Tuesday, February 28, 2012

FORGET PRETTY IN PINK



Okay, I loved the movie. Andrew McCarthy’s blue eyes popped in every scene. It helped that his entire wardrobe was blue. Annie Potts quirked it just right as the record shop owner. (Sigh. Remember when there were record stores?) Molly Ringwald’s whimsical fashion creations were so avant-“Project Runway”. And Duckie? I still feel sad she spurned him. If things had gone differently, he may never have had to endure becoming a Malibu roommate with a drug-addled, dwarf-bashing TV “star”. Yep, poor Duckie.

Thank you, John Hughes, but it’s time to put “Pretty in Pink” to rest. Indeed, now is the time for “Power in Pink”. Tomorrow being the last Wednesday of February is Pink Shirt Day (aka Anti-Bullying Day). Haven’t heard of it? Well, Pink Shirt Day began in Nova Scotia, Canada in 2007 and gains in recognition each year. When a male student wore a pink shirt to school five years ago, he was ridiculed by peers. In response, two high school seniors bought fifty plain pink tees and students showed up in pink clusters all over school the next day. The masses overtook the bullies, not by some act of vigilante justice, but by making a true fashion statement.

Pink Shirt Day is a day when bystanders can choose to be visible. Bullying, harassment, taunting, ridicule must stop. For all their bravado, bullies don’t have real power. Real power isn’t gained through coercion or through instilling fear. The targets of bullying also lack the power. Bullying occurs because there is a perceived imbalance of power. Bullies seek out the most vulnerable. It is the bystanders who can create change. They can speak up against the bullies. They can comfort and protect the victims. They can do the most to create a culture of not just tolerance but acceptance.

It doesn’t matter how old you are. It doesn’t matter how far removed you are from the impressionable, often brutal high school years. I’ve ironed my pink shirt and I have my pink tie. In fact, I go pink once a month. The annual event raises consciousness, but like that Christmas food bank drive, it is only a start.

By all means, though, please start. Show yourself. Wear pink on Wednesday. If someone asks why, don’t cop out with some lame comment about being pretty or needing to do laundry. Let our youth know that today doesn’t have to be like yesterday. Homophobia and all kinds of bullying must end. Let them know there is hope. Indeed, show them there is power in pink.

3 comments:

Rick Modien said...

RG, I couldn't agree more with everything you've written.
That said, you and I know we need to do more. Sure, wearing pink raises awareness, more so, where bullying is concerned, than ever before.
But, at some point, we must take the battle against bullying to the next level. Our discussion needs to turn to the specific steps we're prepared to take as a society and culture to put bullies in their place, to ensure they know their conduct will no longer be tolerated.
Enough lip service. We need action.

Rural Gay said...

Hi Rick,

Totally agree that a pink tee doesn't cut it. But it does open the door. It begins conversations in classrooms where bullying has never been addressed. It creates conversations at home as boys and girls are telling parents they HAVE TO have something pink to wear to school.

This post was intended to spread the word about an annual event that has spread quickly across Canada but would do some good across the border as well. I sent out several tweets which were retweeted to thousands more people and my daily readership more than doubled for this post. Small things can turn into big things.

I think you are more negative than I am with regard to bullies. I work with young "bullies". They are still kids and they can still learn. Tough stances can sever the stronger relationships that many of these confused kids need. Zero tolerance may produce immediate satisfaction, but I've seen it further harden young minds. There is work to be done with all involved: bullies, victims and bystanders. Real progress comes from gaining trust, truly listening and creating a climate for safe dialog that leads to restitution whereby the bully (and his/her family) make it right. It's a long process, but it can be life-changing.

I know we won't agree on this. That's okay. There is room for differing views as long as the focus is on making things better sooner rather than later.

Rick Modien said...

RG, your points are well made.

I'm skeptical that a softer approach is useful primarily because I think back to how aggressive some of my bullies were, and I don't think they could have been appealed to on any level.

On the other hand, I read several items today where people said all that was required to get bullies to stop were such things as their parents reading them the riot act, forbidding them to bully anyone again. If only all parents were that conscientious.

I believe there are still many parents out there who believe being gay is wrong and support their children bullying someone who might be gay. If you can't get the parents's support to combat bullying, where do you go from there?

Bullies have reasons for bullying, whether they're insecure with themselves, feel out of control of their lives and their surroundings, or whatever the case. I know combatting bullying is tough, and it's not just the bullied who are the victims.

That said, I know what bullying did to me and how it ruined many years of my life. In some respects, the effects of bullying will be with me forever. It's with that in mind that I need to see action to stop even one more young man or woman from being affected by bullies the same way I was.

I don't have all the answers, RG. I support whatever works, because one thing is for sure: it must stop.