Anti-bullying campaigns, like the well-known “It Gets Better” videos, do a lot to encourage young kids who are the victims of bullying. We remind these students that life outside of school can be positive and kind. We let them know that the growing pains will die down, and you’ll be living in a world where you can choose who you socialize with and build your own support system.
Even those who are against the supposed coddling of bullying victims, like actor Scott Thompson or author Bret Easton Ellis, direct their advice to those who suffer at the hand of others. They say things like, “Grow a pair,” or “Suck it up.”
All of these anti-bullying discussions always address how the victim should handle their abuse.
That’s why it’s so refreshing to hear Secretary of State Hillary Clinton address the other side of this issue. She didn’t tell young people how to deal with bullying, she asked bullies if this was really the choice that they wanted to make. In an anti-bullying PSA, Clinton said,
“If you’re the bully, if you’re bullying someone else, please take a hard look at your actions and the pain you’ve caused. I don’t think you want to keep doing that because whether it’s physical, emotional, or social, bullying is wrong and we can all contribute to more tolerant, supportive environments, and to stamping out bullying wherever it happens.”
It’s amazing that we haven’t looked at this before, but look at how closely our anti-bullying messages sound a lot like the response to sexual harassment. We tell people how to deal with it, instead of addressing the fact that it occurs at all. Secretary Clinton’s message puts the focus where it should be: on the people who choose to bully.
Personally, I hope that we continue in Clinton’s thoughtful path. Let’s address the actual root of the problem. Let’s talk to bullies and let them know the damage they cause, and that there are other ways to deal with frustration or anger. Take a look for yourself.
What do you think? Is this new approach to anti-bullying advocacy a step forward? Or do you think that bullies are simply a hazard of life, and we need to focus on teaching kids how to cope?
(Photo: NY Daily News)