Bullying Is Never Ok

Today I’m thinking about hate speech.

There are a couple of different things that have kicked this off–a video making the rounds of the internet right now, of a young man eloquently describing how his parents’ sexuality has had absolutely no effect on his ability to be a productive citizen (http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=yMLZO-sObzQ), and a post on Dances With Fat about the number of anti-fat messages we see in an average day (http://danceswithfat.wordpress.com/2010/03/07/386170-unhelpful-things/)–and reading the discussions that inevitably follow these sorts of videos/articles, I’ve been impressed and amazed at how many of my friends are riding out under the “All God’s Children Got a Place in the Choir” banner. It says something, I think, that there are so many people just in my small corner of the world who are passionate about treating all humans with love and decency. It gives me hope, and warms my inky soul.

It also makes me wonder when it became a social norm for us to extend more love to others than we show to ourselves. I’m personally guilty as sin on this point–the little demons that live in my brain are vitriolic, hateful, and downright mean…and yet apparently, at least according to popular culture, that’s somehow ok. You’re supposed to hate yourself. Women are supposed to get together and moan about their uncooperative hair, their imperfect skin, their less-than-dazzling teeth, their non-Barbie measurements. (I’m given to understand that men deal with this too, but I won’t presume to speak for someone else’s experience.) We’re supposed to use language about ourselves that is demeaning, shaming, spiteful, and unproductive. That’s just how the world works, right?

But here’s the thing: bullying is never ok, even when it’s coming from within your own brain. We tell kids again and again that it is never ok to mistreat people (or be mistreated) because of their appearance, beliefs, background, lifestyle, or any other distinguishing factor; we tell them that if they’re being bullied, they need to tell someone, and keep telling people until someone does something to make it stop. We tell them that hate speech is strictly prohibited, and that calling people names is unacceptable. We tell them that they are not allowed to hurt each other physically, mentally, or emotionally because of differences, and that a far better goal is to find and embrace our similarities as human beings. And we get very protective of the people we love on this point–when I found out that my little niece was being bullied on the school bus, my first gut-level response ran directly contrary to all the messages of peace and tolerance I’ve ever preached. Bullying is never ok, and she doesn’t have to tolerate it. Ever. And I will enforce that with every ounce of my being, and hopefully teach her to enforce that too.

And all of those messages are wonderful, and all of those messages are true. The only problem is that we don’t seem to be saying these same things to ourselves.

So today’s post is a short one, because I am flatly refusing to spell out my reasoning or provide quippy examples of today’s message. It is a bottom-line truth, and on this point, I shall not be moved:

Bullying is never ok, even when it’s coming from within your own brain. Hate speech is never ok, even when it’s aimed at yourself. If you have nothing constructive to suggest, even to yourself, then you can go right ahead and shut up, because your words are useless at that point except as a weapon, and we have a strict zero-tolerance no-weapons policy in this skull.

In other words, if you can’t say something nice–or at least something useful–then you may sulk silently in the corner until you rot, because I will not allow you, o little mental demons, to talk to me in ways that I would not tolerate from another human being.

Being mean is not ok, and I am not allowed to participate in it, even when no other people were harmed in the making of this self-directed violence. Period. End of post.

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4 Comments

Filed under Don't Make Me Come Down There

4 responses to “Bullying Is Never Ok

  1. Sherie

    Yes. Yes. Yesyesyesyes. Preaching to the choir here, nodnod. One of the reasons I share so much person-positive stuff on Facebook is because *I* need that message repeated. I need to hear, again and again, that nobody deserves to be bullied, to be treated as less-than, to be denied their needs for compassion and empathy and decent humane treatment.

    I still fight those mean, nasty demons. To hell with the “one day at a time” recovery method, lol. Sometimes I have to take it one moment at a time, because of how badly they are clamoring to be heard. It’s so disheartening sometimes, hearing that overwhelming tidal wave of negativity coming from the outside, and I think that probably is where I’m a bit deficient. My outer layers are still letting that permeate into the inside, where there is definitely enough fodder for many an internet trollfest, nodnod. I’m not sure how to give myself better psychological noise-cancelling headphones, but it sure would be neat if Santa would bring me some, grin.

    In a more compassionate society, it wouldn’t be necessary to remind myself hourly just how awesome I am. I wouldn’t need to leave myself post-its (started it after remembering how your notes made me smile, it really *does* help!) that tell me I’m beautiful, worthy, powerful. Wouldn’t have to ask friends to help reinforce it. That message would be broadcast far and wide. But it’s not, and so I do things to mitigate the influx of messages like that from outside sources – we don’t watch much TV, and when we do I change channels or mute the volume during commercial breaks so I don’t have to hear the junk. We don’t watch the news, or “news-tainment” type shows, I avoid most all talk shows and reality shows don’t interest me in the least. I avoid people that use negative self-talk, and have dumped people that talk negatively about others, put them down or criticize them. My tolerance for crap is low, and I’m dishing out most of that already, thankyouveddymuch.

    That negative self-talk though, it’s planted *deep*. Rooted in childhood, reinforced each and every time Mom would do the same dam thing, time and time again. I have actually been having a hard time spending time with her lately because of how badly she talks to herself, out loud. I imagine that the out loud part is only the tip of the iceberg though, because of several different things. It really does upset me to hear it, and makes me want to counter her each and every time she says something. I probably have said something about it more times than not, especially recently.

    I don’t actually verbalize my negativity like that for the most part, because I *know* it’s not good to hear it – even if it’s me saying I’m stupid, it’s still someone saying I’m stupid. And I know I’m not, but each and every time it is repeated, a little chink gets widened in that wall of self-esteem. Mom? She constantly talks like this to herself out loud, whether people are around or not. Maybe next time I’m there I could keep track, ala Ragen @ Dances With Fat, of all the negative messages she’s giving herself and everyone around her when she does that… maybe that’s even a good strategy for managing my own Negative Nancy, too. Hmm…

    • Hm.

      Hmmm.

      Y’know, now I’m having thoughts about tracking my own negative self-talk, just for a day, to see how deep that rabbit hole goes, and so I can see what sorts of messages are most prevalent. (That way I know what to put on the Love Bombs around the house–I’m thinking of replacing the current set, because they’ve been their long enough that I no longer actively read them, and instead they just fade into the background, which doesn’t really do anybody any good!)

      I’m also having thoughts about trying an experiment where I *do* respond to other people’s negative self-talk for a day. I think a lot of us do it unconsciously–we drop a spoon and say aloud “Great going, dingbat”, or we give ourselves the old “Good *grief* but I’m a disgusting cow” pep talk when we’re getting dressed. Maybe having someone around, even just for a day, who really truly out-loud-in-front-of-god-and-everybody counters those statements (“Actually, you’re beautiful and capable, and dropping a spoon doesn’t mean anything about whether you’re a good person”) could be useful, or at least a refreshing change of pace…and I’m thinking I might try it out on Mom. She’s not crazybad about it, but she’s a nice lady and could certainly use a little soul boost every now and then. Bwahaha! 😀

  2. Love love LOVE this post! So true, and not addressed enough. Really made my day to read this. Thanks, girl!

    • Really I’m just restating some things that other people have said before…but I figure that messages like this need to be circulated as widely as possible, so that someone somewhere will run across ’em. 🙂

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