I came across this meme on Facebook, and it immediately triggered me to cry foul on it being a victim-blaming, bully-supporting meme. While I was blessed to have a very civil and intelligent conversation with friends about the meme, I noticed that the public (Facebook) discussion was far from civil.
So, what’s the problem? Those arguing for the merits of meme argue that we should teach our youth to be able to stand up for themselves and cope in healthy ways. I totally agree, and that’s about the only thing going right with this meme.
I want to be clear that it’s the meme I don’t like. The discussion I had with my friends was awesome and insightful which inspired me to write this post. Okay, let’s move on.
“We will never, ever get rid of bullying,” implies that bullying is a fact of life, acceptable. From a defender’s, self-defense standpoint, this is a wise assumption to make. It’s the assumption my fellow soldiers and I made on the battlefield, and it’s an assumption I make with my own children when it comes to their personal safety. I take the approach of, “That risk is out there, so let’s be prepared for it,” rather than a nothing-will-ever-change approach. I believe we are here on this Earth to make a difference, make it better than how we found it.
From a perpetrator’s perspective, this is justification to do bullying or any crime for that matter. “It’s the way things are,” is something I’ve heard from perpetrators of violence time and again. “Get them before they get you,” or “The strong rule over the weak,” etc. Accepting the mindset of we will never get rid of bullying, would be the same as thinking we can never address other forms of oppression like racism, sexual violence and domestic violence. In fact, just over 50 years ago, it was “just a fact of life” that African-Americans in the South had to ride at the back of the bus, and much, much worse. It took educated, brave people from the outside to challenge that status quo to help those who were living in the South in oppression of segregation laws. So, again, I agree we must teach our youth to stand up for themselves and others.
The meme goes on to say, “...instead of wearing pink shirts and passing anti-bullying bylaws. We are creating a society of victims.”
How is that victim-blaming and bully-supporting? I believe that we are each responsible for our own actions. The person doing the bullying is responsible for that behavior just as the person who robs a convenience store is responsible for that crime and the parent who talks on a cell phone while dropping his or her children off at school. Yes, I notice you. Therefore, the only person who should be held accountable for wrongdoing is the person doing the wrong. This meme, however, does not in any way put responsibility of bullying behavior onto those who bully, or onto bystanders. Responsibility is placed solely on those who would be victims of bullying. Therefore, victim-blaming. (Actually, we’re blaming adults/parents, but indirectly blaming would-be victims.)
The phrase “instead of” says that we should throw the responsibility of addressing bullying behavior onto the child who is picked on, AND not have anti-bullying (laws) or observe bullying awareness with pink shirts. The whole premise of oppression is that those who are oppressed feel powerless to rise up. They need a hand over time to stand up, and overcome the beliefs that have been ingrained into them. In marketing, people talk about doing drip campaigns where people start to think or believe in a product or service because they have heard about it over and over and over. Consider the person who is bullied. They hear they are fat, ugly, or stupid over and over without anyone ever challenging that around them. In fact, those messages are reinforced every time other students laugh along, no one challenges the bullying behavior, and at worst when adults committed to protecting and raising youth dismiss the wrongdoing by not holding the offending person accountable.
The meme further blames anti-bullying laws and observance days as the reason why we are creating a culture of victims. Laws are meant to keep us all accountable and protect us. They are only as good as we are willing to enforce them. Most bullying is gender-based, so my daughter would face things like boys grabbing her butt, touching or talking about her breasts, or harassing her about her sexuality like calling her a tease, a slut, or a prude. The absence of laws like Title IX, anti-bullying requirements for schools, sexual assault laws, and dating violence laws would make it okay for students to sexually harass (sexualized bullying) my daughter and give me little legal recourse to do anything about it. Also, the absence of such laws would send a message to all of society that our culture is okay with this kind of behavior.
But, wait, there’s hope! (Stay tuned for Part 2...)
RESOURCES & RELATED POSTS
Tim McGraw Stop Domestic Violence Live in Concert - How Men Can Use the B.U.S.T.E.R. Model as a Strategy of Intervention
Episode 2 of Family Time Q&A Podcast - A Father-Son Discussion on Using Dr. Michele Borba’s Bully B.U.S.T.E.R. intervention model by students to stop bullying situations.
Episode 15 of Family Time Q&A - Preparing Our Daughter for Middle School...Already?! Husband-Wife session where we discussed whether we taught our daughter enough to build her self-confidence and resiliency to possible bullying and harassment.
Dr. Michele Borba is an expert on addressing bullying in schools by teaching resiliency and positive bystander behavior to school-age children and their parents. Check out her website, or purchase a copy of her book, Building Moral Intelligence: the Seven Essential Virtues That Teach Kids to Do the Right Thing.
Coaches Corner (an evidence-based curriculum created by Futures Without Violence) has resources where coaches of youth sports can incorporate character education in their weekly practices.
Download Strength Revisited, a free eBook download based on my TEDxCorpusChristi Talk about how we define strength in manhood.