Monday, 7 January 2013

On bullying.

This is not the post I am halfway through writing about my trip, this is something which is important to say now. Now, because it's being talked about a lot on the internet, and frankly dear internet, we need to talk more. This is actually just the comment I posted on Amanda Palmer's blog about internet bullying, which she wrote when she had heard about the very sad death of teenager Amamda Todd. who, at the age of 12 was targeted by someone on a webcam chat site, blackmailed by them and then bullied and ostracised by everyone she knew, even after she had moved schools twice. She committed suicide a few months ago. I first read about this story here and then yesterday I read Amanda Palmer's blog. I hope you read both of those links, the first is gut wrenching and horrific but analytical of the situation that created her hell in the first place, and everyone should be aware of it. The second is amazing because it has instigated so much sharing; of stories, and love, and understanding, and hope. Hope that we can, together, stop people feeling so alone. No-one should feel alone on the internet dammit, it's the largest communication tool we have for heaven's sake! So yeah, once you've read those two, read this.. it's only my tuppence, but it's mine and as such it's just as valid as yours.

I was bullied at primary school, why, I've never been sure, I guess I let myself be an easy target. By the time I was in the final year class, it had reached the point where I came home from school and just wept in front of my parents, and couldn't stop. I didn't want them to go to the teacher and say something because I thought it would make things worse. Thankfully, they didn't listen to me and went anyway. It was the worst feeling of my life when our class teacher, who was also the headmaster, asked me to leave the room while he spoke to the rest of the class. I have no idea what he said, but he must have said it right because from that day on, not only did the bullying stop, but some of the girls actually went out of their way to befriend me and include me. It unnerved me, and I was always wondering whether they meant it or were doing it because they were scared of our teacher, but it sure as hell made life easier. However, when I moved to senior school, I took my fears and insecurities with me and lived as though I was a victim, I wasn't popular, but I wasn't really bullied, I did feel ostracised though and there was one boy with whom I had a strange love/hate relationship with which dissolved into hate once I refused to sleep with him. I did once (very reluctantly) allow him to finger me in an alleyway and the contrariness of doing this but not wanting to suck his dick/sleep with him at the age of 13 lead him to call me a "frigid whore" for the next two years. Nice eh?

However, I got through it, and when I went to Uni, I took a life changing decision on my first day. I was not going to be THAT person any more. I was going to be the person who said hello first, I was going to smile and look people in the eye and remember that no matter how nervous and scared I was at being in this new place, with all these cool arty looking new people around me, looking cool is like putting on armour, it's a way of saying "I'm not afraid" but inside, everyone's the same, everyone in that room at registration was just as nervous as me. And blow me down if I wasn't right. 6 months later, my friends told me they'd actually been a little scared by me because I was so confident!

So there, that's my bullying experiences, but as many people who have commented here already have said, this was before the internet took off. I don't know how my experience would have been different in this day and age, and I don't know how I would have coped with it as a teenager. Excessive use of the block button I'm guessing.

What I do know is that it is my, and everybody else's responsibility to stand up and say "THIS IS NOT OK" whenever and wherever we see someone posting, saying or doing things that are hateful, bullying, sexist, racist or whatever else it is they can think of to say or do that will hurt and upset people. And the thing is, while it is wonderful that we have people like AFP here, who has created such a beautiful corner of the internet where people are unafraid to stand up and say "This happened to me" and other people are unafraid to stand up and say "It's not your fault, it's ok to be who you are, have some love". What we also need to do is stand up ALL over the internet and in the real world and say "THIS IS NOT OK" to the trolls, to the haters, to the idiots, to the cruel, to the unthinking and to those who say "It's not my problem". One of the biggest problems we face is apathy. If all the people who thought "I can't do anything about it" and "If I say something they'll attack me too" actually stood up and said something, I think they'd have a much louder voice than they thought. So next time you see someone hating on facebook, call them on it, next time you see a kid in the playground being shoved about, grab a friend and go stop it together, next time you hear a friend joke about rape, berate them, next time, SAY SOMETHING. And love, always, always love. xx

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