So, Megan Kelley Hall and I released DEAR BULLY, the anthology of authors telling their stories of being bullied, or standing by, or being bullies ten years ago last month. We were co-editors.
My involvement in the project was mostly inspired by two girls. One was a five-year-old, Jazmin Lovings who was relentlessly tormented by some other kids in her Brooklyn, NY kindergarten class. The kids even cut her hair without her permission.
Her story absolutely broke me. And I know (and knew) that I didn’t have enough power to change the world, but I had to at least try to do something, some small part.
Megan and a lot of the other contributors (and me) were also incensed and motivated by the story of Phoebe Prince, a young woman who had been bullied by schoolmates and who committed suicide.
We did a lot of interviews, but this one on NPR is lovely because it talks to a lot of us about being bullied AND being a bully and the lasting impact.
And I am still so proud of all the authors in there.
HEY YOU! AUTHORS! I AM PROUD OF YOU!
For a lot of those authors, it was a big act of bravery to tell their stories. For a lot of them, it was a big act of bravery just to survive. For some of them, the bullying was so destructive it made them want to be invisible, to want to not exist.
And there are resonating truths in every one of their stories. Those truths are that pain is real, that actions and words can shatter us, that it’s hard to remember how awesome you are when people are telling you that you aren’t.
Just in case you want a definition (and because I get all excited about sources), Bullying is defined by the American Psychological Association as:
Bullying is a form of aggressive behavior in which someone intentionally and repeatedly causes another person injury or discomfort. Bullying can take the form of physical contact, words or more subtle actions.
The bullied individual typically has trouble defending him or herself and does nothing to “cause” the bullying.
Though all the authors’ stories in DEAR BULLY involve bullying (stunning!) there are differences in the stories too.
Some authors hurt more and more often. Some used the experience to advocate for good. Some couldn’t recover.
For every one of us in there, the story is our own, and it is different. But one of the biggest, and greatest truths in those stories is that each and every one of us survived. We all lived to tell our stories.
And if you are reading this right now, you have lived too. You have to keep on living and fighting and trying to remember that you are awesome.
People hating you doesn’t change that you have worth.
People being violent towards you, doesn’t mean you don’t deserve respect, and tolerance and love.
People ignoring you on purpose, doesn’t mean that you don’t deserve to exist.
BULLYING ON MEDIUM?
It’s a decade later and there is still bullying everywhere. Obviously on social media sites like Twitter and Facebook and YouTube and TikTok, but it’s also even on writing platforms like Medium. On Medium editors of publications often rail against new writers and their lack of professional grammar skills.
Here’s the thing: Your expertise doesn’t give you the right to pull other people down, to rail against them, to crush their dreams.
We all do a lot better as humans and as a society when we applaud each other for trying and working and evolving.
I’m not sure why people don’t get that.
Here’s Robert’s story about what’s happened to him over there.
Robert was lucky because he was massively supported by other writers, but sometimes? Sometimes even when other people support you against your bullies, the angry, mean voices are the ones that continue to take up space in your head.
Right when Dear Bully came out. James Rodemeyer couldn’t take it any more. He was in a IT GETS BETTER PSA. He was 14, tormented with anti-gay taunts like this:
“JAMIE IS STUPID, GAY, FAT AND UGLY,” it said in one post. “HE MUST DIE!”
And before he died, after a year of constant cyberbullying, he wrote on his blog in 2011, “I always say how bullied I am, but no one listens. What do I have to do so people will listen to me?”
We have to tell our stories, but we also have to be strong enough and empathetic enough to listen to other people’s stories.
And we have to stop hating. We have to stop thinking it is okay to post anonymous hate. We have to stop thinking that kindness doesn’t matter. Kindness matters. So much.
The world lost Jamie. It’s lost so many beautiful people. But it hasn’t lost Robert; it hasn’t lost those 70 authors in Dear Bully; it hasn’t lost me and it hasn’t lost you.
What Can You Do?
You can think about whether or not you might be bullying people?
Do you tease a family member mercilessly even when they ask you to stop and say it’s just joking? Do you help people when they are being bullied? Do you know what you should do to help?
BE A PART OF OUR MISSION!
Hey! We’re all about inspiring each other to be weird, to be ourselves and to be brave and we’re starting to collect stories about each other’s bravery. Those brave moments can be HUGE or small, but we want you to share them with us so we can share them with the world. You can be anonymous if you aren’t brave enough to use your name. It’s totally chill.
Want to be part of the team? Send us a quick (or long) email and we’ll read it here and on our YouTube channel.
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