October. The name alone conjures thoughts of children running around, frantically trying to gather as much candy as they can in two short twilight hours while wearing costumes over winter coats (if you live in Ohio)…or perhaps apple cider…or the movie “Hocus Pocus”. Whatever your initial thought, when asked about October holidays, your first thought will most likely be Halloween. I, however, am proposing you recognize another October observance—National Anti-bullying Month. Bullying can be defined as any “behavior [which] hurts or harms another person physically or emotionally. Bullying can be very overt, such as fighting, hitting or name calling, or it can be covert, such as gossiping or leaving someone out on purpose. It is intentional, meaning the act is done willfully, knowingly and with deliberation. The targets have difficulty stopping the behavior directed at them and struggle to defend themselves.” (http://www.pacer.org/bullying/resources/info-facts.asp). I’m not going to write about how I was bullied my entire life or give you the numerous sob stories that I endured during my years in public school. No, what I am going to do is show you a recent example of how one woman countered a bully and started a conversation on bullying in America—one that includes everyone no matter their race, religion, age, gender, sexual orientation, appearance, socio-economic status, etc. By simply standing up for herself, Jennifer Livingston spread the message that bullying will not be tolerated or excused.(Jennifer’s stance on bullying can be seen here)
A Wisconsin news anchor named Jennifer Livingston received letters from the public all the time, but this letter was unlike any letter she ever received before. This letter personally attacked her appearance; informing her that she is obese and that that obesity was a “habit” that is harmful to continue. It went on to criticize her for being overweight in such a public profession; stating that her weight does not provide a beneficial role model for today’s youth—especially young girls. Jennifer took to the air to inform people that this man’s behavior is, indeed, bullying and that that behavior is unacceptable in today’s (or any other day’s) society. According to the definition above, this ignorant man’s behavior was done with deliberation; with the malicious intent to harm. One would be inclined to believe that with adulthood comes the absence of bullies. However, in today’s culture bullying doesn’t end when you cross the stage at graduation and are handed your high school diploma. It persists well into adulthood, and, unfortunately, follows some people their entire life. I want to change this. I realize I am only one, but having suffered mercilessly at the hands of bullies, that, at age 24 have not left me, I realize that this issue needs to be addressed. When people like Jennifer use their public position to show bullies that their behavior is not acceptable nor will it be tolerated, the bullies lose some of their power. By refusing to be a victim and allowing this man to tear her down emotionally, Jennifer took a stand against bullying. I implore you to do the same. There are many ways to stand up to bullying. You could call out bullies on their behavior, come to the aid of a target, speak out against the bullying behaviors, refuse to allow yourself to become a “victim”, teach your children how to be kind people and any variety of other ways you can think of to eliminate bullying behaviors. The culture of bullying needs to end, and you can be a part of that movement. All it takes is one thought, one action, one change in behavior to start a movement that sends a clear message to bullies that their behavior is unwanted, unappreciated and inhumane. Please help me, and Jennifer, and countless others create world in which bullies do not have to power to victimize others.