Bravery: To stand up against evils large and small

Sticks and stones may break your bones, but words will never hurt you.”

That old truism has long been debunked. People who are prone to low self-esteem (such as teenagers) usually can not just ignore comments about their weight or their looks made from their peers (as in, other teenagers). Girls who have been called “fat” will desperately starve themselves to lose weight in an effort to stop the teasing – only to find that the clique of “mean girls” will just find something else to tease them about. In fact, these “mean girls” usually have a never-ending supply of hate that they’re more than willing to spew at those around them just to make themselves appear superior.

Physical bullying, beating someone up, is a horrific experience, don’t get me wrong. But too often verbal bullying is trivialized and made to seem “not so bad” when in fact, not only is it just as bad, it’s sometimes worse.  Verbal bullying is insidious and unceasing – especially with today’s technology of Facebook, Twitter, email and so on.

Bullying in school has long been considered an inane “rite of passage.” I don’t ever remember a teacher in my school standing up for a bullied kid – but then, most kids who are bullied don’t “squeal” to their parents or teachers in authority because they think that will just make the bullying even worse, and they’re usually right. Sadly, the school system (especially back in my day) is just not willing to do the right thing and stamp out bullying once and for all…even when concerned parents take a stand.

Instead, they turn a deliberately blind eye until something tragic happens.  It should never get to that point, people.  And this mentality has unfortunately crept its way into the minds of too many young people (hell, even adults). Kids will simply stand by and watch bullying without doing anything about it or they walk on, keeping their head down and not getting involved.  But if the bullied kid tries to fight back and becomes a “squealer” or a “tattle-tale” – they will shake their heads in contempt and wonder why the victim (except they don’t think of the word victim) can’t fight their own battles! These people don’t understand that it’s a battle that cannot be won alone.

It takes a brave person to stand up against the bullying of others – stand up for a new girl against a “mean girls” clique, and all of a sudden they’ll likely start targeting you, too – but it takes an even braver person to stand up against her own bullies.

I’m thinking of the story I just read about 14-year-old Carleigh O’Connell, over at the Huffington Post.

carleigh

Click photo for story

If you don’t want to click the link in the photo, I’ll tell you the story. She’s a normal sized girl, with normal sized hips – not a skeletal stick figure which is what all the girls are apparently supposed to look like these days. Someone spray-painted the words “Carleigh’s Ass” on a cement block located at a popular beach spot where everyone in town could see it.

Carleigh was initially hurt and embarrassed – who wouldn’t be? – but then she decided to show her would-be tormenters that they couldn’t push her around. She dressed in a bikini, stood on the block with her butt to the camera, and proudly showed it off. She shared the photo on social media and it has gone viral.

She’s being praised as someone who is sticking up for healthy body images for girls. I mentally applauded her for the way she handled the situation. Hell, I gave her a standing ovation.

And it got me to thinking some more.

What is bravery? To me, I don’t think bravery can simply be summed up as doing something that should be rewarded with a knighthood, a treasure, a medal, a trophy, or a statue. True bravery can be, and often is, small. It can be something other people don’t even notice. It can be a quiet, personal message to one other person if you want it to be. Or it can even be just for you.

Simply facing a bully or in this case fighting back against graffiti is an act of pure bravery.

What I wish would happen is that instead of bullying photos or comments making the rounds at the speed of light, we turn it around so that the bullies are the ones who look ridiculous.  At the speed of light.

In this day and age of social media, it would only take one or two people to get the ball rolling.  Instead of staying silent when you see someone being bullied (or worse, joining in because of peer pressure), you flip the script and call out how horrible of a person the bully is and post a comment on FB or other social media that draws attention to how this certain person is being unjustly cruel to someone else.

Yes, yes, this is definitely a case of fighting fire with fire, but is that so wrong?  This is not a problem with a simple solution. I bet it would cause some hot debate in an ethics class.  Is bullying a bully or rather “outing” a bully considered bullying?  Why should they be allowed to hide behind their atrocious personality or anonymous online postings?  Shouldn’t they be forced to come out in the open so people can make a judgment call on THEM and THEIR behavior?

