I was having a conversation with this woman the other day, about “big” girls being discriminated against at work. I can’t remember exactly how it started but it turned into a lengthy exchange of past experiences. We talked about how our skinny colleagues would break the dress-code at work and get away with it, while we would get a warning from the boss even if we were dressed decently. We talked about how the sight of us wearing a sleeveless shirt or blouse would be met by disapproval. The reason: too provocative. Ridiculous! Since when is the sight of chubby arm flesh more provocative than the smooth toned arms of a size 10? We were having such a good old fashioned big girls vent off until she brought up her childhood days. This kind of ruined the mood but also got me thinking about bullying.
Growing up, I never really experienced any major bullying. I can only identify some nasty boys in kindergarten and two girls who used me as a target but they were mean to everybody so I couldn’t give a rat’s ass. It wasn’t like they only picked on me, so it didn’t affect my self-esteem at all. However, despite being the only coloured girl in a Catholic girls school who was a bit on the chubby side, the students, teachers and grown-ups seemed to adore me. I had it good.
The same can’t be said for this woman I was talking to. And before you ask, no, she wasn’t a random stranger. I don’t do childhood flashbacks with complete strangers. Anyway, this woman has had weight issues all her life but always seems happy and cheerful when I meet her. However, occasionally she gets temper tantrums and she was explaining to me why she gets so defensive when someone tries to correct her or bosses her around.
She told me how students at school would constantly tease her about her weight and how the teachers would get in on the act too. One particular story she told me really made me sad and angry. Apparently, there was a certain teacher who couldn’t stand the “fat” kids in class and would try and humiliate them in front of the thinner students. One day, she asked the five biggest boys and girls to line up against the wall, backs facing the class. This woman was one of them. The teacher then proceeded to ask the rest of the class to vote on which student had the biggest ass! Can you believe that? As soon as she finished telling me this story I had no idea what to say. She giggled and acted so cool about it. She explained that nowadays she just dusts it off and tries to remain positive about it. But she does admit that it was the reason she never liked school and never continued studying. She also says that those days gave her the witty tongue and the answer-back-attitude she has today.
Her story shocked me but I know that she isn’t the first or the last person to have gone through something like that. Countless people (and I say people and not kids, as bullying is not only confined to the school playground) have to put up with torment and harassment day after day, and even the people who care are too afraid to stick up for the victims as they don’t want to become victims themselves. And with the rise of the internet it just gets worse as these days people are subject to “cyber bullying” too.
I was actually compelled to write this blog post after hearing of the Brazil shooting by a bullying victim which claimed the lives of 12 students between the ages of 12 to 14. School can be an ugly place, not only because some students can’t take the workload stress, but because besides that others have to cope with bullying too! The same applies to even adult settings of bullying. Not everyone reacts to bullying in the same way but when something is “disabling” the mind and soul of a person then things can get ugly. I use the word “disabled” because I feel the action of bullying can have crippling effects on one’s mental health, which may cause one to not function properly in their daily routines. Bullying may “disable” one’s speech, may “disable” one’s morality, may “disable” one’s will to live. And the latter, is the most dangerous disability one can have.
So before you think of mistreating someone you think is “weaker” than you, stop and think of the consequences in your victim’s life. You may think it’s all for a good laugh and that your victim will play along, but you can’t even begin to understand the pain you’re putting them through. Very often, we joke about these things and claim that we’re only horsing around, but then we protest when we become the victims of actions we once supported. Man’s hypocrisy, is what I believe, leads us to act selfishly. We never really care about what we do or say, until it affects us or happens to us. It is a shame that we cannot see the world through each others eyes and truly comprehend the ripple effect of our actions.
I could go on and on about this topic but instead, I shall stop here and leave you with some famous stories of bullying on the world wide web-o-sphere in the last 12 months:
Fat girl: a history of bullying. How can people be so mean?
Bullied for being a Star Wars fan. My brother would gasp at this one!
Be understanding. Be open-minded. Be loving. But above all:-