Monday, October 31, 2011

October Anti-bullying

October is National Anti-Bullying Awareness Month.  I know the month is almost over, but I couldn't let it pass without writing about this.  I wrote a few posts on my old blog last year, as we were dealing with bullying at my son's preschool.  Can you believe it?  Bullying a 3-year-old?  I still can't.  Fortunately, the preschool recognized the problem, and worked to stop it.

In my last post, point #5 on choosing a college, I mentioned finding your tribe.  This, bullying, is why it is SO CRITICAL that every person finds friends, family, places where they are safe, where they belong, where they are accepted for who they are.  Because having a "tribe," having a place where you belong and are accepted just as you are, is life-changing and life-saving.
I've been reminded of it this month, not just because of the National Anti-Bullying Awareness Month.  Not just because of the anniversary of Matthew Shepard's death.  But also because my Unitarian Universalist church has offered a Welcoming Congregation refresher course, which I've been attending.  And then, over the summer, I got into Glee.


The biggest takeaway I have from the research on bullying I did last year was this:  None of us are safe until all of us are safe.  And it will take all of us to change the system that allows these things to happen.

Earlier this year, I read "Queen Bees and Wannabes," and now I've begun reading "Queen Bee Mom's and Kingpin Dads," both by Rosalind Wiseman.  In the parents book, she talks about the boxes our culture has for men and women, and how the people who best fit the boxes gain status, while those who are outside the box tend to lose status.  I gather from what I have read that usually the children are picking up their attitudes towards other families from their parents.

I feel angry about this.  While the box for Moms does accept working outside the home, the box for Dads doesn't include working part-time and being the primary care provider for the child(ren).  I'd hate to think that my son is going to be picked on because I'm the breadwinner of our family.

Gender Roles
On top of this book, the Welcoming Congregation workshop is also making me think about the gender roles people are expected to fulfill.  I've blogged before about how being a geek caused problems for me.  I'm not entirely sure what triggered the bullying in elementary school and one of my Cadette Girl Scout troops.  Some of it might be that I was husky, some that I am a definite geek. 

The culture in Nebraska told me that girls weren't supposed to like science fiction, spaceships, and STEM.  Too bad for them.  We need women in engineering to think about situations like what high-powered airbags will do to short women and children.  We need women in pharmacy to research how medications react differently in children, women, and men, and to provide a scientific basis for dosage instead of cutting the male dose based on bodyweight.

In junior high, most of the bullying I experienced was harassment from the boys.  We'd be getting ready for Current Events, and one of the guys would start pulling the six or seven desks behind me towards the back of the room, then slam the line up into my chair. Mostly that, and making portmanteaus with my name.

It seemed to me that since most of my distractions in junior high were with the boys, and good grades, solid academics, good science and math education were critical to my life goals, going to an all-girls school might help me focus.  So when I was given the option, that's what I chose.

Mostly, it worked.  It happened that I was the only student from my elementary school to go to this high school, which gave me a fresh start, and I loved my school.  I did get some strange phone calls.  A friend and I ended up setting up a pass phrase to be sure we weren't talking to an imposter.  I gather there were rumors about me, given my more "butch" interests, but no.  I definitely noticed the cute guys first, and I'm  most attracted to men.

But in high school, I probably didn't help my case.  Freshman year, studying Romeo & Juliet, the teacher decided to have us be a panel of characters.  It was an all-girl school.  Some girl had to play Romeo, and I was her.  I didn't see it as any big deal.  Then as a Sophomore, when we got into groups and acted out parts of Hamlet, I got to play Hamlet acting crazy.  That was fun!  Considering that this was the year the school did Godspell with an all-girl cast, I was hardly the only one playing cross-gender roles.

Glee / Transferring schools
So, Glee.  In all three seasons, they have students transferring schools awfully frequently, often leaving and then returning in the same school year.  Kurt's story, leaving for bullying and returning when that was stopped, makes a lot of sense to me.  Watching him get back to his first school, though... how many days did I spend dreaming that I could get back to my first school?  A friend & I even tried to talk my parents into letting me do that for my senior year.  I could live with her, get my scholarship restored, get a job to pay the rest of my tuition-- but no, my parents wouldn't even consider it.

Most of the other characters who transfer: Jesse, Sam, Blaine, they act as if it isn't a big deal.  Maybe it's that guy thing, not showing emotions.  More likely, since it's fiction, the writers just didn't think about it.

For me, I changed high schools because my Dad got a job and we moved back to Indiana.  The only high school around was public and co-ed.  Starting a new school as a junior was TOUGH, and I missed my old school so badly.  I didn't know anybody.  About the only thing anyone knew about me was that, if I stayed and graduated, I was almost certainly going to be valedictorian.  That didn't help my social status.

I did one thing that I completely regret.  At my first high school, our music teacher had gotten me to pick up my clarinet again.  I took lessons as a Freshman, then played in the Intermediate band as a Sophomore.  Had I stuck with music as a Junior, I probably would have had friends faster, and I would have started learning how to march.

When I had to transfer a second time, when we moved again for my Senior year, I hardly bothered with the social scene, mostly just the academics I guess.  I had a few female friends, I was interested in a few guys, but didn't date anyone.  Didn't even try going to prom.  My third high school did have one thing that helped, they actually had a Friends & Transfers club to help new students fit in.  It is ironic, through Friends & Transfers I did meet a couple of boys who were exchange students from the Philippines, kinda like Sunshine Corazon in Glee.

The other thing about moving across states (Nebraska to Indiana for me, Tennessee to Ohio for Glee's Sam), is that states have slightly different graduation requirements.  I had planned a pretty rigorous course of study that covered most things, but it still needed tweaking.

That's enough for tonight.