Speak up: bullying doesn't end after high school

“My buddy just said you’re cute, didn’t you man? Tell her what you were just telling me about how she’s cute.”

A boy called out to me from the midst of a group, followed quickly by the laughter of all his friends.

Irritated and uncomfortable, I didn’t respond but instead just turned my back. My skin was thick enough that his words didn’t bother me too much. However, when another girl walked by and they pulled the exact same stunt I saw on her face that she, on the other hand, wasn’t okay. She ducked her head down to avoid further unwanted attention and when I approached to tell her they had done the same to me she seemed startled. Loudly, I “whispered” to her,“Hey, why don’t you go tell that guy what you were just telling me about how he’s an asshole?”

This was met by plenty of “Oooohhh”s and laughter. I walked away to get on my bus and climbed in, passing a few friends on my way to an open seat near the back. The bus was packed but I sat contentedly listening to music.

Until, that is, in a gap between songs I heard a voice I knew say, “Well, just don’t say that to me again,” I missed what came next but then I heard, “Just don’t say that to me.” The voice belonged to a transgender friend of mine named Eva. I discovered afterward that the boys I had encountered on the sidewalk were making comments on her skirt.

After I heard her first protest I sat there waiting for someone to do something. When she spoke up again, I realized I might be the only person on that bus who would defend her.

I stood and pushed my way forward to her side where I saw the boys finishing a laugh. I reached for a bus handle above Eva’s head and leaned toward the boy who had been rude to me, saying,

“Did you just wake up this morning and think, ‘hey, I think I’m going to go make an ass of myself today’?” Admittedly this was not the most stinging retort but it had the desired effect and the boys, along with everyone else on the bus, fell silent. Later, I noticed that Eva did not get off at her usual stop. I just stood with her and glared at the boys all the way to the park and ride.

I didn’t blame the people who didn’t stand up, doing so terrified me. My hands shook and I almost cried when I departed from the bus, still coming down from my adrenaline high. There seems to be, in these situations, a voice in your head saying, “It has nothing to do with you. Someone else will do it. You can’t make a difference.” In American culture, humans are so conditioned to mind their own business, that often they are blind to situations where their voice or actions can have an impact.

I don’t think it matters if you don’t know the “right” thing to say or if you don’t feel like you can articulate. When you see something, say something even if it’s just calling someone out on their bullshit. As screenwriter Jim Kouf wrote, “those who have the ability to take action have the responsibility to take action.”

Something important to understand is that bullying doesn’t end after high school, it’s just called something different. People still get pushed around, harassed, made fun of, you name it, through out every stage of life. Don’t belittle their struggle because of the assumption that everyone should “have thick skin,” or, “be used to that” by now. Blame does not belong on the victim; they are not at fault for being targeted.

I didn’t remove that target from Eva, but I tried to take as many bullets as I could, and returned as much fire as I had because, as a fellow human, Eva deserved my support. In the words of social rights activist Desmond Tutu,“If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.”

Don’t let your fear of violating a social norm stop you; upset the status quo. I would like to believe that even if I hadn’t known Eva, I would have stood up for her because sometimes all it takes is one voice to stop the abuse that is so commonly ignored.

Comments

Thank YOU for using your voice. The victims of bullying appreciate that somebody says something! Sometimes when you are bullied, it leaves you feeling that you somehow are responsible. To have somebody say something, even if it does not end it, is like a little treasure. When you are feeling bad, you remember that Somebody cared and it makes a difference. No, bullying does not end.

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