their generation one that is better than the one that precedes it.
Then we come to bullying, and say, “No, the status is staying quo.” We see a society that tells us that if you’re a trans woman of color defending yourself in a life threatening situation, you’re a murderer, but if you’re a privileged person feeling vaguely threatened by a black person, you have every right to blow their head off. We see that, and tell our children that that is okay. We teach them the same things and as such we perpetuate those ideals into the next generation.
Where else does a rapist learn that nobody will do anything when the victim goes to the cops, besides all the times that nothing happened when a bullied child went to the teachers? What other place teaches that underprivileged children have less of a right to their bodies than their privileged peers? That having a “thick skin” or not letting bullying get to you, or any of the other coping methods that don’t challenge the status quo, are the only acceptable options?
Sure, kids will always see these things espoused by the screwed up culture we live in. But it’s driven so much deeper when it’s taught alongside their textbooks as their only hope for the future.
There is hope for a future without this kind of bigotry and enabling, but it only happens if we fight against bullying and victim blaming now. Sometimes, that means kids are going to end up in jail for fighting for their own rights to their happiness, but as long as we keep talking about that and keep talking about how wrong it is then it’s not all for nothing.
And to anyone out there who is dealing with bullying, who has thought about telling someone or who has told someone and been ignored; Don’t give up hope, but also, don’t be quiet about it if at all you can. Keep telling people, and keep telling people that you told people. Most importantly, document the times you told people. Write down that you said something, what you said and if you can, have the person you told sign it to say that they were told.
But if push comes to shove, don’t let them get away with telling you that you should have just told an adult and insist you didn’t do your job as victim well enough. Not without a fight.
Featured image courtesy of Thomas Ricker on Flickr