Happy Pink Shirt Day, friends. Today, people around the world are wearing pink shirts to support anti-bullying initiatives. At work every year, the call goes out to wear a pink shirt, and we gather on the fancy stairs and take a picture. We post it on our internal intranet, in addition to our corporate social media feeds. This year, we can’t all just gather on the fancy stairs at noon for 5 minutes, so we had to orchestrate it a little more. But the call went out and a bunch of us gathered for a Hollywood Squares-esque Zoom photo op. Today, the photo appeared in the usual places. Done and done.
But over the years I’ve thought a fair bit about bullying. When I was 7 or 8, a kid not much older than me and my friend pulled a knife on us at the park. Because he didn’t want us to go down the slide at a public park. So we didn’t go down the slide and we left the park. There were other slides at other parks, and we never saw that pen-knife weilding hooligan again.
When I was in high school, The King of the Douchebags did all kinds of shitty bullying things. And a few of my friends watched this and decided to teach him some manners. They cornered him in the smoking section at least once (that I know of… there could have been more) and they conspired to make him lose his seat on the Student Council (that he was super-proud of). Does that make my friends bullies, too? Does it make me a bully to feel OK that he got a bit of his own medicine? If it does, is it terrible that I’m willing to wear that? There was a girl who had a big crush on the King of the Douchebags. She overheard me talking to a friend about an unfortunate event, and she said “If you didn’t say no to him, that wouldn’t have happened. I wouldn’t have said no.” She was a thin girl with no curves. I had filled out in all the right places. So what were the chances that she and I would show up at a semi-formal dance in the same dress. I went over to her when she was by herself, and said “This [gesturing to myself] is how you’re supposed to look in a dress like this”. I did it to make her feel small because she victim-blamed me, and I hold a grudge.
So yeah, I’ve certainly been on the receiving end, but I’ve been a Mean Girl, too. I’m not proud of it. I think that many of us can relate to that, even if – and especially when – we’re not proud of it. In our daily lives, most of us can probably think of an incidence of when, even for 5 minutes, we’ve been bullies. Maybe we bullied a sibling when we knew they were afraid of something. Maybe we bully our kids when, to our minds, they’re not working hard enough. Maybe we exclude people at school or work. Maybe we gossip. Maybe we betray confidences. Maybe when we look in the mirror, we say things to ourselves that we would be horrified if anyone else said. If nothing else, I think we can all relate to this last item.
No one wants to recognize a bully in themselves, but I think that if we really look, many of us can. This Lent, may we catch the bully we inadvertently harbour within ourselves, and choose the more generous, more gracious path. Let’s all be a little kinder.
Canadian Content! Origins of Pink T-shirt campaign: Bullied student tickled pink by schoolmates’ T-shirt campaign
Are you being bullied? Resources are available at Bullying Canada
I’ve created landing pages for the last 2 years of Lent Project. You can access them from the Reflections Projects option in the menu bar. Happy reading, friends!