I hated 5th grade. I spent the year hiding from a bully who stated on day one of school that she was going to beat me up because I wore barrettes. She got her friends to taunt and torment me, causing me to spend the rest of the year terrified she’d make good on her promise. My bullying experience pales in comparison to what many kids go through, but it affected me and made for an incredibly stressful year that left me riddled with fear and anxiety.
Had I known that all I’d needed to do was “grow a pair,” I’d have had a much better 5th grade year. So would the millions of kids who are bullied in school and online, including a Minnesota college student who killed herself after enduring a relentless onslaught of online bullying.
Apparently, she’d still be alive today if she’d only taken the advice of Portersville, Calif., Mayor Cameron Hamilton, who believes bullying victims just need to "nut up." While he admits bullying is terrible, he asserts the term "bully" has been overused and thinks those bullied just need to stand up for themselves.
It’s a simple sentiment, one that has crossed my mind as well. The term “bullying” has become overused and is now attributed to any interpersonal situation where a kid is unhappy. My 5-year-old was called a bully by another preschool mom after my son called her son a crybaby. (My son did have a point, as the kid did cry everyday.) But that’s not bullying, and the implications of calling someone a bully should not be applied.
The truth is, bullying is systemic, with one person being targeted and singled out. Bullying isn’t just kids being kids, picking on each other. That’s a part of life and a part of growing up. Bullying, according to Webster’s, is often repeated and habitual, with bullies targeting individuals who have less power than they do. Bullies pick victims who can’t stand up for themselves, or they would. They’re smart like that. Bullies know who can’t, by their own position in the social strata, “grow a pair.”
I agree that everyone should be a bit more discerning when using the term “bully.” And if one of my kids were bullied, I’d certainly encourage them to stand up for themselves, but let’s face it — that’s not always possible.
But to imply any of us wouldn’t have been bullied if we’d just “grown a pair” is irresponsible and just plain wrong. No child, or adult, deserves to be targeted and singled out, no matter how timid or meek they may appear. And while it would be great if every child and adult could stand up for themselves, the responsibility of ending bullying shouldn’t be on the victim. How about we advise bullies to stop bullying instead of advising those bullied to “grow a pair?”
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