I started writing a post for today, and it was going to be full of humor about our first world problems, but then I saw this on Facebook.
When you first read the above caption, you might think, 'Sounds about right. There will always be mean people in the world, and we can't always stop them from being mean.' But then this goes so wrong. The message is that A: we shouldn't do anything to stop bullies, because hey, they're always going to be around, so what are ya gonna do? and B: wearing pink is a sign of weakness, something to be mocked for, and makes you a target as being someone who is overly-sensitive (at the very least) or gay (which is certainly something that makes you fair game - sarcasm), as well as a sign of a victim. Since when did victimization have a color? The responses I read were full of the attitude that violence is the best, and only, answer. One particular gem: "Turn the other cheek...with a fist." Nice. Violence is always the answer, right?
Maybe my eternally optimistic life-view sets me up for shock whenever I see things like this. I walk around in my little fantasy world where things are better than they used to be, so how can this kind of thinking still persist? Part of that is right - things are better than they used to be. But part of that is wrong, because clearly, this kind of thinking does still exist. One doesn't need to look on social media for too long before you see hate messages. People are so quick to throw out words like 'gay', 'pussy', 'girly', 'loser', 'idiot', 'wimp', 'retard', etc., as a way to demean someone else, or even to joke around with their friends. We're all guilty of it. I am. But that doesn't make it okay. Ever. Have you seen this ad?
See? We all do it. Even the women this particular stereotype hurts. What is it about being feminine that is so damn shameful or weak? Check out this doozy:
Can I just tell you how much I resent that kind of garbage? Who is this benefiting? Anyone? Anyone?Bueller? Bueller?
The strongest people I know are women. I defy you to show me one shred of evidence that females are somehow lesser beings. And yet we send messages to our young people that feminine = less. We need to wake up and knock it off.
Also? What do pink shirts have to do with any of this? Let's talk about pink. Pink connotes the feminine. Look at baby showers. Or baby cakes. What are they usually? Pink or blue. Pink means girl. Can you get around this? Not easily. This color is loaded with connotations - good and bad. Thanks to the Susan J. Komen foundation, pink has come to symbolize our commitment to fighting breast cancer. That's a very good thing. What isn't a good thing is the slogan 'tough enough to wear pink'. This slogan perpetuates the stereotype that wearing pink is something men would usually (and rightfully?) be mocked for. But when you say you're tough enough to wear pink, that means you're totally tough and secure in your manhood, so bullies can't make fun of you. Especially since you're wearing it for such a worthy cause. But without that disclaimer, is it okay for men to wear pink? Mmmmmmaybe not...But by whose standards? Who gives a crap what color your clothing is? Seriously.
Here's something I learned during my second round of college. In Nazi Germany, Hitler forced homosexuals to wear an inverted pink triangle. Why pink? I'm not sure, but I'm picking up on a theme here, are you? Now, thankfully, the symbol has been turned up, and is used as a sign of pride or a place of safety for those who are being bullied or persecuted. I like the idea that a symbol once used for persecution is now used for safety. That's a huge step in the right direction. And yet we have so far to go...
While we're on the subject of Hitler, I'd like to put all of this in oversimplified terms, as it relates to the card above. Hitler was a bully. A huge, terrible, evil bully. And you know what it took to stop him? An act of Congress. Literally. Our legislative body had to declare war in order to stop this bully. But we shouldn't pass anti-bullying laws? Now that just doesn't make sense. You know what else doesn't make sense? That puffin. Why did they put this caption over an image of a bird? I don't get it, but then, I don't get the whole card. It sends some mixed messages. "We're never going to get rid of bullying, and I'm going to project a message of intolerance." Gee, do you suppose it's messages like this that make people think we're not going to get rid of bullying?
I could go on and on about gender stereotypes, but I'll save that for another post. Bottom line: this crap has to stop. We have got to stop perpetuating messages of hate, even if they're couched in what seem like good ideas. Should our kids know how to stand up for themselves? Absolutely. Should we throw our hands in the air, shrug our shoulders and say there's nothing we can do to prevent bullying so why bother? Absolutely not. Should the pink shirts even be a part of this discussion? Um, no. Nope, nope, nope. It doesn't make sense. Should we tell people who are bullied to suck it up and stop being victims, because nobody cares, and 'Hey, ya can't stop bullying!'? Gimme a break. Think people, think. It would be laughable, if it weren't so awful.
Some of you might read this post and think, "Whoa, militant feminist alert!" You would be wrong. I don't like labels. I really don't like the feminist label. I'm a people-ist (Is that a word? Probably not, but I'm going with it.). I believe in the basic humanity of each and every person on this planet. I believe we all have flaws, just like we all have basic needs. One of the most basic is to be treated with kindness. With respect for our humanity - all that makes us alike and vastly different. I believe that if God loves and forgives every soul, we can at least try to be nicer to each other. We can stop putting each other in black and white boxes. The world is a crazy, colorful place. That's okay. We need to stop fighting it.
One of my favorite quotes, attributed to Edmund Burke: "All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing." Can we stop all the bullies? Nope. It sucks, and it's depressing, but it's not fatal. Because we can do something. A small thing, in our own lives. We can stop. Stop using words that hurt. Stop making the jokes that aren't funny. And when we see things like the card above, we can speak out against them. What we can't do, shouldn't do, mustn't do, is remain silent.