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Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Back to School and Bullying

My friend Cathy posted a link to this article on Facebook:

Photographer Refuses to Take Pictures of Mean Girls

It is a great article.  To summarize, a photographer, Jennifer McKendrick, noticed on Facebook that a page had been created for the sole purpose of bullying and harassing other girls. Some of the posts were by students who she had scheduled appointments for their photo shoots for their senior pictures.  She cancelled the shoots, returned the deposits and let their parents know why she was doing it.  Her reasoning- she found their comments so ugly, that she had no desire to spend 2 hours with these girls making them look beautiful.


And this ain't the bullying of my youth.

This is nasty, cyber fueled hate.  Lies about sexuality.  Promiscuity.  Nasty, nasty, nasty stuff.  It's expedited by the web and texting.

By the time these things are found out to be false, they have spread. 

I got teased about my curly hair, being smart, being in band, having to work, not wearing fancy, designer clothes, etc.  I know the girls who said and did things-- to this day they don't even know I know some of the hateful things that were said.  I'm 41.  It was a long time ago.  Who really cares?  And the truth then, as is it still is today-- I have curly hair (which I love), I still play and sing music (and love it), I make a very good living (and hence, have a comfortable life) and I will never understand the purpose of a label (I am proud to not be materialistic).  All the things I was being teased for then, are some of my best attributes.

Sure, my feelings were hurt.  People I thought were friends, weren't.  That's a part of life.  It was teasing, not bullying.

But today, it's taken on a whole new level of mean.

The girls on my street, when they were middle schoolers were ALWAYS fighting.  I remember being in my son's room, with the windows opened and listening to some of the very nasty thing the very "christian" girls next door were saying about the other girls in the neighborhood.  Wow. 

I should have told their mom. 

Some of the girls literally terrorized a few of the girls on the street. 

And the parents had no idea.  I still feel guilty about it.

My daughter, at 5, can even be a little bitchy, to be honest.  She has sad some pretty nasty things on the playground.  When I catch her, I make her apologize.  Immediately.

When my kids went to a fairly elitist pre-school, they were playing at a local park during lunch.  Three girls, in uniform from the school, told another little girl that they couldn't play with her because she didn't go to their school- she went to the poor public school.  They were HORRIBLE to her. 

I  couldn't sit there.  I said something.  I went up to the mean gang leader, looked her right in the eye and said-

"You are being nasty.  That is completely uncalled for.  You don't know anything about her.  Now apologize and let her play with you."

I was pissed.

The little meanie was petrified.  She apologized.  They all played very nicely together.  The mom of the girl being bullied looked stunned, but grateful.  The other little girls mommies were on their cell phones, chatting about the lastest gossip in school.

When I went over to say something-- largely to let them know how nicely their girls were behaving now, they thought I was being nuts.  It was just girls being girls.

No.  It wasn't.  Your little angel was being a bitch.  Period.  I don't care how old you are, being mean is being mean.  It's never cute.

And again, my little girl has done it.  And she gets ripped a new one every time she does.

I will make her compassionate and empathetic if it kills both of us.

Be kind.

That's all I ask.

To everyone.

If I catch my kids-- or if you catch my kids- being nasty or rude, tell me.  I do not stand for that.


My son has a friend who cries easily.  When he realized this, he started to try to make him cry all the time. He thought it was funny.

Absofreakinglutely not.

I called the mom (who honestly, was very tired of the situation of her son crying at everything and was more empathetic to my son), and apologized.  I made Skip call and apologize.  He then got a lecture which I'm sure he will one day relay to his therapist.

Not in my house.  Not my kids.

Being nice is not very hard.

I don't think the little girls on the playground are evil.  I think they were doing something they thought was completely fine.  I don't think they realized how much words can hurt.  But someone needed to say something.  By the time junior high and high school roll around, it's too late.  Kids can really do some damage.

Laughing when someone farts during an assembly- that's normal.  Calling them Smartie Fartie is funny.  Starting rumors about sex acts that were or weren't done- calling people sluts- making up lies-- not normal. 

So this year, pick up your kid's phone and read the texts.  Check out their web history.  Read their Facebook pages. 

And please say something.

Being mean IS wrong.

And if you see or hear a kid being mean, say something.  Be polite, but say something.

We are becoming a very mean and nasty society.  Let's stop.

And while you're at it, be sure to put back the shopping cart as well.


Helen said...

I LOVE this post Lori! As a person who was always the new kid because we moved so much, I was picked on relentlessly. There is a fine line between teasing and bullying and more parents needs to pay attention to what their own children are doing. We need to raise kinder, gentler human beings.

Mama Bean said...

I blame reality TV. Between Paris Hilton, all those housewives and Jersey Shore people, mean and nasty is the trend.