Stories about bullying are nothing new. I’m sure each of us at least once in our lives has had to experience being made fun of because of something we liked or because of our identity, or just because some other kid had something to prove. Whether we are singled out and picked on due to our gender, race, religion, sexual orientation, movie preference, or because of our actions, our statements or any other arbitrary reason, the act of bullying is uniformly unacceptable and reprehensible.
You don’t need me to tell you that bullying happens everywhere, everyday, and is perpetrated by individuals at every age and every level of society. And now, with the advent of technology, bullying has reached even more drastic lengths and victims may now be accosted in their own homes and safe spaces through Facebook, email, texting and other social media. There have been a plethora of high-profile cases in the media lately about cyber-bullying through Facebook and MySpace, false-suicide pacts and other kinds of horrible nonsense. On the positive side, though, new technologies are also giving victims and allies a way to fight back against bullying and providing an outlet to condemn shameless antagonists.
News of anti-gay bullying has increased substantially in the last two months due to the widesperad publication of the death of Tyler Clementi who took his own life after experiencing homophobic cyber-bullying. Dan Savage’s “It Gets Better” project was created in response to Tyler’s story and aims to provide support to LGBTQ children and teens who fear or who have experienced homophobia and gender/sexuality-based harrassment. “It Gets Better” has so far been wildly successful, with over 5,000 individual stories and statements in support of gay youth posted in the last two months alone. The Trevor Project is another organization that has been in the news recently; created in 1998 by filmmakers who produced a movie about homophobia-related suicide, The Trevor Project works to support gay teens, whose mission is to end gay suicide and promote awareness and inclusiveness.
Another anti-gay bullying story surfaced last month when Arkansas school board member Clint McCance stupidly posted bigoted remarks on Facebook, and was subsequently called-out by Anderson Cooper of CNN and virtually every other media outlet who received wind of the story. McCance allegedly resignd his position on the school board, but is obviously unapologetic about his comments and remains ignorant of their impact on individuals. If Lie to Me has taught me anything, it’s that this is the face of an ignorant man who completely stands by his bigoted statements. And then, in what is absolutely the greatest response to bullying that I have ever seen, this video began to circulate:
You can’t possibly tell me that this isn’t one of the most astounding things you’ve ever seen! Kick some butt, Takei!
Just today I ran into another story about bullying, this time about an adorable girl who loves Star Wars (who I am positive will be on Oprah really soon). Katie was picked on by a bunch of boys at school for liking Star Wars, something that is “only for boys” according to those little monsters. I’m sure those boys are eating their words now, given that the entire internet is backing up Katie like a giant deflector field. Watch your backs, you insignificant little dark side minions! It makes me so happy to see the outpouring of support for our new generation of strong women sci-fi lovers; and Katie, if you want to join our vibrant geek world, let me be (one of) the first (thousand) to welcome you! Jenna from the Huffington Post has an interview with Katie and her mom that's also really uplifting.
The great point that Jenna makes is that the geek community--geek girls in particular--are so incredibly supportive, and we have some amazing power! Bullying may never end, and the cycles of violence may exist forever, so it is our responsibility to learn how to react to bullying and to know when and how to get support for ourselves and others. Intervene, act, report bullies, write a blog post, help victims, find someone you trust who you can talk to, do whatever you can. Don’t let those jerks get away with bullying, call them out on it! As you can see from the great George Takei himself, it is *way* more entertaining and awesome to see bullies get a taste of their own medicine!
These are only a couple examples of the widespread oppressive behaviors of our society; there is no limit to what anyone might be made fun of or teased about. The important thing to remember is that you have the power to seek help and that no matter what, Life Gets Better! But in the meantime, don't let those trolling bullies win!
If any of you have any stories, resources or websites you'd like to share, please comment below!