I am observing a group of students working together on a task when I hear a little voice asking repeatedly for those in the group to acknowledge his idea. "Hey guys! Let's do this," he says to anyone who might happen to be listening. No one seems to care. In fact, it's like he isn't even there.
The boy petitions the group a final time, this time arousing the attention of a girl about the same age as he is who happens to be sitting directly across the table. She looks at him with absolute disdain and loudly retorts, "No!" turning her head away in rejection no sooner than the words are spoken. Her eyes say it all: "You disgusting little piece of garbage -- who cares what you have to say, anyway?"
He crumbles into a mess of tears and sobs, seemingly brokenhearted that he has just been publicly rejected, along with what also appears to be a look of humiliation spread out across his face, quite possibly due to the embarrassment he has just suffered while in the presence of his peers. He folds his body into a tight little ball as if to shut out the world that seems to deny him entrance.
This was the fourth instance of bullying that I was privy to today. I do not say this to make it seem epidemic. But what stood out to me in each of the four incidents was who was doing the bullying: girls. Girls taunting boys. Girls humiliating boys. Girls glaring at boys. Girls issuing put-downs to boys. Girls overpowering boys. Isn't it interesting in a day and age wherein we want our daughters to learn to stand up for themselves and be strong, we have at times forgotten to teach them the strength that is grace, compassion and kindness? (A lesson that children of both sexes would benefit from.)
According to bullying statistics, female bullying is just as prominent and severe as male bullying -- in fact, at times it can even be worse. Particularly as it concerns non-physical bullying. And while I recognize that boys bully too, here are a few ways girls are bullying:
• Damaging personal property
• Embarrassing their victim through harmful physical and verbal behaviors
• Alienating people from their circle of friends
• Physical bullying (bullying that injures another person)
Today is Anti-Bullying Day, otherwise known as Pink Shirt Day. We wear pink to symbolize a stand against bullying of every variety. Boys bullying as well as girls. Female and male. Adults are certainly included in this former grouping. As we wear our pink shirts with pride, let's not forget that bullying takes on many forms and it is not gender-specific. We need to be aware of little incidents that might fall below the radar that are hurtful and damaging in spite of how low-profile they might be on the scale of visibility. Physical bullying is only one way people bully. Often the more indirect ways can be the most damaging mentally and emotionally.
And while we are thinking about the issues, let's also be vigilant to proactively teach our boys as well as our girls -- our females and our males alike -- that strength is never garnered through undermining another person's weakness or inability. It is earned through a steady commitment to building one another up. Through thoughtful care and concern. Through a rejection of those behaviors that serve to harm and denigrate. Through embracing positive ways to handle differences. In finding solutions for problems -- not in becoming the problem.
Wear pink today and remember that bullying affects us all. And recognize that it is up to us as adults to show our children that abusive behaviour will not be tolerated, that it will never be a badge of honour.
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