I start this post on the premise of “what is normal”. Who decides what is “the norm”? Society? Peers? Race? Religion? I believe all of these factors play a role and when there is conflicting opinions or attitudes it spurs all kinds of trouble. Bullying is at the top of my list.
Society tells us through all forms of media what is normal and acceptable on the scale of normalcy. We see it on tv, movies, commercials, magazines and even childrens’ toys.
Although media sends mixed messages all the time about what is socially acceptable and what is not. Society as a whole tends to view anything that doesn’t “conform to the norm” to be target for ridicule, discrimination, and unfortunately bullying. This is me when I first started working for a large corporation 5 years ago. I loved the way i looked and I was excited about my new job! I worked on a team of 37 people of which 5 were women. I was bullied and judged based on my appearance starting on my very first day. 50 year old women talking about me, starting rumors about me, making fun of me, and stereotyping me. THEY nicknamed me “Barbie” and I was fine with that. I mean honestly, if the shoe fits…. I didn’t set out to “be” Barbie but I wasn’t mad about resembling her. I love Barbie! They took the stereotype way too far though. They assumed because of my bubbly personality I was flirty and trying to be the center of attention. They assumed since i had worked at a bar in my past that i was also a whore and lived an immoral lifestyle. They assumed if they continued to treat me this way that I would quit. OBVIOUSLY they didn’t know who or what they were ACTUALLY dealing with! Long story short, I am none of the things they fabricated in fact I had been sober and not touched a drop of alcohol in 13 years. After a year of torment and filing complaints I went on a leave of absence. Their actions affected me mentally, physically, and emotionally. Even as a grown woman, trying desperately to pay no attention to the jealous, mean, and hateful treatment I was dealing with 8 hours a day, 5 days a week- it was too much. However, I NEVER quit that job because for me, quitting is never an option. Upon returning from my LOA, the company moved me and my abuser to different stores in different counties. My recovery from the abuse I encountered was immediate.
My 13 year old nephew Hunter experienced bullying at school because of his weight. They implied that because he was overweight that they were better than he was. These kids told Hunter that because he was fat he sucked at everything. Including football where he plays left tackle and nose gaurd positions. A skinny kid playing either of these positions would get crushed but they had him believing that he was worthless and as a result he began to suck at football. He suffered severe anxiety and suffered silently. As the school year went on, my nephew stopped being the happy, outgoing, fun loving kid he has always been. He reached out to tell the authorities what was going on and just as it did in my situation, the bullying got worse. One day Hunter texted my sister in law (his mom) and said you need to come pick me up from school before I end up hurting this kid very badly. The principal took action and reprimanded the bully but it only made things worse! My nephew was now physically impaired from stress, his grades and behavior were affected and the counselor at school called a meeting with him. The counselor was confused as to why he was still being bullied and Hunter replied, “because you guys stink at handling these situations” . The counselor said, “ok, well how can we fix this”? My nephew said, “SEPARATE US!”. The next day they were in different classes and his recovery was immediate.
Sadly, for lots of people of all ages this is not the case. People are bullied in a lot of different ways and most suffer in silence for fear of “rocking the boat” or drawing even more attention to themselves. I was raised to respect and trust authority figures and not question. Had my nephew not spoken up and suggested a solution where would he be now? This suffering takes a toll physically, mentally, and emotionally and creates low self esteem and in some cases suicide. No matter how much “bully awareness” we have this abuse continues. After experiencing being bullied as an adult and listening to my nephew and other peoples stories, some in this very class, this issue is alive and well in our schools, workplace, and community.
How can we as a society- starting small as in this English class do our part to start the snowball of change? Perhaps we remind ourselves of what we were taught in kindergarten- If you can’t say anything nice then don’t say anything at all? Is it possible to think outside the box and look deeper into a person than what we see on the outside?