I say yes.  What do you say?

24 thoughts on “Bravery: To stand up against evils large and small

  1. Some well made points, teaching children not to accept bullying is hard, teaching a child not to be a bully is harder. It’s complex, throw into it bully enablers as well (you know the type, the one’s who say stuff to s bull, knowing that they will act upon it).

    My eldest daughter is about to enter this world, she’s been diagnosed with psoratic arthritis, the treatment, high doses of steroids has caused her weight to balloon and to become tired,out of breath and lethargic. AKA an easy target.

    My younger daughter is slim and aggressively athletic, I’ve encouraged both to support, protect and stand up for one another and my younger daughter is determined to support her sister against the mean girls (especially the older ones).

    The next element is that the most popular boy in the school and another boy who is the “roughest” are devoted to my elder daughter because of gaming and minecraft.

    The last thing has been teaching them how to use and manage authority figures at the school, the teachers. My eldest daughter is bright, helpful and respectful to the teachers, they like her.

    I’m quite mindful of bullying I’ve seen it from school to university to work and I’ve always stood up against it. I hope my efforts ensure that my girls either don’t experience it or can manage it without harm.

    • Bullying has become almost epidemic. So many young people are emotionally devastated and even lose their lives because of it. As I mentioned in another comment, by outing a bully in one respect you’re simply acknowledging bad behavior and not allowing it to go on by making it known (instead of taking the high road and ignoring it). In another respect, it could escalate to something more (and therefore become bullying?). It’s not an easy fix but something definitely needs to be done. Bullies, especially those online, are all too often allowed to run rampant with no accountability whatsoever.

  2. Question: If you bully a bully are you not just like them? A bullying spirit finds light of day in some of the most innocuous times and places. Drivers. Playgrounds. Classrooms.

    • That’s what I wonder — are you a bully by outing a bully? In one respect you’re simply acknowledging bad behavior and not allowing it to go on by making it known. In another respect, it could escalate to something more. It’s not an easy fix but something definitely needs to be done. Bullies, especially those online, are all too often allowed to run rampant with no accountability whatsoever.

      • Perhaps it is as simple as living an open life where no one can say anything without proof, and, everything that is said has a purpose. Of course, many bullies are products of their environments – home life, parents, culture, status, entertainment diet, gaming, etc. It will take a lot of effort to bring everyone out of this bullying mindset, especially since we see so much of it in the public arena. Maybe we need a generation of some really polite effort to change the world around us!

  3. I think schools these days are starting to take bullying a lot more seriously and to have stricter, more proactive anti-bullying policies. But, sadly, it will always happen in one form or another, and therefore our kids should be taught how best to deal with it. And I think in some ways girls suffer more than boys – that quieter, more insidious and subtle (well not always subtle), sometimes just excluding someone.

    Perhaps ‘outing’ or hitting back at a cyber-bully can be the best thing to do sometimes, but you have to be careful. Ultimately, I think one of the most effective ways to deal with cyber-bulling is to ignore it. Report it, yes (and ISPs and social media platforms absolutely must take that seriously, more so than they’ve often done in practice), but do not respond directly, because the troll or cyber-bully wants a reaction first and foremost. Often easier said than done I know, especially in cases where the victim knows the perpetrator in ‘real life’ too, e.g. school. In such cases other actions might need to be taken.

    • I agree that many of the more progressive schools are taking action. Unfortunately there are still some who believe the victim (of bullying, rape, etc.) are asking for it. Our school system has a “stop bullying” program which is wonderful in the concept/theory behind it — it’s just lacking in the actual execution of the program. I guess something is better than nothing and at least it gives them something to build from.

  4. Calling out an act of bullying isn’t itself an act of bullying. Bullying is simply a form of cruelly and shouldn’t be ignored. Pointing out acts of cruelty should be the absolute minimum response we should consider. I believe it’s appropriate to intervene when we see it.

