Thursday, March 22, 2012

Don't get your Calvin Kleins in a knot.

Blame my friend for the title. She tagged me on FB in this vid. Go Calvin Klein!

I watched Airplane with my English adult class last night. I remember watching it a long, long time ago, but I did not remember how politically incorrect it was. I mean, the Air Israel plane had a beard!

I've expressed my annoyance with the general concept of political correctness. I hate that some words are automatically off-limits. Like the word "retard" for example. It's a legitimate word, but heaven forbid you actually use it. Like many terms that are now politically incorrect, it came into fashion to replace another term that became derogatory. Oh, and my favourite bit, "mental retardation" is actually a scientific term and a subset of mentally-disabled. Good luck trying to figure out what to call a child that falls into that scientific subset.

But this post is actually not about political correctness. It's actually about how individuals deal with situations and comments that may be seen as an affront. Some of them are politically incorrect. Some are mean. Some are just ignorant. In the moment, you have no power over the situation, the only thing you're in control of is you.

I find that sometimes (=a lot of the time) people over-react about these things. I'm not being flippant. I know it's hard to deal with name-calling, and insecurities. I know I'm not the norm in the way I reacted to the rumours which surrounded me (turning them on their head and asking, a la P!nk, "So What?"). But it's doable. What other people say is not the sole determinant in who you are.

Specifically for teens going through these situations - whether you are bullied or just surrounded by a climate that makes you feel lesser - fight back! Don't start flinging insults like you're Courtney Walsh at a Cricket World Cup. Do what you need to buoy up your confidence. Make lists of the ways you're fantastic. Find a hobby. Do something you're good at. The power is not in the bully's hands (I can't believe I'm about to quote Captain Planet), the power is yours.

Sometimes, people say things and it comes out of ignorance. They heard their parents say it, or they never realised that it could be hurtful. If someone isn't trying to be mean (and you can usually tell), point it out to them. It's a little more difficult if they're trying to be mean. Sometimes, calling them on it, will shame them into being better. Sometimes it makes it worse. There are no easy answers.

This post came about as a result of the new END. IT. NOW anti-bullying campaign. I support the campaign. I believe that children should be stopped from growing into the type of people who take their pleasures from standing on the backs of others.

But I wonder, what percentage of bullies know (or care) that they are bullies. How many of them aren't excusing themselves. I'm making this person stronger. If this person were stronger, they'd resist me. I am strong/normal, so it's my right to give this person grief. Also, lots of people come forward to say, "Iwas bullied." How many come forward to say I was a bully? And parents always come to the aid of their bullied children, but fewer will admit their kid IS the bully. And even fewer are being observant to see if their child is being downright evil to others. These things combine to convince me of a sad fact. Bullying will never be completely eradicated.

In Japan, there's a word, "gaman." It means endurance and tolerance, but there's also this less-translated aspect of gaman. Through endurance and tolerance of a tough a situation, you grow. I'm not saying that the world has the right to throw any and everything at you. But I am saying that it just might. And only you can find your path to survive that.

We, as adults, as YA writers, as people who care, we continue to try to fix the problem. But you, as a person who is hurting, you have to continue to fight. 


Liza said...

This is very well written and thoughtful Claire.

E.J. Wesley said...

Couldn't agree more, Claire. It's OK for people to use whatever language/words they like to the extent it is OK for me to consider them a moron for doing so.

Don't get me wrong, I'm all for educating folks on why certain things are offensive and not good to say. But I think education is the key. If you just tell people not to say something, it doesn't work at the real problem: the fact that they might actually BELIEVE it.

We fix things by confronting them (in my crazy alien world).

Great post!