  5. Growing up in the Georgia during the 60’s and defending African American friends against racist put a big ole’ Target on my back with the “mean girls” and followed me each semester until I was out of school.. Between the nasty names, the beatings and laughter, I weathered it, but not well mentally. Today I tend to stay away from the “In” crowd because when you see large groups get together and target one individual for whatever reason, it is such a ugly thing to see. I would not for the life of me consider doing anything different today than I did at age 12 however. I taught my children also to step in and stop bullies when they come across that type of situation. “If you see something, say something.” Excellent post and very, very well said.

    • Thank you for reading and commenting! I agree that children should be taught to do something…I’m proud to say my kids would intervene in cases of bullying (and have). I’m sorry you went through that as child, but it sure sounds as though you were a strong character with integrity even at such a young age.

      • They key to solving this is simply by teaching all children empathy. We should have empathy classes in every school in our nation. Excellent blog, keep up the great work!

  6. Bullying is rampant in our society, in the schoolyard and the workplace. Kids will not stop doing it when they have so very many adult examples… Kudos to you for sharing this. Hugs!

  7. Very great post! I can relate to that. Thanks to the bullies I suffered from in school I became too self-conscious and lost myself when I tried to behave and think in a way so that the bullies would go away. I was wrong and now, I suffer from panic disorder. I wish I had been this brave back then! Anyway, I think everybody should think like you do, and I’m happy that there are people who have their opinion but also have the courage to say them out loud. Congrats! 🙂
    And by the way, thank you for stopping by and for the follow, I was a perfect newbie then, (and still I am) and I didn’t know if I had to do anything with that. 🙂

    • Thanks for reading! Bravery is often a difficult thing to embrace unless we’re forced into it and have no choice. There was one girl in school (middle school thru high school) that just had it out for me. I could hold my own in other respects but with her…I don’t know what it was, but I found myself not standing up to her at all. It made for some miserable times which I promised myself would never happen again.

      I like your blog! I’m making my way through it and I’m thoroughly enjoying it. You’re very insightful and a talented writer.

      • Thanks for reading my blog and for the nice words! They inspired and filled me with energy, really.
        By the way, I think I am becoming a fan of you, I like your style and your blog is just great!

  8. A bully told me to get out of his way when I was riding my bicycle home from school. I stood up to him and got a fist in the face for it. I wrote a paranormal young adult story, Ghostly Liaisons, dealing with that issue. The boy was a total bully, nearly knocked me out, and since we weren’t on school property, the school could do nothing about it. But they said they always had trouble with him. In the book, I had not said why he was a bully, and my editor asked the reason behind his behavior. We assumed his father was a bully–maybe beat on his mother, maybe on him. Maybe an alcoholic. No one knew for sure. Probably the police did. But I was always glad I’d stood up to him, despite what happened to me!

    When I was substitute teaching, a girl held behind, was bigger than all the other children. She was a bully. I had to sit her aside and not allow her to participate in the fun activities several times. And then she behaved. If her teacher did this, would it eventually change the bully’s behavior? I think so. But it has to be something that is done on a regular basis. Not ignored.

    When my son was in kindergarten, he loved it until one day he didn’t want to go back any longer. His papers were crumpled up, cut up. And I asked what was going on. He finally said a kid was tearing up his papers or cutting them up, trying to cut him with the scissors. I went to see the teacher. “Oh, your son is so quiet, he never complains. But all the other kids complained how he was terrorizing them. So I sat him next to your son.” Wow, unbelievable.

    So because my son was quiet, he was allowed to be terrorized. I couldn’t believe it! So the boy was made to sit by the teacher’s desk, away from all of the other kids. Why hadn’t she done this before?

    Bullying needs to be dealt with. Not ignored. Great post!

    • Thanks for reading and commenting! I can’t believe that teacher put your son through that! I mean, I can believe it because some people just have no common sense at all, but it’s awful. Really NOT a good judgment call on her part at all. Your poor son. I hope he got through it okay.

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